Clampdown on benefits cheats

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BENEFITS cheats are being targeted in a joint operation between Ribble Valley Borough Council and the Department for Work and Pensions.

They have joined forces to prosecute two benefits cheats and caution two others, and the assets of one claimant could be seized after they failed to report a change in circumstance and received nearly £50,000 in income support, housing and council tax benefit that they were not entitled to.

The claimant received a six-month suspended sentence and 120 hours’ community work, and is now the subject of a proceeds of crime hearing.

A second claimant received a 12-month conditional discharge and £75 fine after receiving more than £5,000 in job seeker’s allowance and housing and council tax benefit that they were not entitled to.

Two other claimants received formal cautions after failing to report a change in circumstances which affected their entitlements.

A Ribble Valley Borough Council spokesman said: “Committing benefit fraud can lead to prosecution resulting in fines, imprisonment, or both, and in all cases claimants will have to repay any money they were not entitled to.

“If claimants deliberately fail to report a change in their circumstances, or are dishonest about information supporting their benefit claim, they are treated as having committed benefit fraud.

“Ribble Valley Borough Council takes benefit fraud seriously and will not hesitate to take action.”

Benefits claimants are advised to tell their benefits office about any changes in personal circumstances immediately. A change in circumstance could be returning to work, starting a business, or a partner joining your household. The benefits office will tell you if the change affects your benefit.

Further information is available from Ribble Valley Borough Council’s benefits helpline on 01200 414453.