Covid bailout grants: Wakefield Council investigating possible fraud in five cases

Wakefield Council is investigating five cases where Covid bailout grants may have been claimed fraudulently.

Tuesday, 1st December 2020, 7:00 am
The council has already recouped 10,000 from one fraudulent applicant.

Businesses were entitled to lump sums of government cash to help pay their bills during the first lockdown, with £70m having been distributed in Wakefield alone.

The local authority, which was responsible for distributing the grants, said its priority was to get any incorrectly claimed cash back.

It confirmed it was looking into three suspected cases of fraud relating to £10,000 each and a further two claims linked to £5,000 payouts.

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It also said it had already recouped £10,000 from one fraudulent applicant.

In October, the BBC reported that between one and two per cent of all grants nationally may have been paid out either in error or taken fraudulently.

On Monday, the council's corporate fraud manager, Rob Blair, told an audit committee meeting that "every pound lost is money that doesn't go towards supporting communities".

He said: "We had a lot of reports of scams that were flagged up to us during the pandemic.

"Where other local authorities have received fraudulent applications they've passed that information onto us, and likewise where we've had fraudulent claims we've fed that information back."

Mr Blair said new computer software had helped weed out some bogus claims and that the number of suspected cases in Wakefield was comparatively low.

He added: "We work with our colleagues across the region and our numbers compared to theirs are quite encouraging.

"With regard to where we go with the investigation, the initial priority for us will be get to the monies back.

"We'd then assess whether or not we can pursue a criminal investigation thereafter. But criminal investigations can be quite complex."

Local Democracy Reporting Service