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Thousands to be repaid to council following tax fraud

Published July 24, 2020 1.23pm


A man has been fined after falsely claiming around £2,000 in council tax reductions through using a forged payslip.

We took legal action against Robert Harvey after he failed to notify us of an increase in his household's income and submitted a false payslip in support of his council tax reduction claim form.

Peterlee Magistrates Court heard that, in March 2017 and May 2017, Harvey submitted payslips from his household for March and April 2017 and was awarded Housing Benefit and council tax reduction.

On submission of the claim form, Harvey agreed to notify us of any changes in circumstances which may affect his claim, declaring the information he provided on the application was correct and complete.

A query was raised by our corporate fraud team in 2019, on behalf of Karbon Homes, after details on an application for a Right to Acquire did not match details on the council tax reduction, including a declaration of higher earnings on the Right to Acquire forms than what was declared in the council tax reduction claim.

Investigation findings

During an investigation into the earnings, it was confirmed that a member of Harvey's household had finished employment with the company named on the payslip in March 2017.

Correct payslips were obtained from the employer for the household member and were found to be different for April 2017 than the one provided by Harvey in the reduction claim.

The investigation also found that the household member had changed employers in April 2017 which led to an increase in household earnings. Harvey did not notify us of this change.

The court heard that Harvey also failed to declare a second change in income after the household member changed employers again in February 2018 where there was another increase in earnings.

Following the investigation, Harvey was interviewed under caution in 2019 and admitted altering the payslip when submitting his claim.

Further evidence following Harvey's interview was gathered and a recalculation showed there was an overpayment of £2,110.72 in council tax reductions between May 2017 and March 2020.

Charged and fined 

Harvey, aged 40, of Lancaster Road in Consett, pleaded guilty at Peterlee Magistrates Court on Tuesday 21 July, after being charged with forging a payslip, falsely claiming council tax reduction, and failing to notify of changes in circumstances which would affect any council tax reductions.

During mitigation, the court was advised that Harvey was remorseful about his behaviour and has repaid the overpayment.

Harvey was fined £800, £200 legal and £631 investigation costs, as well as a victim surcharge of £34.

Paul Bradley, our chief internal auditor and corporate fraud manager, said: "Even though Harvey showed remorse for his actions and has since repaid the overpayment, this case shows how important it is that you provide the correct details in any benefit claim. We take such matters incredibly seriously and we will investigate any suspicion of fraud thoroughly."

Members of the public with suspicions any form of fraud can report it to our corporate fraud team by calling 03000 266745 or emailing corporatefraudteam@durham.gov.uk

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