On 15 February 2017 three local residents appeared before Peterborough Magistrates Court, in fraud cases brought by Huntingdonshire District Council.

Miss Emma Neal (24), previously of Samuel Jones Crescent, Little Paxton, pleaded guilty to making false statements or representations to the council in that she was resident when in fact she lived elsewhere and therefore was not entitled to Council Tax Support. Miss Neal’s solicitor provided mitigation and she was given a 12 month conditional discharge. However, as a result of the council’s investigation and joint working with Cambridge Housing Society into Miss Neal’s claims for Council Tax Support, and her non residency, the property was recovered and has now been re-allocated to a young family.

Mrs Fiona Smart (62) of Waterloo Drive, Eynesbury, pleaded guilty to an offence under the Fraud Act 2006 in that she dishonestly made false representations to the council for a single person discount. Mrs Smart claimed a single person discount in June 2013, stating that her husband had vacated the address. However following a data matching exercise conducted by the council, an investigation commenced. As a result of the investigation it was established that Mr Smart had indeed returned to the property and Mrs Smart had failed to notify the council of this fact and continued to claim a single person discount. This resulted in a reduction in the amount of Council Tax she was liable to pay. Mrs Smart was fined £150, ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £30 and a contribution towards the council’s costs in the sum of £500.

Miss Claire Childs (44) of Whitehall Walk, St Neots, pleaded guilty to two offences under the Fraud Act 2006 in that she made claims for Council tax Support and single person discount. Miss Childs stated she was a single parent when in fact her partner, who was employed, also lived at the property. Miss Childs was not represented in court, but stated that although she was pleading guilty, the relationship had now finished and when it had existed her partner did not stay at the address every night. The court said she knew what she was doing and had been dishonest. Due to Miss Childs’ limited income, the court imposed a fine of £100, a victim surcharge of £30 and a contribution to the council’s costs in the sum of £170.

Cllr Jonathan Gray, Executive Councillor for Resources, commented: "The benefit system exists to help those in need within our society. The council will always assist people to access the help that is available to them. However these prosecutions show that we will also do all within our power to bring to justice those who are cheating on the rest of us."

If you know of someone who is defrauding the council, please remember it’s your money and services that are being stolen. You can report fraud by calling the council’s confidential ‘fraud hotline’ on 01480 388188, through the council’s website, or emailing fraud@huntsdc.gcsx.gov.uk. Please leave as much information as possible to ensure that the council is aware of the full facts before an investigation starts. All reports will be looked into, but we are unable to provide any information as to the outcome of individual investigations.