Fraud probes into Southend Council staff

Southend’s counter fraud team is tackling more than two dozen serious allegations against council employees, it has been revealed.

Shaun Dutton, counter fraud and investigation manager at Southend City Council, said his team, which was formed in 2019, continues to provide a vital services with a continued 100 per cent conviction rate and a saving to the council in 2022/23 of more than £523,000.

The team’s investigations over the last year include five employees referred to HR for failing to make a disclosure of interest, four allegations of time sheet fraud and one of theft and 21 further internal investigations.

Mr Dutton delivered an annual and quarterly performance reports on his team to the council’s audit committee last week.

Mandy O’Connor, Labour councillor for Victoria Ward pointed out cases had gone from five to 18 at the time of Mr Dutton’s report to councillors and asked him if cases are continuing to rise.

Mr Dutton said: “Yes. We are coming up to 25. My references to the high priority investigations going forwards, is mainly referring to internal investigations. They are a high priority so most of our resources are aimed at trying to get on top of those cases as quickly as possible.

“We are working very closely with HR and sharing our resources because they are looking at the same people we are.”

Cllr O’Conner added: “I find that quite shocking.”

During the year the team investigated 440 cases. These included 55 blue badge frauds, 91 council tax frauds and 116 sub-letting or right to buy frauds.

Mr Dutton said: “We’ve been exceptionally busy. We’ve had several large investigations which are using up a substantial portion of my available manpower and resources. Also during that time we secure three significant convictions with quite impressive cost awards.”

Praising the team’s work, Martin Terry, chairman of the committee, said: “It’s an excellent report. Members of the public can see the types of things you are involved in, people fiddling blue badges. It’s a serious thing, people faking the use of a blue badge preventing a genuine person who has got real disabilities being able to park.

“I think you work is very worthy and with an organization the size of yours, the city we have with some challenging and interesting people, all power to your elbow.”

Advertisement

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter