Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Sheffield Council cuts 'may lead to benefit fraud rise'

Sheffield Council is to halve its housing benefit and council tax fraud investigation team, raising fears that criminals could slip through the net.

There are currently 14 staff on the team, tasked with catching 300 cheats a year.

That target will be cut to 150 after the council withdrew £3.3m of funding from Capita, the company that runs the department.

Union representatives warned this could make the council a "soft target".

However, the council said it was focusing its resources on cases that had the best chance of successful prosecution.

Chris Jenkinson, Unison regional manager, said there were currently about 560 cases live.

"About 200 of those will have to be abandoned, which means 200 criminals involved in fraudulent activity will be allowed to walk away scot-free," he said.

According to Unison, the Capita team recovered more than £1.5m in over-payments last year.

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