COUNCIL HOMELESS CASEWORKER GETS FIVE YEARS JAIL………NEW INDEPENDENT PANEL OF EXPERTS TO ADVISE ON MAJOR CROYDON PLANS
A former Southwark council homeless caseworker has been sentenced to five years imprisonment after being found guilty of misconduct in a public office.
She had been the caseworker for 23 cases which contained fake documentation and abused her position as a council officer by processing bogus applications which she knew to be false and which should never had been granted between 2003 and 2005.
The fake applications contained an astounding variety of false information and documentation, including: false signatures, false birth certificates (for children that did not exist), false UK and foreign passports, false home office documentation, false wage slips, fake bank statements, fake child benefit letters, and false national insurance numbers.
She used her knowledge of the housing legislation to ‘prove’ homelessness when in fact each application should have been refused.
Many of the dishonest applicants she processed did not have the necessary immigration status in the UK entitling them to public funds and local authority housing. Some of them were unlawfully in the country at the time they made their applications.
Four applicants, also on trial, were found guilty of obtaining services by deception. Two were sentenced to five months in prison. Two more received suspended sentences for five months and six months, respectively.
All four had made fraudulent applications which lead to three of them being granted a secure tenancy in Southwark having made fraudulent applications to Southwark council for homeless housing, all assisted by the caseworker.
Southwark council’s cabinet member for finance, modernisation and performance Cllr Fiona Colley said: “The sentencing concludes a lengthy investigation into fraud and deception at the hands of someone who abused their position of trust for their own selfish gains.
“I’m glad that the penalty reflects the severity of the crimes committed and I hope this send out a clear message about just how seriously we take housing fraud.
“Southwark’s waiting list is filled with hundreds of people in genuine need of a home. We will continue to cater to these people whilst also bringing those who take advantage of the system to justice.”
Last month a jury found four of the defendants guilty of committing housing fraud against Southwark Council. One former employee was also convicted of misconduct in a public office and dishonestly processing homeless housing applications for corrupt payments.
A Southwark council spokesperson said: “The successful prosecution is part of Operation Bronze, Southwark council’s tenancy fraud initiative which also led to the imprisonment of ANOTHER former homelessness caseworker and a confiscation order of £100,000.
“The investigation continues into outstanding dishonest applicants.”
The council say they have introduced a number of measures to combat housing fraud including document scanners and credit checks to further prevent such fraud. In addition, a first of its kind, the ILATCH tenancy checker (www.ilatch.co.uk) is a web based anti-fraud prevention tool which works very simply by inputting a postcode and selecting a property, to show if the property is a part of council stock or if it is private, so prospective sub-tenants can validate a property before they hand over any deposit and avoid being duped. (Source: Southwark council press release)
NEW INDEPENDENT PANEL OF EXPERTS TO ADVISE ON MAJOR CROYDON PLANS
Future planning applications for large-scale developments in Croydon will benefit from the guidance of a multi-disciplinary panel of industry experts, soon to be recruited by the council.
The place review panel will provide independent advice to elevate the quality of new developments across the borough and will complement and enhance the council’s already well-regarded and award-winning approach to actively working with developers at the earliest possible stage.
Croydon will be recruiting professionals with expertise in planning, landscape design, conservation, culture, urban design, architecture, engineering, and place making.
Members of the panel of will carry out reviews of all major construction proposals in Croydon before full planning applications are submitted. They will provide locally-sensitive, impartial advice and help assess the design merits of key development proposals. This will help further the council’s continued commitment to achieving the highest-quality architecture and delivering sustainable and vibrant public realm schemes.
Croydon’s cabinet member for homes and regeneration Cllr Alison Butler said: “We’re looking forward to bringing together an exciting and high-calibre group of experts to help us continue to change people’s perceptions of Croydon and create a destination of choice”.
Planning committee chairman Cllr Paul Scott said: “The council has recently seen the delivery of several new high-quality built environment schemes, and this review panel will take us a step closer to our goal, as well as hopefully speeding up approvals and therefore saving time and expense for developers.”
The council will be opening applications for people interested in sitting on the panel in June.
Expressions of interest can be made up until 30 May by registering on the Croydon procurement portal at http://bit.do/placepanel. (Source: Croydon council press release)