EX-COUNCIL EMPLOYEE AMONG FIVE FOUND GUILTY OF ‘EFFECTIVELY STEALING’ COUNCIL HOMES……..GARDEN WASTE COLLECTIONS “SAVE £1.6 MILLION” SAY CROYDON….COUNCIL TO EXPAND SUCCESSFUL TRIAL TO TACKLE FLY-TIPPING…..THE BIG LUNCH SOUTHWARK
Five fraudsters – on of them a Southwark council employee at the time – who dishonestly obtained council homes have been convicted for their corruption and deception.
A jury at Inner London Crown Court found four defendants guilty of committing housing fraud against Southwark council. The former employee was also convicted of dishonestly processing homeless housing applications for corrupt payments.
The former employee, who has a degree in criminology and is a former homeless caseworker, was found guilty of misconduct in a public office.
She had been the caseworker for at least 24 cases which contained fake documentation and abused her position as a council officer by processing bogus applications which should never had been granted, between 2003 and 2005.
The other four applicants also on trial were found guilty of obtaining services by deception. Each had been granted a secure tenancy in Southwark having made fraudulent applications to Southwark council for homeless housing, all assisted by the female caseworker.
The bogus applications that the caseworker processed 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.
The female caseworker used her knowledge of the housing legislation to ‘prove’ homelessness when in fact each application should have been refused.
Many of the dishonest applicants processed by her 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.
The jury only took around 17 hours to reach their decision. Sentencing for all five defendants is listed for 4 May at Inner London Crown Court.
The council has introduced significant measures including document scanners and credit checks to further prevent such fraud.
In addition, a first of its kind, the ILATCH tenancy checker 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.
The investigation continues into outstanding dishonest applicants.
Southwark’s cabinet member for finance, modernisation and performance at Southwark council Cllr Fiona Colley said: “What these people have done is effectively stealing council housing from those who need it.
“I am delighted that these fraudsters will be punished, sending a strong message to any other would-be criminals out there.
“We will now put our energies into getting back the homes our residents so dearly need, and the taxpayers’ money which was stolen from the public purse.” (Source: Southwark council press release)
GARDEN WASTE COLLECTIONS “SAVE £1.6 MILLION” SAY CROYDON
Croydon council’s green garden waste collection bin service is now in full swing, with well over 10,000 households signed up and around 100 new people joining each day.
The move is saving local taxpayers some £1.6m, as well as bringing environmental benefits by cutting the number of vehicles needed by half and composting waste that would otherwise be sent to landfill.
Croydon’s cabinet member for a clean and green Croydon Cllr Stuart Collins said: “By introducing this charge we are not only saving a significant amount of money every year, but we are also stopping a situation whereby those with no gardens were effectively subsidising others who generate a lot of green waste. Residents still have the alternatives of home composting or taking their waste to the recycling centres themselves. However for those who still want the convenience of a collection an improved and value-for-money service remains available.”
Almost 95 per cent of people who have registered for garden waste collections did so online via the council’s MyAccount registration system. This also means they will receive special offers and any news on updates to the service direct to their email inboxes. MyAccount also lets people quickly report problems with collections and allows them to change their details quickly online.
Many of those customers needing help to get online or who didn’t have internet access were still able to successfully join the service by getting assistance at the council’s ‘Go On Digital Zone’, based in Access Croydon, Mint Walk.
More information is available at www.croydon.gov.uk/garden waste
New registrations for garden waste collections can be made right up until November, with renewals due for existing customers in December. (Source: Croydon council press release)
COUNCIL TO EXPAND SUCCESSFUL TRIAL TO TACKLE FLY-TIPPING
A council drive to keep Croydon shopfronts clear of private business rubbish is to be expanded after a trial period led to more recycling and less fly-tipping.
And it could be extended to other parts of the borough later this year.
In March, Croydon council officers imposed a daytime ban on private waste contractors collecting rubbish from outside Thornton Heath high street businesses. The move came in response to reports that business waste left on the pavement encouraged fly-tippers and made the shops less attractive to customers.
Businesses at these 100 addresses now keep their commercial rubbish on their premises until it is collected after 6pm, all dispose of it legally and as a result the council has collected an extra 1.5 tonnes of recycled waste and saved £6,000 in fly-tip disposal costs.
Now the council plans to expand the 9am-6pm waste restriction, trialled as part of the council’s ‘Don’t Mess With Croydon –Take Pride’ campaign, to London Road in West Croydon this summer. More trials are being considered for other parts of the borough later in the year.
As with Thornton Heath, council officers will begin sending leaflets and doing door-to-door visits in advance of the West Croydon trial to both inform businesses and encourage them to get involved.
Enforcement is led by council neighbourhood safety officers, who have only needed to hand out two fixed penalty notices for non-compliance since the Thornton Heath trial began. They have regularly visited shopkeepers, who have reported a tidier high street. (Source: Croydon council press release)
THE BIG LUNCH SOUTHWARK
It’s that time of year once again when Southwark residents can organise their very own street parties as a part of The Big Lunch.
This year’s Big Lunch is on Sunday 12 June and coincides with the Patron’s Lunch, a street party being held on The Mall to celebrate Her Majesty The Queen’s 90th birthday.
Cllr Ian Wingfield, cabinet member for business, employment and culture said, “With this year’s event coinciding with The Queen’s 90th birthday, hopefully lots of people will be keen to get into the spirit and take the chance to put on their own extra special Big Lunch street parties and celebrate with their neighbours.”
All applications for street parties taking place over that weekend must be submitted to the events team by Monday 25 April 2016.
Southwark makes no charge for residents to apply for road closures and there is a simplified application process for approval. The council, through its highways contractors, provides road closure signage and organisers do not need to have insurance to carry out a street party.
Applying to hold a street party is easy – all you need to follow are a few simple rules:
There must be three named organisers who should all be over 18 and residents of the street to be closed
The three named organisers cannot be from the same address and at least one of the named organisers must be present at any one time during the street party
A street party is not a public event and should not be advertised other than directly to the residents of the street and street parties are not allowed to continue after dusk
Contact the events team on 020 7525 3422 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out if all or part of your road can be closed
Submit your application by the deadline. The application form is available from the events team and online
Consult with your neighbours in writing. This must be delivered to every household on the street, and must give contact details for at least one of the organisers and for the council. A letter template is available from the events team and online
The council will notify you in writing whether the application is successful or not. The decision of the council is final.
If a street party is too much you can simply organise an informal picnic in one of the council’s 130 parks and open spaces. Most picnics won’t need permission but if you are unsure just call the events team for advice. (Source: Southwark council press release)