MORE than £420,000 in fake or incorrect applications for Covid 19-related grants have been weeded out by fraud spotters at the Forest Council.

Of 71 cases investigated by the counter fraud unit, 12 were classified as fraud and 33 not eligible. In the other 26, the claim was good and the grant was paid.

Some of the fake claims were part of national scams, the Forest Council’s audit committee was told.

Most of the claims referred to the fraud unit by the council’s revenue team were mostly for small business grant funding, retail, leisure and hospitality grant funding and discretionary grant payments.

There were 34 cases where grants representing a minimum of £340,000 were not paid out, seven of which were classed as fraudulent while 27 were not eligible.

There were 11 cases where the money was paid out and the council took steps to recover it. Five were fraudulent claims and six were ineligible or the grant was made in error.

Of the £82,729 paid out, the council has so far recovered £21,141 and further post-payment checks are still be carried out.

The total saved so far is £422,729 and there are 113 cases relating to duplicate transactions and eligibility that are subject to further checks by the counter fraud unit.

All the information has been sent for analysis against the national fraud database and to Spotlight at the Cabinet Office.

Spotlight is an automated system which performs checks on applications in seconds rather than the hours it used to.

Audit committee chairman Cllr Harry Ives (Con, Lydney) said he was surprised at the number of attempts to defraud taxpayers and the size of the savings.

He said: “I was surprised at the size of the savings the counter fraud unit are saving us in terms of loss prevention and post payment recovery.”

Counter-fraud manager said the unit was still looking at grants that have been paid and at the new scheme that was introduced as a result of the latest lockdown.

She said: “There are lots of scam – it is indicative of the times we live in that any scheme that involves money will be abused and this is no different.

“A lot of them are national and a lot of councils have suffered the same thing.”

The council’s Cabinet member for economy, Cllr Bernie O’Neill (Lab, Ruspidge) praised the work of the counter fraud team.

He said: “There are millions of pounds going out in grants this year and there is more to come.

“They’ve done a fantastic job in protecting the money we’ve allocated for the council and for the general public.”