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Wrexham Council dealt with 40 allegations of fraud and theft against council staff in 2011/12 an internal audit has revealed.

In total 18 of those allegations were proven and 13 remain in progress.

According to the internal audit report, the number of fraud and theft cases has almost doubled since 2010/11 when 22 accusations were made.

13 members of staff were accused of being involved in benefit fraud during 2011/12. Of those instances 11 were proven and one remains in progress.

27 council employees were accused of other types of theft and fraud with seven proven and 12 still in progress.

Broken down into categories the other types of fraud/theft accusations included six of non compliance with council policies and procedures of which two cases proven, one of bribery which was not proven but did show non compliance and 20 allegations of theft of goods, money or time of which five were proven.

According to the report the increase of such incidents reflects that witnessed by other local authorities during the current economic climate, particularly with regards to an increase in minor thefts.

Wrexham Council said that it investigates all allegations of fraud in line with its counter fraud strategy.

All investigations assess whether a fraud has taken place and whether improvements to controls are needed to reduce the risk of fraud reoccurring.

The audit report concluded that whilst the council’s controls are generally sufficient to mitigate fraud, it would be necessary for all staff, management and members to remain aware of the dangers against the backdrop of a national increase in incidences of fraud.

Cllr Malcolm King, Lead Member for Policy, Finance, Performance & Governance, said:

“Fraud is a serious matter that affects us all because at the end of the day it is public money that is being illegally taken away from other services.

“Wrexham Council has a zero tolerance approach to all types of fraud, corruption and bribery and seeks to carry out its business fairly, honestly and openly at all times. We will not permit fraud to be tolerated or perpetuated and that is why we continue to put measures in place to help stamp it out.

“Where fraud does occur then the council will take immediate action to recover any losses and to prevent the fraud happening again. Criminal prosecutions will be considered where appropriate in consultation with the North Wales Police. This includes staff who are proven to have carried out housing benefit fraud.

“All alleged frauds notified to the council are investigated in accordance with the Council’s Counter Fraud Strategy. This is available on the council’s website (http://www.wrexham.gov.uk/english/council/benefits/fraud/anti_fraud.htm)

“The extent of the investigation depends upon the value of the potential loss and the risk of any repeat fraud / theft. Fraud numbers are reported to the Audit Committee to enable Members to openly challenge what is being done to protect the council against fraud.

“In common with many other organisations, the council is at an increased risk of fraud and theft due to the current economic climate. The number of proven, non-housing benefit cases is low considering the Council’s size, value of assets and the number of transactions that it deals with.

“We encourage any member of the public to contact us if they are aware of any suspected frauds or thefts involving the council, its employees or firms carrying out business on the Council’s behalf. This can be done by ringing the Stamp Out Fraud Hotline on 01978 292728 or by e-mail using stampoutfraud@wrexham.gov.uk. Information can be provided anonymously or confidentially if required. Every notification will be investigated.”

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