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Give us seized assets

We should receive 100 per cent of the assets and cash seized from criminals targeting their local areas, councils say. Councils help recover an estimated £40 million in cash and assets fraudulently stolen by benefit fraudsters and rogue traders using powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 every year.

This money helps fund support and compensation for victims, crime prevention initiatives and further trading standards investigations into fraudsters and counterfeit goods. It also goes towards improving local areas and has paid for park regeneration schemes, anti-graffiti projects and youth clubs. Councils are given back less than half of the assets they recover from convicted criminals with the Government keeping the rest.

The Government is strengthening Proceeds of Crime Act powers under the Serious Crime Bill – which returns to the Lords this month. It will tighten deadlines for criminals to pay up, increase prison sentences for those failing to do so and ensure criminal assets cannot be hidden with friends or spouses.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils in England and Wales, is calling for communities affected by crime to deservedly keep all cash and assets recovered.

Cllr Ann Lucas OBE, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “Councils are successfully using Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) powers to recover every penny possible from benefit fraudsters, rogue traders and con-artists trying to thrive off their ill-gotten gains by living in large homes, driving expensive cars or living luxurious lifestyles.

“It is local communities who suffer at the hands of these criminals and they are the only ones who rightly deserve to benefit from the illegal profits being clawed back from criminals targeting their areas. That is why it is wrong for the Government to be keeping any of this money and preventing councils from spending it on improving the lives of local people.

“The millions our neighbourhoods are losing out on each year would help councils pay for more victim support and crime prevention schemes. With trading standards budgets reduced by 40 per cent since 2010, this money would also be vital in helping fund further local criminal investigations and prosecutions.”

Case studies

An investigation by Southwark Council helped recover £106,000 from a woman jailed for using 30 bank accounts to steal benefits over a decade. The council received just £39,000 of money linked to her criminal actitivy with the Treasury and court service keeping the rest.
Dorset County Council received £4,500 from £12,000 recovered following the prosecution of a local supplier of counterfeit handbags. The council used the cash to raise awareness of doorstep crime by leafleting and providing advice to 5,000 homes deemed to be most at risk.
A fraudster involved in a mass junk mail scam has been ordered to pay £3 million under POCA. Bedford Council will receive £562,000 to spend on local apprenticeships and funding future fraud investigations.


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