A CLAMPDOWN on fraud by council tenants has helped housing bosses to save more than £50,000, it has been revealed.

Tendring Council launched an audit of its properties last year to ensure tenants were still eligible for council housing and not committing fraud.

The authority said tenancy fraud can include subletting, leaving a property empty or providing false information.

Councils officers have visited 238 properties since September, five of which were abandoned or being sub-let.

The properties are now waiting to be given to those on the waiting list – helping to save the council £23,500.

The clampdown came following an amnesty in 2016 in which tenants were given the chance to inform the council of any changes to their circumstances without fear of a fine or prosecution.

The amnesty helped the council to save £28,000 in housing benefit payments by the council, while £4,000 in additional council tax was also collected.

Housing boss Paul Honeywood said: “As the figures from the first steps of this audit show, there are serious savings to be made by Tendring Council through ensuring our council housing stock is being used properly.

“Like local authorities across the country, Tendring has people on its waiting list looking for a home and this activity will help those who are eligible to find a council house.

“The audit also has the potential to uncover wrongdoing by people who are abusing our council house stock for their own benefit, and in doing so potentially denying others who need housing.

“I would urge anyone who has concerns over the potential misuse of a council house to get in touch.”

The council is holding a second month-long amnesty throughout March when tenants who are committing any type of tenancy fraud have the opportunity to hand their keys back without fear of fine or prosecution by the authority.

Following the amnesty, tenants who are found to be committing tenancy fraud could face up to two years in prison and a fine of up to £50,000.

The council’s fraud team can be contacted at fraud.hotline@tendringdc.gov.uk or on 01255 686544.