Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Saints and Scroungers - Barnet Council to feature in a TV Documentary

Barnet Council is participating in a TV documentary about people claiming benefits called "Saints and Scroungers". The Council were approached by a company called Flame TV. The company also produce documentaries such as Heir Hunters and You've Been Scammed and are a well respected production company. The Barnet Eye are pleased that this excellent organisation have hooked up with Barnet, and commend Leader Richard Cornelius for allowing them access to Council officers. The program is transmitted from January 2012 BBC1 Daily: 9:15am.  

The company contacted Barnet, who heard about the case of Ms Oby Barnes, who was prosecuted for claiming benefit whilst failing to declare that she had excess capital, ownership of two properties and was working full time. She was charged with 17 offences of Benefit Fraud under the Social Security Administration 1992 and Theft 1978. Ms Oby Barnes had been overpaid Income Support totalling £24,304.05 and Housing and Council Tax benefit of £50,674.66 a combined total of
£74,978.71 over a six year period. She pleaded guilty to all charges on 29th August 2012 and was sentenced to 18 months in prison on 19th September 2012.

Information about the prosecution will form part of an episode of ‘Saints and Scroungers’ which details both people who assist vulnerable people to apply for benefits to which they are entitled (the ‘Saints’) and the positive difference it makes to their lives; and also spotlights the people who are convicted of benefit fraud (the ‘Scroungers’) and the investigators who have helped bring them to justice. Officers from Barnet Councils fraud team have been interviewed by Flame and information has been provided to facilitate filming.

The Council have also seen a rough cut of the film and deemed it "acceptable" as it portrays the council in a positive light. Given the deluge of bad publicity and negative TV coverage that Barnet Council has received, it is good to note that there is some positive coverage coming out of the Borough. As I keep reminding our friends at Capita, who are responsible for the One Barnet project, Barnet is a media hotspot. Benefit fraud occurs all over the country. Why have they chosen Barnet Council? Whatever happens with the One Barnet project will be under intense media scrutiny. In practise, this means if it goes well, nothing much will happen. If it goes badly, then Capita will suffer enormous reputational damage. Seems a shame that the thanks Council officers are getting for doing a good job is to be outsourced and lose their jobs.


Morris Hickey said...

Reading this post, and seeing on TV news the "sweet reasonableness" of Councillor Cornelius, am I being cynical in linking this change to an event that is due to take place in 15 months time?

Ron said...

£74K over six years. not a petiteness. however, what it is compared with the £50K A DAY spent on One Barnet? which criminality is greater?