Herefordshire’s “counter fraud specialist” has prevented the council losing £1.7 million to fake business support grants since the start of the pandemic.

Herefordshire Council paid out £104 million between April 2020 and December 2021 to help the county's businesses get through Covid 19.

From the 341 bids Jonathan Nelson investigated, he clawed back £1.2 million, prevented £520,000 being paid out, and recovered a further £700,000.

An additional £500,000 is “pending recovery”, and nearly £150,000 is “on repayment plans” from businesses, a report for the council’s audit and governance committee said.

Mr Nelson also worked with the government’s Insolvency Service to wind up two fake grant companies, LV Distributions and SIO Traders.

The two were found to have made grant claims totalling £30,000, though neither had ever traded.

The committee’s chair Coun Nigel Shaw said: “Councils get pilloried for not looking after public money.

“But this shows if you try to defraud Herefordshire Council, you will get caught out.”


Councillors contrasted Mr Nelson’s outcomes with the £4.3 billion in fraudulent Covid payments to businesses which the Government said it had written off this month.

“It shows the value of dealing with this at a local level,” deputy council leader Liz Harvey said.

“Criminals continue to find new ways and creative ways in which to conduct fraud, and local authorities the prime targets because of the large sums of public money they manage.

“We will continue to work with partners and law enforcement agencies to prevent and investigate fraud, and to prosecute those responsible.”

Mr Nelson, who has been in the post just under two years, also helped to bring the prosecution last March of care worker Pauline Pollock on fraud and theft charges.

His work also contributed to the 12 prosecutions brought by the council’s parking enforcement team in 2021 against Blue Badge (disabled parking) fraud and misuse.

Mr Nelson was a finalist in the Tackling Economic Crime Awards, announced last month.

Meanwhile corporate finance director Josie Rushgrove told the committee that an anonymous fraud reporting service, in use internally within the council since November, will be made available for the public to report potential fraud cases from April.

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