BREAKING: Benefits fraud councillor who falsely claimed £44,000 faces axe after being handed suspended four month prison sentence
Published: 5 Sep 2014 13:50
Independent councillor Lesley Hayward is set to be expelled from both Wokingham Borough Council and Woodley Town Council after she was handed a four month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, at Reading Magistrates' Court today.
Electoral Commission rules state that any serving councillor who receives a custodial sentence of more than three months must be automatically ousted from their seat.
Two by-elections are now likely to be triggered in the former Lib Dem's Bulmershe and Whitegates Ward, in Woodley, although Cllr Hayward has the right to appeal her expulsion.
The 63-year-old, of Kingfisher Drive in Woodley, was also ordered by magistrates to pay back £2,990.46 to Wokingham Borough Council and to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work and pay £85 costs.
She has repaid the money owed to the Department for Work and Pensions.
The court heard how she knowingly failed to declare a change in circumstances to both Wokingham Borough Council, and the Department for Work and Pensions, between May 4, 2004 and January 1, 2012.
The sentence also includes one offence of knowingly making a false statement to obtain Pension Credit on January 3, 2011. As a result, she received a total of £44,593.23 benefit, to which she was not entitled.
Hayward pleaded guilty to the all the charges at a hearing in July, when magistrates heard how, since April 2004, she had not informed either Wokingham Borough Council, or the Department for Work an Pensions, that her long term partner William Griffin had moved into her property and they had begun to live as if husband and wife.
This continued until enquiries discovered that Hayward was not living alone, which she had claimed up until that point.
Wokingham Borough Council's business improvement manager Julie Hollands said: “Wokingham Borough Council is determined to ensure that the benefits we administer are paid properly, that debt is collected and recovered, and that those who break the rules are held to account.
“It is regrettable that a councillor, of whom the highest standards of conduct are expected, has behaved in this way.”