Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Second benefits cheat given 'slapped wrist' by magistrates

A SECOND West Somerset benefits cheat has been let off by magistrates after the district council took a prosecution to court.
Ian Ware, aged 41, of The Glebe, Timberscombe, claimed nearly £5,000 in housing benefit and council tax benefit to which he was not entitled.
His fraud was committed over a 14-month period from February of last year to April of this year, during which time Ware dishonestly failed to notify the council of changes to his circumstances.
Despite having found work, Ware did not promptly tell the council and continued to receive a total of £3,704.27 in housing benefit and £1,097.31 in council tax benefit to which he was not entitled.
Ware, who had since started to pay back the over-paid benefits at a rate of less than £10 a week, pleaded guilty to the offence.
The magistrates gave him credit for an early guilty plea and the fact he was already making some repayments to the council.
They conditionally discharged Ware for 12 months, which meant he would not be further punished if he kept out of trouble during that time.
The court did not make any order for compensation as arrangements were already in place.
Following the hearing, West Somerset Council finance portfolio holder, Councillor Doug Ross, appealed for the public to report anybody they suspected of dishonestly claiming benefits.
Councillor Ross said the council had a fraud hotline on 01984 635236 which people could call anonymously to tip off the authority’s benefits team.
He said: “It is made clear to benefits claimants that the responsibility to report changes in circumstances lies with them.
“Our benefits team is on hand to help anybody who may find themselves in difficult circumstances and we would advise people to contact the team if they need to.
“Failure to do so will lead to our fraud team taking action against people who are dishonestly claiming benefits to which they are not entitled.”

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