Indian-origin councillor refuses to quit over fraud charge

London, Dec 18 — An Indian-origin ex-mayor in a British city has vowed to continue as a councillor even after admitting to a fraud charge.

Councillor Bhupendra Patel, who represents the Hemmingwell ward of Borough Council of Wellingborough in Northamptonshire, pleaded guilty Dec 16 to the offence of failing to promptly to notify the Department for Work and Pensions(DWP) of “a change of circumstances that affected his entitlement to incapacity benefit”, BBC reported Wednesday.

Patel, 61, has represented Hemmingwell ward since 2003 and was mayor of Borough Council of Wellingborough in 2011-12.

He pleaded guilty to failing notify the DWP of his councillor allowance while receiving incapacity benefit, a British state pension for people below retirement age who cannot work due to illness or disability, between June 14, 2009, and May 1, 2013.

Patel was given an eight-week suspended jail sentence by magistrates last week. Patel had resigned the Conservative whip but refused to resign as a councillor.

The leader of the council, Paul Bell, said he “utterly condemns” Patel’s actions.

However, council chief executive John Campbell said that under the Local Government Act 1972, if a councillor gets a prison sentence of less than three months, it does not disqualify them from being a member of a borough council.

“We are legally unable to remove him from the council, and as an independent member he will be entitled to sit on committees and take part in debates and decision,” Bell said.

“There is no excuse for benefit fraud and someone holding public office and responsible for public money knows that as much as anyone,” he added.


Source: IANS

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