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A Labour Councillor has admitted he is guilty of benefit fraud, claiming over £8000 illegitimately over the last three years.
Ian Hollinshead, a Councillor for the Staffordshire County Council and Stafford Borough Council, has been suspended from his active duties after falsely claiming housing benefit and council tax benefits for nearly three years.
Mr. Hollinshead has admitted his mistake during interviews, and has been made to pay back all the money he claimed.
Mr. Simon Belfield, prosecuting, said that Mr. Hollinshead was over paid by £7,854.17 between April 2011 and March 2014.
He explained that since becoming a borough Councillor, Mr. Hollinshead had failed to notify Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of his change in circumstances, including an increase in income from £117.14 per week to £162.16 per week.
The court also heard that Mr. Hollinshead did not declare an increase in weekly allowance as a borough Councillor, which went from £53.09 per week in 2011 to just over £70 in 2014.
Overall, Mr. Bedfield claimed Mr. Hollinshead’s income had been nearly £9000 in 2011, but had risen to about £22,500 by 2014. This was not including the income generated from Mr. Hollinshead’s self employment.
As a result, it was ruled that the town Councillor was guilty of claiming benefits under illegitimate circumstances and that he would be suspended from duties pending an internal investigation.
Speaking on Hollinshead’s behalf, Mr. David Green, who was mitigating, said:[quote]He would like to highlight this wasn’t a case involving any dishonesty.
He accepts he acted naively at times and hadn’t given his personal finances the level of attention he should have done.”[/quote]
Mr. Green went on to defend Hollinshead, saying that the fraud was really just “a case of naivety on Mr. Hollinshead’s part”. He explained that the mistake was down to a negligence in administration, rather any deliberate attempt to obtain extra income.
He also pointed out that Mr. Hollinshead had worked in the best interests of the people since becoming a borough Councillor in 2011 and had never claimed any expenses on top of his allowances.
With regards to Mr. Hollinshead’s self-employment, Mr. Green pointed out that he had not generated any income from these avenues.
Mr. Hollinhead was fined £405 (on top of the benefit payments he paid back), as well as £300 in costs and a £20 victim surcharge.[quote]He just wants to get back to get back to serving the people of Stafford,”[/quote]
Mr. Green said.