06:05AM, Friday 08 August 2014
A Royal Borough councillor was given a two-year conditional discharge today after he admitted receiving housing benefit while failing to declare his earnings.
Cllr Peter Lawless, representative for Eton Wick, pleaded guilty to three charges of failing to notify a change in circumstances which he knew affected his entitlement to benefits at Slough Magistrates Court.
The 62-year old from Eton Wick Road was caught thanks to an anonymous referral on the Royal Borough's Beat the Cheat hotline.
Magistrates heard he received £4,839.11 in housing benefit overpayments between May 16, 2011 and January 6, 2014.
He applied for housing benefit in 2009 on the basis that his wages from Royal Mail could not cover rent.
He becoming a councillor after the May 2011 elections and earned an allowance of £19,590.48 until February this year, which he did not declare.
He also failed to notify the Royal Borough of monthly pension payments from the Royal Mail following a single lump sum payment of £13,998.88 on January 23 2012.
Cllr Lawless was also ordered to pay £400 in costs and a £15 victim surcharge
Magistrates heard he had already arranged a repayment plan with the council to recover the money.
Cllr Simon Dudley, Royal Borough cabinet member for finance, said: "As this case shows we will not hesitate to act when we uncover benefit fraud, no matter who is involved.
"I would like to say a huge thank you to the resident who tipped us off. It really flags up how important it is for the council and residents to work together to overcome what is effectively theft from council tax payers.
"While data matching is one of the ways we uncover benefit fraud, because of the confidentiality of residents' data this can take time."
Council leader, Cllr David Burbage, said Cllr Lawless is currently suspended from the Conservative Group.
"This is not the standard the public expect from their elected representatives, and following this verdict we will be taking further action shortly, which we will announce when it has been agreed," he added.
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