Benefit cheat councillor did 'disservice' to community

Benefit cheat councillor did 'disservice' to community

Reporter:

Michael Owens

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Benefit cheat councillor did 'disservice' to community

A benefit cheat councillor was told he had done a 'disservice' to the community as he was sentenced by magistrates.

Cllr Peter Lawless (Con, Eton Wick) was sentenced at Slough Magistrates’ Court on Friday after admitting illegally claiming extra housing benefit payments and failing to declare a borough council allowance of nearly £20,000 over a three-year period.

Lawless, who was given a two-year conditional discharge, has since resigned from the council’s Conservative group but said he intends to continue as an independent councillor until May, when the next elections will be held.

But he has refused to step down from the Royal Borough, saying ‘serving the community is in my DNA’.

“My personal finances aside, serving the community is in my DNA, putting residents’ needs before bureaucracy and politics,” he said.

Lawless, elected as a borough councillor in 2011, admitted three charges of failing to notify a change in circumstances which he knew affected his entitlement to benefit.

Magistrates heard the 62-year-old, from Eton Wick Road, received £4,839.11 in housing benefit overpayments between May 16, 2011 and January 6, 2014.

Lawless, who is also a member of Eton Town Council, failed to declare his council member’s allowance during the same period, which came to a total of £19,590.48.

He claimed it was because he did not realise it should be declared as income.

The court also heard the defendant failed to declare monthly pension payments from Royal Mail following a single lump-sum payment of £13,998.88 in January 2012.

“You are in a position of trust serving the community and clearly you did a disservice to them,” magistrate Mark Lovett told him at Friday’s hearing.

“The court takes a very dim view of that.”

Magistrates ordered Lawless to pay £415 costs.

They decided against issuing a community order after it was deemed unsuitable because of his part-time work for Royal Mail.

“Obviously I made some silly mistakes here and I’m very remorseful,” he told the court.

The case was launched after a tip-off from a member of the public.

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