Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Labour - Benefit Fraud

County councillor Olive McIntosh-Stedman
County councillor Olive McIntosh-Stedman

A county councillor who failed to declare her monthly allowance from the council claimed more than £3,000 in council tax benefit to which she was not entitled, a court heard.

Olive McIntosh-Stedman, 64, of Williamson Way, Rose Hill, Oxford, is on trial at Oxford Crown Court charged with two counts of dishonestly making a false statement to obtain benefit. She denies the charges.

The jury heard that McIntosh-Stedman, who represents Littlemore and Cowley, received about £12 per week in council tax benefit between 2002 and 2007.

Prosecutor Hugh Williams told the jury she was awarded the benefit after filling in a claim form in May 2002.

The retired nurse was asked to give details of any regular income, but did not declare the monthly members' allowance of about £500 she received as a councillor, he said.

Oxford City Council launched an investigation last year and once the monthly council allowance had been taken into account, she was found to have received £3,305 too much in benefit.

When interviewed, she said she had forgotten to fill the form in properly and had not checked it.

Mr Williams said the Crown disputed this explanation, adding: "Mrs McIntosh-Stedman failed to complete crucial financial information when applying for a benefit that would allow her to pay no or almost no council tax.

"This is a positive action, we say. We suggest that she was aware of what she was missing out and this awareness, we suggest, meant that she would have realised what the implications were of what she was doing.

"This, we say, is dishonest."

The jury also heard from Glenn Watson, the county council's democratic support manager.

He said McIntosh-Stedman, who was elected to the council in 1997, had repeatedly tried to claim expenses for attending political group meetings, despite being told she could not.

Rachel Drake, defending McIntosh-Stedman, asked Mr Watson if it was possible she had misunderstood the advice he had given her. He said he could not give an opinion.

The case continues.


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