Thursday, December 20, 2007

Conservative - Councillors Benefit Fraud

Gone - Alan and Kate Meager who have resigned as councillors
Gone - Alan and Kate Meager who have resigned as councillors

TWO married councillors quit just before benefit fraud charges against them were made public.

Tory Castle Point councillors Alan, 49, and Kate Meager, 55, stunned fellow members with their abrupt resignation from their posts in St Mary's ward, Benfleet, earlier this month.

The couple are understood to have written a formal letter to council leader Pam Challis before going on holiday.

Mrs Challis said: "I have accepted Kate and Alan Meager's resignation as they have informed me they have sold their house and are moving out of the area."

Hours later, chief executive David Marchant said: "I can confirm Mr and Mrs Meager have been investigated by our benefits team and, as a result, will appear at Southend Magistrates' Court on Monday, November 26. We are unable to comment further while the case is still active."

Mrs Meager was first elected as a St Mary's ward councillor in May 2003 and was re-elected in May this year. Mr Meager was elected in May 2006, also for St Mary's.

A notice of election was published yesterday. The council must receive a minimum request from two registered voters to hold a by-election.

This must be held within 35 working days, meaning residents could go to the polls over the Christmas period.

Councillors who spoke to the Echo yesterday appeared unaware of the full extent of the reasons for Mr and Mrs Meager's resignations.

David Cross, the remaining councillor for St Mary's ward said: "I understand they are moving away - that is what I heard. It's a shame because they were both excellent councillors."

Dave Blackwell, Canvey Independent Party leader, said: "It's come as a bit of a shock.

"But it has opened up the way for two by-elections. There are people willing to stand as Canvey Indepen-dents, so we could see the first Independent councillor elected on the mainland."

Mr and Mrs Meager run a party business called Huff'n'Puff, in London Road, Westcliff.

The Echo tried to contact the couple at home and at their offices, but a message said they were away until November 22.


Update March 19/2008

Tory councillors Alan and Kate Meager jailed for benefit fraud

Two Tory councillors were jailed yesterday for swindling their own council in a benefits scam.

Alan, 49, and Kate Meager, 55, had their own business, a US holiday home, and a rented-out flat but claimed £3,400 in council tax benefits.

Judge David Cooper at Chelmsford magistrates court in Essex jailed the couple for 28 days.

He said: "You have both shown cynical and breathtaking dishonesty and greed over many years."

Mrs Meager, of Benfleet, Essex, said she was a single parent and didn't tell Castle Point council she got tax credits.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Labour Councillor - Child Pornograhpy

Ben Williams

A LABOUR councillor has been arrested on suspicion of downloading indecent images, the Daily Post can reveal.

Cllr Ben Williams, 34, who represents the city’s Clubmoor ward was arrested yesterday by officers from the Sefton Family Crime Unit.

Labour leader Cllr Joe Anderson said Cllr Williams had agreed to suspend himself from the Labour party while the police investigation was carried out.

Eight computers have seen seized, and he has been released on bail.

A Merseyside police spokesman said: “Merseyside Police has arrested a 34 year old man from the Childwall area on suspicion of downloading indecent images."

He said the man was arrested yesterday by officers from the Sefton Family Crime Unit arrested the man.

“Officers have seized computers for forensic examination by the Forces Hi-Tech Crime Unit.”

The spokesman said he had now been released on bail.

Labour leader Cllr Joe Anderson said: “Having had discussions with Cllr Ben Williams regarding his arrest I can confirm that he has agreed to voluntarily suspend himself from the Labour Party with immediate effect whilst an enquiry is carried out by Merseyside Police.

“Until the police investigation is concluded Ben Williams will have the Labour Whip removed and will no longer be a Labour councillor, will not participate in Labour meetings and will not be standing in the local elections next May as a Labour candidate.”

Cllr Williams strenuously denies any wrongdoing.


UPDATE 8 May 08

A FORMER Liverpool councillor today appeared in court charged with downloading indecent images of children - some said to be of the worst type.

Ben Williams, 34, of Norris Green appeared at South Sefton Magistrates Court and spoke only to confirm his address.

The history tutor, who was supported by family and friends at the hearing, did not enter a plea to the 12 counts of making indecent images over a year-long period.

He was released on bail and will appear at court again on June 26 when he will be committed for trial at Crown Court.

Williams was arrested last December by officers from Sefton Family Crime Unit and eight computers were seized in the inquiry.

At the time he was a Labour councillor but agreed to self-suspend himself from the party while the investigation was carried out.

The former Clubmoor councillor did not stand in this month’s elections after having served on the council for six years.

He is alleged to have made the images between December 13, 2006 and December 17, 2007.

Update 8 May 08

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Conservative councillor admits benefit fraud

A CONSERVATIVE district councillor has admitted wrongly claiming more than £2,000 in disability benefit over eight months.

Carol Todd, who represents Babergh District Council, said last night she would not be resigning her post and claimed she had made an “accidental mistake”.

Todd, 60, who is also a member of Great Cornard Parish Council, was given a conditional discharge and was ordered to pay £100 costs when she appeared before magistrates in Sudbury yesterday.

Babergh said it was not duty-bound to dismiss the councillor, who committed the fraud before she was elected seven months ago.

The prosecution, brought by the Department of Work and Pensions, found that Todd, of Chelsworth Avenue, Great Cornard, had failed to notify anyone of her change of circumstances when she claimed disability living allowance between November 2005 and July 2006.

She pleaded guilty to the charge yesterday and was given a one-year conditional discharge and made to pay £100 costs to the government department.

Current electoral rules dictate that Todd would have been prevented from standing in her Great Cornard (North) seat had she been convicted prior to the election.

But a spokesman for Babergh said: “The Code of Conduct for Members presently only applies to a councillor acting in their official capacity.

“This is not, therefore, a standards issue as it relates to conduct in the councillor's private capacity.

“Changes are due to be implemented next year (under the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007) so that the code also applies to private conduct where a councillor is convicted of a criminal offence”.

Earlier this year, the EADT reported on Babergh's “perpetual war” against fraudsters with officials bringing cases involving a total of £115,000 in less than a year to court.

Speaking after the case, Todd said: “I failed to report a change in my condition but it was just an accidental mistake. I never had any intention to defraud anyone and I have no intention of resigning.”


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Conservative MP to stand down at next election

Andrew Pelling
Andrew Pelling was arrested in September
A Conservative MP arrested on suspicion of assaulting his pregnant wife has said he will not seek re-election.

Andrew Pelling, 48, who represents Croydon Central in South London, announced his decision in a letter to the Conservative Federation.

The former councillor, who is also a London Assembly member, won his Croydon seat in 2005 with a majority of 75.

He faced no charges following his arrest after the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to pursue the case.

The father-of-three married his wife, Lucy, last year after his divorce from his first wife.


Labour Councillor arrested in indecency probe

a former chairman of the Humberside Police Authority has been arrested on suspicion of gross indecency and other offences.

Hull City Councillor Steven Bayes was detained in Northern Ireland on Monday but has since been released on bail.

The police in Belfast would only confirm that a 45-year-old man had been arrested.

Mr Bayes is hoping to become Labour's candidate for Hull East at the next election when John Prescott steps down.

Mr Bayes is a Labour member of Hull City Council representing the Orchard Park and Greenwood ward.

Although police in Northern Ireland would not confirm his arrest, a force spokesman said a 45-year old man who the BBC understands from other sources is Steven Bayes, was arrested by officers in Belfast at about 0900 GMT on Monday on suspicion of gross indecency and other offences.

Officers said the man had since been released on police bail pending further inquiries.


Saturday, December 01, 2007

Labour - Witness nobbling

The Director of Public Prosecutions is to examine allegations of witness-nobbling in a trial where Labour is accused of corruptly winning an election.

One witness has gone into hiding, and another told a judge his family was in danger after being warned against giving evidence. A Liberal Democrat activist stayed away from the trial when his car was torched, the election court heard.

Muhammad Afzal, a former chairman of the National Association of Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority Councillors, denies a complaint that he spread lies about an opponent to win election in May. His victory in Aston bucked the trend in which Labour lost its position as Birmingham’s largest party after 24 years. An election commissioner, sitting alone to judge the petition, is being asked to overthrow the result. Mr Afzal was previously cleared on appeal of postal vote-rigging in the city’s 2004 elections which, a judge said, “would disgrace a banana republic”. In the latest trial a witness appeared to lose his voice after he saw two relatives arrive while he gave evidence. One of the cousins had come to his house to warn him against testifying against Mr Afzal, he told the hearing. The other, Tahir Ali, is a Labour councillor. The pair arrived during a break in Mukhtar Ahmed’s evidence.

Graham Brodie, counsel for the defeated Lib Dem candidate, forced Mr Ahmed to name the relatives watching his evidence. From the witness box, Mr Ahmed pleaded hoarsely: “I don’t want to give names because I don’t want to put my family in danger.” But the barrister insisted that he comply, being under oath. After identifying them, Mr Ahmed’s voice faltered and he had to be encouraged by the commissioner, Timothy Straker, QC, to speak up.

Mr Ali told The Times it was nonsense to suggest his presence might have intimidated his cousin; he had attended several sessions of the hearing.

After Mr Ahmed left the box, the commissioner announced that he would order the DPP to attend the rest of the trial. “If anything untoward is discovered to have happened, steps will require to be taken,” he said.

Another potential witness, Abdul Azad, appeared to be no longer in Birmingham, the judge was told.

The Times understands that Mr Azad had made allegations against Labour during an investigation for Newsnight. That interview was never broadcast after the Labour Party raised objections, having seen a transcript.

Mr Afzal had had to stand down as a councillor because his victory in 2004 was due to vote-rigging, although he was cleared of any personal responsibility. The current petition claims he won back his seat this year because supporters spread lies that the Lib Dem candidate had been held for postal vote fraud.