Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Labour - Benefit Fraud

A FORMER mayor and serving councillor is facing trial in the New Year after being charged with a £13,000 benefit fraud. John McGowan, 53, of Ribble Way, Low Moor, Clitheroe, is alleged to have been caught playing golf, shopping and even doing a paper round while claiming a high level of disability allowance.

McGowan is both a Ribble Valley councillor and Clitheroe town councillor, representing the Edisford and Low Moor ward. He was the Mayor of Clitheroe for two years from 1997.
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He has not been suspended from his role on either council.

The Labour councillor has more than 16 years local government experience. He defected to Labour from the Liberal Democrats in 1999 after a row that saw him disposed from his role as deputy town mayor in Clitheroe. On Ribble Valley Council McGowan is on the housing committee, has a responsibility for the overview and scrutiny of council services and sits on the parish council liaison board.


A FORMER mayor has avoided jail after paying back more than £11,000 in disability benefits that he falsely claimed.

John McGowan, 54, had just 28 days to find the cash after a confiscation order was made last month.

The former Clitheroe Town councillor was made to pay £11,882 at a proceeds of crime hearing following his conviction of benefit fraud in the summer.

He was handed an eight-month suspended prison sentence, which could have been activated if he had failed to pay back what he owed to the Department for Work and Pensions on time.

McGowan was caught playing golf and delivering newspapers while claiming disability allowance.

He was ordered to complete 80 hours unpaid work after failing to notify the Department for Work and Pensions that his medical condition had improved.

McGowan, who served as the town's mayor for two years from 1997 and was also a Ribble Valley councillor until earlier this year, pleaded guilty to falsely claiming disability living allowance between April 2004 and September 2006.

He first claimed the allowance in May 1992 after telling authorities he was virtually unable to walk without mobility aids and that he needed help washing and dressing on a day-to-day basis.

In 1997 he submitted a further claim stating that his condition had worsened and he now needed to use a mobility scooter.

However, the benefit helpline received a tip-off in March 2006 that he was an active Labour councillor and had also been seen carrying out a paper round.

McGowan declined to comment after the case.

However, his solicitor, David Ryan of Forbes Solicitors, said: "My client realises that what he did was wrong which was implicit by his early guilty plea.

"It is right that he should be punished and he accepts that punishment.

"He always had every intention of paying back the money to the Department of Work and Pensions, no matter how long it took."


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Lib Dem's They're All At It

A WANTED local councillor has turned himself in four days after magistrates issued a police warrant for his arrest. Dishevelled liberal democrat councillor, Mushtaq Hayat paced outside Slough Magistrates' Court and chain smoked as he waited for his health and safety prosecution to be heard on Monday.

Police had been searching for the troubled councillor ever since they were issued with a warrant for the bankrupt small businessman's arrest at Maidenhead Magistrates' Court last Wednesday - when he failed to appear at court for the second time. Slough Borough Council brought legal proceedings against the councillor after a health and safety inspection discovered an alleged cockroach infestation at his Halal Pizza Parlour, in Bradley Road, Chalvey, last year.

Conservative Racism

A Chorley councillor and his girlfriend are to stand trial early next year over charges in connection with an alleged racist incident at an airport taxi rank.

Councillor Shaun Smith, 37, who represents Wheelton and Withnell ward, has been charged with a racially aggravated public order offence and common assault following a late night incident at Manchester Airport in June. His girlfriend, Amanda Jane Ahlgreen, 39, of Trigg Lane, Heapey, Chorley, has also been charged with a racially aggravated public order offence.

The pair were committed to Minshell Street Crown Court, Manchester, on January 25, when they appeared at Trafford Magistrates Court on Friday. Smith, of Briers Brow, Wheelton, was elected for the Conservative party to Chorley Borough Council in 2004.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Lib Dem - Health and Safety

A COUNCILLOR is facing arrest for the second time this year after failing to turn up at Maidenhead magistrates court on Wednesday. But when the Express confronted Councillor Mushtaq Hayat later that day, he seemed unware of the danger he was in.

Cllr Hayat, a Slough Lib Dem, is also facing charges of allowing his pizza restaurant to be infested with cockroaches for the second time. He failed to appear before magistrates on Wednesday, when a warrant for his arrest was issued.

In December last year, his restaurant Halal Pizza Place, in Bradley Road, Slough, was closed down temporarily after it was found to be infested. The former chairman of the borough health panel also failed to turn up for a court appearance last month and a warrant was issued for his arrest at the time.

Hayat has already has one conviction over a cockroach infestation and was given a rap over the knuckles by healthy and safety bosses. The 46-year-old from Wexham Road, Slough, was fined £3,000 plus £1,500 hygiene costs in March 2003.

Inspectors found evidence of an infestation by German cockroaches at the Halal Pizza Palace when they visited in January 2002.