Friday, May 16, 2008

Labour councillor illegally claimed benefits

FORMER Hucknall Labour member Simon Harris illegally received benefits after being elected to Ashfield District Council five years ago.
But he failed to tell the Department of Work and Pensions about this new 'job,' Nottingham Magistrates Court heard.

Harris (41), of Hucknall's Washdyke Lane, admitted charges of failing to notify changes in circumstances relating to benefit and not notifying the extent of his earnings.

The court heard that the total he obtained through benefit fraud was £5,598.52.

The magistrates adjourned sentence until next Friday (May 23) for a report to be prepared and Harris was given unconditional bail.

Sheila Mott (prosecuting) said Harris put in a successful claim for reduced earnings allowance after he suffered an accident in 1987. He subsequently became a self-employed taxi driver.

Then, in 2003, he failed to declare becoming a councillor or work he began on a self-employed basis with IBA, who provide equipment for retail firms.

Questioned on March 22 last year, he admitted the offences.

Helen Rooks (defending) said Harris, who had no previous convictions, became entitled to the allowance after suffering an accident to his leg while a Post Office employee.

."He still has problems with the leg," said Miss Rooks. "He cannot stand for long periods and cannot kneel at all."

She told the court that for a time, Harris could not work at all and was having to attend hospital.

But he obtained re-training and started working as a taxi driver – a job he was still doing now, said Miss Rooks..

Then, as well as becoming a councillor, he did some work through friends for IBA, which would have taken him beyond the capacity of the reduced earnings allowance.

"He feels that the situation he finds himself in has cost him his marriage," said Miss Rooks. "He was married for nearly 12 years and ended up with depression, for which he took medication. The work he did for IBA was extremely stressful."

Miss Rooks told the court that Harris had three children aged six, nine and 11, including an autistic son, and they lived with his ex-wife.

"He does not have as much contact with the children as he wants," she said.

"He now lives in rented accommodation. He very much regrets the mess he has found himself in."


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