Anger at benefit cheat continuing to hold office as a councillor

Posted on: 20 February 2014

Managers, staff and elected Members of Mid Devon District Council have expressed anger and frustration that a Mid Devon councillor has been found guilty of benefit fraud, has received a suspended prison sentence and yet continues to serve as a councillor and receive his allowance.

The Council wishes to make it clear that legally it has no power to remove this councillor from office. This is because the government abolished the previous national disciplinary system for councils as part of the Localism Act 2011, which would have enabled us to take action.

Councillor Kevin Wilson, who represents Cranmore Ward in Tiverton, committed benefit fraud, lied about it repeatedly to officers investigating the matter to try and cover it up, and only admitted guilt when the case finally came to court and evidence was produced to prove the dishonesty. He received a 10-week suspended sentence with 200 hours community service for benefit fraud. The suspended sentence was less than the minimum 13 weeks which would have triggered an automatic disqualification. Councillor Wilson has indicated that he does not intend to resign.

Chief Executive Kevin Finan said “Had this been a member of staff, we would have suspended them when the allegations were first made and sacked them on the spot when found guilty. Unfortunately, due to changes in the law, we are prevented from applying the same standards to our elected Members. The matter will however be considered at the Full Council meeting on Wednesday 26 February when councillors will vote on a motion condemning Councillor Wilson and calling for his immediate resignation. The meeting at Tiverton Town Hall is open to the public to attend.”

Commenting on views reported recently in the local press expressing criticism of the Council for  “acting disproportionately” and “legal attempts to utterly destroy” Councillor Wilson, Kevin Finan said “The Council has a legal duty to take action where we find fraudulent and criminal behaviour, in this instance one of our councillors. I believe in these circumstances, any reasonable person would conclude that any damage to his reputation is entirely his own doing. One can only imagine the outcry from the media and the general public were we to have turned a blind eye to the deceit, benefit fraud and dishonesty, just because it was being carried out by one of our own elected Members, who should know better and from whom the public are entitled to expect a higher level of honesty and integrity.”

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