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21 Jun 2014

Council volunteer was benefit thief

A mother-of-two who conned Havering Council out of more than £19,000 in housing and council tax benefits while volunteering at the authority has been ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work.

Benefit cheat Claire Palmer, 39, pleaded guilty to two charges related to failing to inform the council about income from paid employment and a £6,000 student loan.

Barkingside Magistrates’ Court heard from Gerard Shaw, mitigating, that Palmer had not known she needed to declare the extra income - a claim that magistrates said they did ‘not buy’.

Palmer, from Mawneys, had claimed housing and council tax benefit from August 2011 for herself, her husband and two children.

Financial checks revealed undeclared bank accounts showing credits from the recruitment agency Palmer had been working for. Investigations also revealed that Palmer’s husband was earning more than was declared to the council and that she was in receipt of a student loan and bursary while studying social work.

Palmer, who had completed voluntary social work at the council, was told by magistrates that she had come close to a custodial sentence. However chair of the bench Leonard Harbour said the court did not wish separate her from her family.

Instead Palmer was sentenced to a community order for one year, told to complete 200 hours of unpaid work, pay costs of £575 and a victim surcharge of £60.

She will also repay £17,272.42 in housing benefit and £2,365.89 in council tax benefit.

Councillor Roger Ramsey, leader of Havering Council and cabinet member for value, said:
I hope this verdict proves that we will not stand by while some try and play the system. This type of crime is quite simply stealing from hardworking taxpayers and Mrs Palmer will now have to pay back the money she has taken.
Well, we hope so. Now the hard part begins - getting our stolen money back.

Looks like the social work course will have been a waste of time.

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