Council worker guilty of fraud

A COUNTY council employee pleaded guilty to benefit fraud at a Scarborough Magistrates Court hearing on 1 February.

Lisa Abbott (37), of Fairmead Way in Whitby, was ordered to pay almost £3,900 in compensation to Scarborough Borough Council after failing to alert the authority that she had gained paid employment with North Yorkshire County Council.

This affected her eligibility for council tax and housing benefits and a spokesperson for Scarborough Borough Council confirmed that in period between 21 June 2010 and 24 June 2012, Ms Abbott had illegally claimed over £5,250.

The council’s head of finance and asset management, Nick Edwards, said: “The council continues to take a tough approach against benefit fraud – it simply is not right or fair for a person to deliberately take money from public funds they are not entitled to receive.

“Though we only resort to bringing a prosecution in a small number of cases, we have a clear duty to protect taxpayers’ money and public services from attacks through fraud.”

Ms Abbott was also ordered to undertake 120 hours of unpaid community service within the next year.

She pleaded guilty to a second charge of failing to alert the authority when she gained another role with HF Holidays Ltd in March 2011.

Mr Edwards added: “It is absolutely imperative that if the living circumstances of someone claiming benefit change, they let us know.

“While we are sympathetic to people facing hardship as a result of the state of the economy, benefit fraud is certainly not the answer.

“If residents are in deep financial trouble, help and advice is available both from ourselves and through a number of charities we work alongside, including the Citizens Advice Bureau.”