Published: 12:59, 01 December 2009
An ex-councillor has pleaded guilty to benefit fraud worth almost £4,000.
Dennis McFarlane, who represented Luton and Wayfield ward on Medway Council until July this year, was charged with one count of falsely claiming housing benefit, council tax benefit and Job Seekers’ Allowance. He had 17 other offences taken into consideration.
The 52-year-old was receiving an allowance of close to £9,000 a year as a member of Medway Council, and was therefore not eligible for benefits.
He claimed £173.63 in housing benefit, £51.91 in council tax benefit and £3,544.71 in Job Seekers’ Allowance he was not entitled to.
McFarlane (pictured), who lives in Spitfire Way, Chatham, represented himself and pleaded guilty to the offences.
The father of three daughters said: “I accept total responsibility for the oversight on my part.”
John Male, for the prosecution, told Medway Magistrates that McFarlane had called Job Centre Plus in August last year and made a claim for Job Seekers’ Allowance. At the time he declared he and his wife of 21 years, who he is currently estranged from, were not in employment.
McFarlane followed the call up with a visit to the job centre to sign the appropriate paperwork and again did not mention he was a councillor and was receiving an allowance.
He told the court: “I would like to point out that at the same time as making the Job Seekers’ Allowance claim on the telephone I did declare I was an elected member.
“It was an oversight on my part and at the end of the day I am responsible for my signature.”
Before sentencing magistrates heard McFarlane, who was a Labour councillor, had a number of health issues, including high blood pressure and a chronic back condition, and was not a suitable candidate for a community work punishment.
Chairman of the bench Nigel Day sentenced McFarlane to a 24 month conditional discharge and ordered him to pay £150 court costs. He is also required to pay back the benefits he was not entitled to.
After the hearing, Medway Council’s portfolio holder for finance Cllr Alan Jarrett said: “This prosecution sends a clear message to everyone that Medway Council will not tolerate benefit fraud of any kind.
“It is completely unacceptable and we won’t hesitate to investigate, track down and prosecute those who cheat the system.
“I would like to pay tribute to the council’s investigation and legal teams who work tirelessly to make sure benefits go to the people who really need them.”