Devon

Kevin Wilson: Benefit swindler ex-mayor keeps council seat

A former mayor who admitted benefit fraud is to remain a Mid Devon district councillor, a court has heard.

Kevin Wilson, who was previously mayor of Tiverton, admitted illegally obtaining benefits totalling almost £4,000.

The 55-year-old was given a 10-week suspended jail sentence at Exeter Crown Court.

Councillors are only disqualified from serving if they receive a three-month sentence or longer.

Wilson's lawyer said it was an "issue for his constituents" whether he remained as a councillor.

'Financial pressure'

The former Liberal Democrat councillor - who is now an independent - admitted two charges of making false representations to obtain £3,866.81 in housing and council tax benefits.

Wilson, of Besley Close, Tiverton, had told the court he ran into serious financial problems after he split up from his wife.

He received a 10-week sentence, suspended for two years, and was ordered to pay £260 costs and carry out 200 hours of unpaid community work.

Sentencing Wilson, the judge told him the offences were "significantly aggravated" because he had held a public role as a councillor and was a former employee of Devon County Council.

Financial pressure was "absolutely no excuse for dishonesty", the judge said.

Prosecutor Martin Meeke said that, under the Local Government Act, Wilson could only be forced out of office if he received a sentence of more than three months.

Lee Bremridge, defending, said Wilson's £398 monthly allowance as a councillor was his only income other than benefits.

Mr Bremridge said: "He maintains his position as a councillor by reason of his constituents and is due for re-election in 2015."

The council confirmed that Wilson could remain a councillor for now and said it was "his prerogative to remain on the council unless he chooses to resign".

A spokesman said: "It is up to the electorate to decide if they want to vote for him again."

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