Northampton

Fraudster ex-mayor Bhupendra Patel told to resign

Bhupendra Patel
Bhupendra Patel admitted the charge

A council leader has called for the resignation of a former mayor who admitted benefit fraud.

Wellingborough councillor Bhupendra Patel was given a suspended jail sentence by magistrates, last week.

The councillor admitted failing to disclose his councillor allowance while receiving incapacity benefit.

The council said Patel had resigned the Conservative whip but remained a councillor. Leader Paul Bell said he "utterly condemns" Patel's actions.

Patel, who received an eight-week suspended sentence, confirmed he was not going to resign, but did not want to comment further.

Patel, who turned 61 on Tuesday, has represented the town's Hemmingwell ward since 2003 and was mayor of Wellingborough in 2011-12.

He pleaded guilty to failing to promptly notify the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of a change of circumstances between 14 June 2009 and 1 May 2013.

A figure for the amount of benefit he fraudulently received was unobtainable from the court and the DWP.

He is still in post as an independent councillor, a council spokesman said.

'Completely unworkable'

Council chief executive John Campbell said that under the Local Government Act 1972, the conviction of a councillor which results in a prison sentence of less than three months does not disqualify them from being a member of a borough council.

Conservative council leader Mr Bell said he would still "strongly urge him to resign as a borough councillor".

"We are legally unable to remove him from the council, and as an independent member he will be entitled to sit on committees and take part in debates and decision," he said.

"This, to me, is a completely unworkable situation.

"Clearly Bhupendra Patel has breached that trust and confidence, and I can't see how he can continue as a councillor.

"There is no excuse for benefit fraud and someone holding public office and responsible for public money knows that as much as anyone.

"I am appalled that we find ourselves in this situation.

"As leader of the council, I strongly condemn the actions of Bhupendra Patel and call on him to resign with immediate effect."

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