London councillor who sublet her social home gets prison sentence
Published by Julien Tremblin for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Local Government
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An east London councillor faces the sack after being sentenced to 16 weeks in jail for housing benefit fraud.
Tower Hamlets Councillor Shelina Akhtar sub-let her housing association home without permission while claiming benefits for the property.
The sentence came on Monday, after she had pleaded guilty to three counts of failing to notify a change in her circumstances.
Commenting on the sentencing of Cllr Akhtar on Monday, a council spokesperson said: "Shelina Akhtar lodged a guilty plea at Snaresbrook Crown Court on Monday 09 January regarding a failure to notify a change in circumstances in respect of housing benefit with regard to a rented council housing property in her name.”
Shelina Akhtar was elected as a Labour councillor for Spitalfields and Banglatown ward in May 2010 but since October 2010 she has sat as an Independent councillor.
Under the Local Government Act, a councillor is automatically disqualified from office if a custodial sentence of more than three months is received.
The spokesperson said: “Due to the length of the custodial sentence (16 weeks) Shelina Akhtar will be automatically disqualified from holding office as a councillor under section 80 of the Local Government Act 1972 but that disqualification does not take effect until the opportunity for appeal has expired which is 28 days after sentence.
“If there is an appeal then the disqualification will not take place until any appeal has run its course".
A spokesman for Swan Housing Association - the owner of Cllr Akhtar’s home - said: “We are aware of Cllr Akthar’s sentencing and have been investigating the allegation of sub-letting against her.
“Although we cannot comment on specific cases, Swan does have a policy of investigating and pursuing allegations of sub-letting in accordance with our duty as a social landlord.
“This includes, when necessary, making applications to the County Court for possession orders in cases where sub-letting has been proved.”