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Benefits case Tory is guilty


A Conservative councillor has been convicted of failing to declare he was working as a bus driver while he was claiming benefits.

Councillor Chris Boothby appeared at Leicester Magistrates' Court to plead guilty to two offences, after he was prosecuted by the Department of Work and Pensions.

The 47-year-old, from Ratby, is the Conservative member for Ratby, Bagworth and Thornton on Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council, but has been suspended from the authority's group since he was charged in October.

Boothby admitted failing to promptly notify the borough council of a change of circumstances which he knew would affect his entitlement to housing and council tax benefits between August 1, 2011, and September 26 that year – namely he and his wife Tina were working.

He also admitted a similar charge of failing to inform the Department of Work and Pensions they were working while claiming Jobseekers' Allowance between July 20, 2011, and September 20.

A district judge gave Boothby a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered him to pay £85 in court costs.

Boothby had originally sought a judicial review to challenge the decision to prosecute him.

He argued the benchmark was overpayment of £2,000 and he had only been taken to court because he was a councillor. He also argued that the case should have been dealt with by an administrative penalty which is not a criminal sanction.

Yesterday, Boothby's solicitor, Eve Patterson, told the Mercury her client had been overpaid by £1,509.97 but had to drop the judicial review after failing to qualify for legal aid.

She said her client had been advised by DWP staff that working fewer than 16 hours a week would not affect his entitlement to benefits, so he mistakenly had not informed them.

The ruling Liberal Democrat group on the borough council has called for Boothby to resign his position.

Lib Dem leader Coun Stuart Bray said: "His credibility is shot and he should now do the honourable thing and resign his Ratby, Bagworth and Thornton seat so a new councillor can be elected.

"In my view, he has brought his office into disrepute. This is why I have also reported him under the local standards procedure."

Although he now has a criminal conviction, Coun Boothby does not have to resign.

Coun Bray also called on Conservative group leader Peter Batty to expel Boothby from the Tory group.

Coun Bray said: "He has damaged the reputation of the Conservative Party and the council and it's time for Peter Batty to show some leadership and move swiftly to expel him."

Coun Batty said: "When Chris was charged he was correctly suspended without prejudice.

"I won't be told by the Liberal Democrats what to do.

"It's not up to me to expel him. It is a matter for consideration by the group.

"Chris will need to reapply for admission and we will consider this properly.

"We will look at the service he has given to his community and his performance as a councillor. He has been a councillor for 10 years and he has worked his socks off."

The Mercury yesterday spoke to Boothby, however, he referred questions to Coun Batty and his lawyer.

Benefits case Tory is guilty

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