Benefit fraud pair falsely claimed nearly £15,000

Court
Court

TWO benefit cheats have been ordered to carry out community work after falsely claiming nearly £15,000 from Chichester District Council.

Both Caroline Austin, of Flatt Road, Nutbourne and Lisa Harmes, of Clovelly Road, Southbourne failed to declare to Chichester District Council that they had savings over the prescribed limit, a council statement said.

Austin, 41, claimed housing benefit but failed to report that her savings went over the prescribed limit of £16,000 on April 2, 2013.

She appeared before Worthing Magistrates Court on February 10, and pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to promptly notify the council of a change in her circumstances. Magistrates ordered that she complete 180 hours of unpaid work.

Harmes, 43, had claimed housing and council tax benefit but failed to report that her savings were over the £16,000 permitted amount on April 1, 2011. She pleaded guilty to two charges of failing to promptly notify the council of a change in her circumstances.

During a hearing at Worthing Magistrates Court on February 17, she was ordered to undertake 40 hours’ unpaid work.

Austin was overpaid £8,400 and Harmes received over £6,000 in overpayments. Both women have since repaid these sums and have made a contribution towards costs.

Councillor Tony Dignum, cabinet member for finance and governance, said: “It is extremely important that people claiming benefit tell us about any change in their circumstances.

“Whenever benefit fraud comes to light we will always take action against people who try to abuse the system.”

The council’s investigation team are on 01243 534590.