Lindley councillor Tony Brice unhappy with sentence after admitting benefit cheat charges

BENEFITS cheat Tony Brice may appeal against his sentence after admitting three charges of claiming cash to which he was not entitled.

BENEFITS cheat Tony Brice may appeal against his sentence after admitting three charges of claiming cash to which he was not entitled.

The Lindley councillor was yesterday sentenced for making false representations to claim housing benefit and council tax credit and failing to notify Kirklees Council about his pension, savings, shares and a change in circumstances.

Tony Brice
Tony Brice

Magistrates ordered Brice, of Belmont Close in Highfields, to do 120 hours of unpaid work, put him under a curfew on Friday, Saturday and Sundays from 10pm until 8am for two months, and told him to pay costs of £1,908.

But the 67-year-old said he was unhappy with the sentence and his solicitor, Bill Rawstron, said they were considering appealing the tough sentence imposed by Calderdale Magistrates.

The chair of the bench, George Salter, told Brice that the sentence had to be of the medium level available to them due to the “position of trust” he enjoyed as a councillor and the fact people would hold such a public figure in “high esteem”.

Magistrates heard how Brice lost his council seat on May 7, 2010, elections. On May 10, he applied for the benefits in the same way all Kirklees residents have to.

However, the court was told Brice failed to declare a pension from the West Yorkshire Pension Fund of £392, which later rose to £442 a month. He also failed to mention an ISA and another savings account he held, as well as shares in British Gas.

He was further charged with failing to notify Kirklees Council of a change in circumstances, including part time work he did for the local MP, which may have affected his entitlement to benefit.

It resulted in him receiving a total sum of £2,977.32 which he has repaid.

Prosecutor Samantha Lawton said that during an interview Brice told officers he was in an emotional state after losing his seat. He also said he found the form to be complicated.

But she added that he failed “on at least six occasions” in five months to inform Kirklees Council of his pension, savings and change in circumstances.

Ms Lawton said: “He was in receipt of a state pension when he made the application for housing benefit and council tax benefit. He ticked the ‘no’ box which asked if he had another pension.”

In mitigation, Bill Rawstron said Brice was not dishonest, adding: “To his dying death he will deny that he acted dishonestly.

“This was a man who was going through a stressful period. Politics and local councillorship was his goal and main aim for as long as he can remember and he’d just lost his seat which caused him great personal difficulties.”

But the chair of the bench said the responsibility Brice had previously held and continues to hold had to be taken into consideration.

“You are in a position of professional trust where people will you hold in high esteem,” Mr Salter said. “You were given several opportunities to amend your claim but you failed to do so.”

 

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