Benefits fraudster stays as councillor at
authority he cheated

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A former mayor handed a suspended prison sentence for committing benefit fraud against his own council has been allowed to keep his position.

Mid Devon District Council has no legal power to remove councillor Kevin Wilson, 55, from his post representing Cranmore Ward in Tiverton after he received a 10-week suspended sentence with 200 hours of community service at Exeter Crown Court for committing benefit fraud against the authority.

Councillors are only automatically disqualified from their position if they receive a sentence totalling 13 weeks or longer.

Colleagues of Mr Wilson, of Besley Close, Tiverton have called for his “immediate resignation”.

A spokesman for Mid Devon District Council confirmed: “The council wishes to make it clear that legally it has no power to remove this councillor from office.

“This is because the Government abolished the previous national disciplinary system for councils as part of the Localism Act 2011, which would have enabled us to take action.

“Councillor Kevin Wilson, who represents Cranmore Ward in Tiverton, committed benefit fraud, lied about it repeatedly to officers investigating the matter to try and cover it up, and only admitted guilt when the case finally came to court and evidence was produced to prove the dishonesty.

“Councillor Wilson has indicated that he does not intend to resign.”

Kevin Finan, chief executive of the council, said the matter would be considered at a full council meeting next Wednesday.

“Had this been a member of staff, we would have suspended them when the allegations were first made and sacked them on the spot when found guilty,” Mr Finan said.

Wilson told reporters he did not wish to comment on the situation.

However, Des Hannon, Devon county councillor for Tiverton East, backed his colleague but would not “justify his crime”.

Mr Hannon said Wilson had dealt with “his own personal Greek tragedy” of divorce and depression and “told lies in his panic”.

“The judge handed down a short sentence because he intended it would not disbar Kevin from being a councillor,” Mr Hannon said.

“That’s really unusual.”

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