Benefit cheat charge Leicestershire councillor suspended by the Conservative party
A councillor has been suspended by the Conservative party after being charged with benefit fraud.
Councillor Chris Boothby is due to appear in court tomorrow accused of claiming Job Seeker's Allowance (JSA) while, it is alleged, he was a bus driver for Leicester City Council.
Councillor Boothby, who has represented Ratby, Bagworth and Thornton on Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council since 2003, told the Mercury that he would clear his name in court.
He is said to have claimed £949.14 to which he was not entitled in JSA payments, as well as £560 in housing benefit.
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It is alleged Coun Boothby, from Ratby, was also claiming unemployment benefit for his wife Tina, while she was working in a pub.
The Department of Work and Pensions launched an investigation into Coun Boothby after receiving a tip-off.
It has not said when the alleged offence took place but said Coun Boothby started claiming in December 2010.
In a statement, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) said: "Christopher Boothby claimed Job Seekers Allowance for himself and his wife on the grounds that he was unemployed.
"Information received by the DWP indicated that Mr Boothby had been working part-time as a bus driver for Leicester City Council and his wife was working at the Plough Inn, Markfield."
A DWP spokeswoman said: "Somebody can claim JSA for another person, say a relative, and they may have no knowledge of that.
"We would look at the circumstances and decide who would be prosecuted. It is usually the person in whose name the claim is made."
Coun Boothby told the Mercury he did not expect to be able to attend court as he was due in hospital. He said: “There’s due process to be followed and I look forward to clearing my name in court.”
However, Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council Conservative Group leader councillor Paul Bessant said he had been informed Coun Boothby was unwell.
Coun Bessant said Coun Boothby personally told him about the upcoming court case on September 14 and the decision was taken to suspend him from the Tory group.
Coun Bessant said: "There is a protocol, for every Conservative councillor, that says when they are charged with an offence they are automatically suspended.
"Coun Boothby has been suspended from the group and having the whip removed means any guidance he may have had from the group is no longer available to him.
"We have to remember that in this country you are innocent until you are proven guilty."
He said the suspension would last until the case concluded.
A borough council spokeswoman said: "The council will review the situation following the court hearing.
"The council has a zero-tolerance approach to benefit fraud and will take appropriate action wherever fraud is detected to safeguard taxpayers' money."