Benefits claimant didn’t declare savings account

AN EASTBOURNE man has been fined £200 for failing to tell council bosses about secret bank accounts when applying for benefits.

Simon Wicks, 49, of Baldwin Avenue, was also ordered to pay Wealden District Council’s costs of £662 and a £15 victim surcharge.

He pleaded guilty to the offence of dishonestly making a false statement when seeking to obtain benefits when he appeared at Eastbourne Magistrates Court.

Mr Wicks had been living at Michel Close, East Dean, in December 2009 when he applied to Wealden District Council for Housing and Council Tax Benefits.

When asked for details of bank accounts, investment and property, he only declared a joint bank account which he held with his wife.

This contained savings of approximately £2,400 which is below the current £16,000 cut-off point and meant he was eligible for benefits. He had not declared other bank accounts.

An investigation carried out by the National Anti-Fraud Network showed that the money in these accounts brought his overall savings to £16,948 – above the current £16,000 threshold.

Had Wicks declared these amounts, he would not have been eligible for any Housing or Council Tax Benefits.

By dishonestly making a false statement, Wicks had received a £5,643 overpayment of Housing Benefit for the period between November 2009 to October 2010 and £1,628 in Council Tax Benefit from November 2009 to November 2010.

Wicks has begun to repay the outstanding benefits.

“There are clear rules about the eligibility for Council Tax and Housing Benefits which make specific reference to the amount of savings held by an applicant.

“These cannot be ignored,” said Councillor Jan Dunk, Cabinet member with responsibility for benefits.

“We are committed to working with other Government departments and organisations to ensure the public are not defrauded.”