Councillor in benefits fraud probe

Clare Baldwin

Clare Baldwin

First published in News

OPPOSITION councillors have called for an independent review after a leaked council e-mail suggested a Labour councillor is being investigated for benefit fraud.

A memo from a Thurrock Council official, seen by the Gazette, suggests Clare Baldwin, pictured, councillor for Tilbury Riverside and Thurrock Park, has been investigated for circumstances surrounding housing benefit fraud relating to properties in Tilbury and Loughton.

The e-mail alleges Cllr Baldwin was interviewed in October, 2012, about living arrangements with a partner at the home in Loughton, and later at a property in Tilbury, where she was claiming housing benefit, without declaring she was co-habiting.

Thurrock Conservative group leader, Cllr Phil Anderson, plans to call for an inquiry after seeing the e-mail, saying he had “grave concerns” over the affair.

The Gazette was first made aware of an investigation in November and lodged a Freedom of Information request asking if the council “had investigated or prosecuted any councillors or senior council staff in the past year”.

But the council responded “the council has not prosecuted or completed any investigations against councillors or senior council staff in the last year”.

When the Gazette sought clarification, the council refused to give any more information. The Gazette has since lodged a formal complaint with the Infomation Commissioner’s Office, which is investigating the matter.

The Gazette approached Ms Baldwin and council leader John Kent, but both refused to comment.

But after seeing the report, Cllr Anderson said: “It would be inappropriate to comment on these very serious allegations against Cllr Baldwin in advance of any court hearing.

“But I have grave concerns over why this has taken so long to be investigated and why Freedom of Information requests have not been properly responded to.

“I’m sure a normal member of the public would have expected to be either cleared or taken to court months ago.

“People rightly expect their elected representatives to be held to the highest standards of behaviour, and Thurrock residents will want to be reassured there has been no cover-up here.

“I will be asking for an independent review of the whole affair.”

A council spokesman said: “The only time Thurrock Council would make any comment on fraud investigations it was carrying out would be when court action was being taken and possibly not until the court had made a decision.

“Therefore it would be inappropriate to comment on allegations such as these and the council cannot confirm or deny the allegations.

“Thurrock Council stands by the FoI response it sent. We, of course, refute that the council has given incorrect information.”

Comments (13)

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10:10am Thu 16 May 13

ebagumtrebor says...

Is anyone surprised by the lack of response from Comrade Kent or the Labour party or the council. The Labour party’s investigation into Comrade Kiely has taken longer than the Leveson inquiry.

Who has any confidence that this councillor will be dealt with like any other member of the public. Probably nobody.

Clearly the Labour party locally look as though they are taking their lead from their MP’s nationally.

All aboard the gravy train.
Is anyone surprised by the lack of response from Comrade Kent or the Labour party or the council. The Labour party’s investigation into Comrade Kiely has taken longer than the Leveson inquiry. Who has any confidence that this councillor will be dealt with like any other member of the public. Probably nobody. Clearly the Labour party locally look as though they are taking their lead from their MP’s nationally. All aboard the gravy train. ebagumtrebor
  • Score: 0

10:54am Thu 16 May 13

DannyButcher says...

This whole Labour council seems off.

Kent not dealing with Kiely.

Kent forcing through the sale of a car park in Stanford Le Hope for a pittance, and ignoring calls from other councillors that it is far too little.

A Labour councillor possibly committing benefit fraud and Kent not responding to the claims.

This Labour council is a joke, and they are not dealing with key issues, in a professional, and responsible manner.

Kent needs to get rid of Kiely, but alas, that will never happen because the power hungry, self serving Council want to keep majority, Thanks for thinking of the people.
This whole Labour council seems off. Kent not dealing with Kiely. Kent forcing through the sale of a car park in Stanford Le Hope for a pittance, and ignoring calls from other councillors that it is far too little. A Labour councillor possibly committing benefit fraud and Kent not responding to the claims. This Labour council is a joke, and they are not dealing with key issues, in a professional, and responsible manner. Kent needs to get rid of Kiely, but alas, that will never happen because the power hungry, self serving Council want to keep majority, Thanks for thinking of the people. DannyButcher
  • Score: 0

11:34am Thu 16 May 13

Bernard 87 says...

Very much agree with Ebagumtrebor and Danny.

We have been blessed with an extremely poor council who believe they do not need to answer to the voters. This may be because they know there is a certain stubborn political element to Thurrock so they know the same people will vote for them next time regardless.

There should be rules in place whereby if someone moves out of the borough they should have to give up their seat. Likewise if someone is (found guilty of) robbing the taxpayer then they should be forced to quit and pay back all monies taken.

Good luck asking for that investigation Phil! You'll be waiting a long time.
Very much agree with Ebagumtrebor and Danny. We have been blessed with an extremely poor council who believe they do not need to answer to the voters. This may be because they know there is a certain stubborn political element to Thurrock so they know the same people will vote for them next time regardless. There should be rules in place whereby if someone moves out of the borough they should have to give up their seat. Likewise if someone is (found guilty of) robbing the taxpayer then they should be forced to quit and pay back all monies taken. Good luck asking for that investigation Phil! You'll be waiting a long time. Bernard 87
  • Score: 0

11:48am Thu 16 May 13

jb411 says...

Is anyone looking into Messrs. Kent and Keily?
Is anyone looking into Messrs. Kent and Keily? jb411
  • Score: 0

12:14pm Thu 16 May 13

ebagumtrebor says...

Would anyone want the job of looking into Kent and Keily. I think that should be left to the medical profession. What a nasty vision that conjours up.
Would anyone want the job of looking into Kent and Keily. I think that should be left to the medical profession. What a nasty vision that conjours up. ebagumtrebor
  • Score: 0

3:01pm Thu 16 May 13

Reallyhadenough says...

What does Mr Kent think the role of a leader is? Just a clue, part of it Is YOU having to take action when things are going wrong. He suspended that one over the racist email that never was quick enough. Since then nothing.

You have that Keily chap with his non attendance and looney left ramblings, the only thing he will get who is an entry in the Guinness book of records for the slowest investigation into something that is blindingly obvious. You had the couple with their Bin Laden bunkers fence and now this. I bet the woman who was suspended is over the moon at the special treatment she received.

Surely after 3 strikes someone in the Labour Party will take notice and start to take action? If not I reckon the people at Tefal should give Kent a call and find out how comes nothing ever sticks to him.
What does Mr Kent think the role of a leader is? Just a clue, part of it Is YOU having to take action when things are going wrong. He suspended that one over the racist email that never was quick enough. Since then nothing. You have that Keily chap with his non attendance and looney left ramblings, the only thing he will get who is an entry in the Guinness book of records for the slowest investigation into something that is blindingly obvious. You had the couple with their Bin Laden bunkers fence and now this. I bet the woman who was suspended is over the moon at the special treatment she received. Surely after 3 strikes someone in the Labour Party will take notice and start to take action? If not I reckon the people at Tefal should give Kent a call and find out how comes nothing ever sticks to him. Reallyhadenough
  • Score: 0

7:36pm Thu 16 May 13

A.N.Other says...

Should we expect anything else?

Just look at Teflon Redsell.
Should we expect anything else? Just look at Teflon Redsell. A.N.Other
  • Score: 0

9:11pm Thu 16 May 13

Dave_ says...

I just wonder why we think that politicians of any colour are going to behave any differently to anyone else. Of course if you stand for and are granted the priviledge of holding public office, then you should look to ensure you are beyond reproach.
However Bernard is spot on in his observation that Labour cllrs in Thurrock feel they can do exactly what they want and not fear the ballot box. The contempt they show to those who vote for them is astounding.
I just wonder why we think that politicians of any colour are going to behave any differently to anyone else. Of course if you stand for and are granted the priviledge of holding public office, then you should look to ensure you are beyond reproach. However Bernard is spot on in his observation that Labour cllrs in Thurrock feel they can do exactly what they want and not fear the ballot box. The contempt they show to those who vote for them is astounding. Dave_
  • Score: 0

6:16am Fri 17 May 13

ebagumtrebor says...

The council announced in the budget that they were going to make cuts to the fraud investigation team becasue of a cut in central government funding. Admittedly there was a cut to one part of the funding but I know for a fact that funding was made available elsewhere to boost fraud detection.

It just makes you wonder what the motivation for these cuts really were. They announce cuts a a time when two cases alone discovered fraud that amounted to over £200,000. Was this Comrade Kents revenge against the fraud team for uncovering wrong doing among his councillors. If he knew councillors were were being investigated, wouldn't he want to find out about it rather than make it less likely that the fraud team could do their job properly.
The council announced in the budget that they were going to make cuts to the fraud investigation team becasue of a cut in central government funding. Admittedly there was a cut to one part of the funding but I know for a fact that funding was made available elsewhere to boost fraud detection. It just makes you wonder what the motivation for these cuts really were. They announce cuts a a time when two cases alone discovered fraud that amounted to over £200,000. Was this Comrade Kents revenge against the fraud team for uncovering wrong doing among his councillors. If he knew councillors were were being investigated, wouldn't he want to find out about it rather than make it less likely that the fraud team could do their job properly. ebagumtrebor
  • Score: 0

7:34am Fri 17 May 13

Ed Woods says...

As a Housing Benefit Officer I am appalled at this story.

Appalled because a person under investigation is innocent of any charges unless they are found guilty in a court of law.

I am also appalled that a current fraud investigation could have been fatally undermined because of the leaking to a third party of details of any investigation that are then splashed all over the media.

Hundreds of people are probably investigated for fraud in Thurrock every year. The majority of discrepancies have innocent explanations. Some claimants end up with overpayments, some end up accepting civil penalties - some will be prosecuted - the majority will be innocent of any wrongdoing.

I am also appalled because your private and personal details are supposed to be kept confidential when you claim Housing Benefit and somebody has breached the Data Protection Act by taking it upon themselves to be Judge and Jury and leak a claimants details.

If you are claiming benefit from Thurrock Council will your private and personal details be leaked to a third party?

Whoever has leaked these details deserves to be sacked and prosecuted.
As a Housing Benefit Officer I am appalled at this story. Appalled because a person under investigation is innocent of any charges unless they are found guilty in a court of law. I am also appalled that a current fraud investigation could have been fatally undermined because of the leaking to a third party of details of any investigation that are then splashed all over the media. Hundreds of people are probably investigated for fraud in Thurrock every year. The majority of discrepancies have innocent explanations. Some claimants end up with overpayments, some end up accepting civil penalties - some will be prosecuted - the majority will be innocent of any wrongdoing. I am also appalled because your private and personal details are supposed to be kept confidential when you claim Housing Benefit and somebody has breached the Data Protection Act by taking it upon themselves to be Judge and Jury and leak a claimants details. If you are claiming benefit from Thurrock Council will your private and personal details be leaked to a third party? Whoever has leaked these details deserves to be sacked and prosecuted. Ed Woods
  • Score: 1

9:03am Fri 17 May 13

Reallyhadenough says...

I am no expert but how does naming someone who is allegedly under investigation undermine the case? If that's the case I am sure all those '70's stars who have recently been very publicly arrested over sex allegations must rubbing their hands together.
I am no expert but how does naming someone who is allegedly under investigation undermine the case? If that's the case I am sure all those '70's stars who have recently been very publicly arrested over sex allegations must rubbing their hands together. Reallyhadenough
  • Score: 0

9:18am Fri 17 May 13

ebagumtrebor says...

The point being the amount of time it has taken to carry out an investigation, 8 months to date if the details are correct.

I would be appalled If I was being investigated by the council and the council hadn't concluded it's investigation inside 8 months. What an appalling waste of money that would be and imagine the amount of stress that would put a person under, to be under investigation for 8 months.

Also the FOI request didn't ask for names. It wasn't person specific. It asked if the council had investigated any councillors or senior officers for suspected fraud.

Members of the public have a right to know and should be informed of wrong doing carried out by councillors. If the allegations are true, the least this councillor could have done would be to step aside until investigations were completed.

Now because of the political situation in the council whereby losing one council seat will mean the loss of control of the council, we have a situation where people are left to speculate because the leader of the council doesn't want to lose his position and wants to conceal or ignore the conduct of his councillors.

Perhaps Comrade Kent should grow a pair and come clean on the conduct of his councillors and what he intends to do about it. Don't hold your breath though.
The point being the amount of time it has taken to carry out an investigation, 8 months to date if the details are correct. I would be appalled If I was being investigated by the council and the council hadn't concluded it's investigation inside 8 months. What an appalling waste of money that would be and imagine the amount of stress that would put a person under, to be under investigation for 8 months. Also the FOI request didn't ask for names. It wasn't person specific. It asked if the council had investigated any councillors or senior officers for suspected fraud. Members of the public have a right to know and should be informed of wrong doing carried out by councillors. If the allegations are true, the least this councillor could have done would be to step aside until investigations were completed. Now because of the political situation in the council whereby losing one council seat will mean the loss of control of the council, we have a situation where people are left to speculate because the leader of the council doesn't want to lose his position and wants to conceal or ignore the conduct of his councillors. Perhaps Comrade Kent should grow a pair and come clean on the conduct of his councillors and what he intends to do about it. Don't hold your breath though. ebagumtrebor
  • Score: 0

4:41pm Fri 17 May 13

Indred Cold says...

Someone once said to me with the Tories
its usally a sex scandel with Labour its always money having seen her picture
I can see why its financial
Someone once said to me with the Tories its usally a sex scandel with Labour its always money having seen her picture I can see why its financial Indred Cold
  • Score: 1

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