- the alleged fraud for which was arrested on November 9 was supposedly sub-letting her housing association property
- she denies any wrongdoing, saying, “I’m clean. Let’s wait until the investigation.”
- her conviction for benefit fraud in July included false claims for Jobseeker’s allowance, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit while she had in fact been working
- Mayor Lutfur Rahman has said: “Everyone who seeks to represent the interests of this community must abide by the highest standards of personal conduct.”
As the ELA says, she can only be chucked off the council at this stage after an investigation by the council’s Standards Committee. I understand that another councillor has already made a formal complaint.
The local government code of conduct states that councillors must not behave “in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing your office or the authority into disrepute”. I would have thought defrauding the very council taxpayers whom you are meant to be representing falls well within the “disrepute” category.
And here’s another interesting little thing. At the full meeting of Tower Hamlets council on July 14 – just 13 unlucky days before she was convicted for benefit fraud at Thames Magistrates’ Court – Cllr Akhtar tabled a question to then finance chief, Cllr David Edgar. The question was number 7.27 on page 40 of this pdf.
But as it’s so good, I’ll just copy it here as well:
7.27 Question from Councillor Shelina Akhtar to the Lead Member for Resources, Councillor David Edgar
“What are the likely effects of the coalition government’s plans to make £11bn in cuts to Welfare including cutting housing benefit, tax credits, Disability Living Allowance and freeze Child Benefit on residents in Tower Hamlets?”
Quite some front, don’t you think? I wonder what her Lutfurite colleague Cllr Oli Rahman makes of it all: his day job is in a Job Centre helping to detect benefits cheats.