More calls for Wellingborough benefit fraud councillor to quit

Former Wellingborough mayor Bob Patel
Former Wellingborough mayor Bob Patel

The leader of Wellingborough Council has called for the resignation of a councillor who has been convicted of benefit fraud.

Cllr Bhupendra Patel, who represents the town’s Hemmingwell ward, pleaded guilty last Monday to the offence of failing to promptly notify the Department for Work and Pensions of a change of circumstances that affected his entitlement to incapacity benefit, namely being in receipt of earnings as a councillor.

He was sentenced to eight weeks in prison, suspended for a year, and ordered to pay £85 costs to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Bhupendra Patel has since resigned the Conservative Party whip but has indicated he intends to remain as an independent councillor.

Council chief executive John Campbell has confirmed that under the Local Government Act 1972 the conviction of a councillor, which results in a prison sentence of less than three months, does not disqualify them from being a member of a borough council.

Cllr Paul Bell, leader of the council, said: “I utterly condemn the actions of Bhupendra Patel and strongly urge him to resign as a borough councillor.

“We are legally unable to remove him from the council, and as an independent member he will be entitled to sit on committees and take part in debates and decisions.

“This, to me, is a completely unworkable situation.

“As councillors we are in a position of trust and the public must have confidence that we are acting for the public good at all times.

“Clearly Bhupendra Patel has breached that trust and confidence, and I can’t see how he can continue as a councillor.

“There is no excuse for benefit fraud and someone holding public office and responsible for public money knows that as much as anyone.

“I am appalled that we find ourselves in this situation.

“As leader of the council, I strongly condemn the actions of Bhupendra Patel and call on him to resign with immediate effect.”

According to the council’s website, Cllr Patel is a member of the appointments committee, planning committee, resources committee, standards committee and licensing committee, and vice-chairman of the community committee.

He is also the council representative on the Wellingborough Homes board and Northamptonshire Racial Equality Council.

Cllr Patel was elected to Wellingborough Council in 2003 and was mayor in 2011/2012.

He also represents the Finedon division on Northamptonshire County Council.

Cllr Gareth Eales, who is the Labour Whip at the county council, said: “Cllr Patel has not only let himself down, but those people who voted for him.

“He has also damaged the reputation of both authorities on which he sits.

“Following his criminal conviction, he should now resign and allow the residents of Finedon Division to elect a replacement.”

The Telegraph spoke to Cllr Patel but he declined to comment.