MANAGERS, staff and elected members of Mid Devon District Council have expressed anger and frustration that a Mid Devon councillor found guilty of benefit fraud, has received a suspended prison sentence and yet continues to serve as a councillor and receive his allowance.

Mid Devon District Council says it wishes to make it clear that legally it has no power to remove the councillor, Kevin Wilson, from office.

It says this is because the government abolished the previous national disciplinary system for councils as part of the Localism Act 2011, which would have enabled it to take action.

Councillor Kevin Wilson, who represents Cranmore Ward in Tiverton, committed benefit fraud, lied about it repeatedly to officers investigating the matter to try and cover it up, only admitting guilt when the case finally came to court and evidence was produced to prove the dishonesty.

He received a 10-week suspended sentence with 200 hours community service for benefit fraud.

The suspended sentence was less than the minimum 13 weeks which would have triggered an automatic disqualification. Councillor Wilson has indicated that he does not intend to resign.

Chief Executive Kevin Finan, said: "Had this been a member of staff, we would have suspended them when the allegations were first made and sacked them on the spot when found guilty.

"Unfortunately, due to changes in the law, we are prevented from applying the same standards to our elected members."

The matter was to be considered at the full Mid Devon District Council meeting on Wednesday, February 26, when councillors were to be asked to vote on a motion condemning Councillor Wilson and calling for his immediate resignation.

Commenting on views reported recently in the local press expressing criticism of Mid Devon District Council for "acting disproportionately" and "legal attempts to utterly destroy" Councillor Wilson, Kevin Finan said: "The council has a legal duty to take action where we find fraudulent and criminal behaviour, in this instance one of our councillors.

"I believe in these circumstances, any reasonable person would conclude that any damage to his reputation is entirely his own doing.

"One can only imagine the outcry from the media and the general public were we to have turned a blind eye to the deceit, benefit fraud and dishonesty, just because it was being carried out by one of our own elected members, who should know better and from whom the public are entitled to expect a higher level of honesty and integrity."

About the

Local Plan Review

PETER Williams, Forward Planning team leader at Mid Devon District Council, will attend the next meeting of Sandford Parish Council to talk about and explain how Sandford will be affected by the Local Plan Review, which is currently open to consultation.

The public are invited to attend the meeting to hear what is said.

It will take place at Sandford Congregational Church Hall on Thursday, March 6, beginning at 7.30pm.