A PENSIONER who took up a part-time job but didn’t declare it and then received more than £22,000 in benefits has appeared in court.
Michael Muspratt, 72, pleaded guilty to a count of not notifying a change of circumstances for his housing benefit and one of not notifying a change of circumstances for his council tax credits.
Fareham Magistrates’ Court heard that the offences took place over seven years, from 2008, shortly after he had moved into sheltered accommodation in Greens Close, Bishop’s Waltham.
Prosecuting David Adams told the court that Muspratt had claimed £21,016.16 in housing benefit and £831.86 in council tax benefit, which had been discovered by Winchester City Council when data matched on its systems.
Defending, Victoria Goodfellow said Muspratt had been paying £13.60 per week back to the authority since the error had been discovered.
She added that until he received a letter from the council ‘he was unaware that he had done anything wrong’.
She said that Muspratt had worked all his life until he retired in 2008 and only took up the part-time position in a newsagent after seeing it advertised while shopping.
He took up the 17-hour per week position and before he started his employment, he checked with the council to see if it would affect his benefits claim.
She said he was told no, but he did not declare the work as he was meant to do, meaning he could technically have been entitled to the benefits.
Ms Goodfellow said: ‘He was new to the benefits system.
‘It was a misunderstanding on his part not stating what hours he was working’
Chairwoman of the magistrates Linda Gilbert told Muspratt: ‘We have very carefully considered this and it is very serious matter because of the sum of money involved.
‘However what we do accept is that you did ask whether you were allowed to work those 17 hours, where you have fallen down was not informing the authority that you were working those hours so in effect you have done nothing wrong save for not notifying them.’
She gave Muspratt a conditional discharge for 12 months and ordered him to pay £100 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.