Former Islington councillor accused of benefits fraud is cleared

A former councillor accused of a �11,000 benefits fraud has been cleared of any wrongdoing.

Shelley Coupland, 41, resigned as Islington Council’s member for St Peter’s ward in the face of claims she had failed to tell the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) when she was elected to the post in May 2006.

For more than two years the former Labour member of Steeple Walk, Islington, was paid up to �50 a week in carers’ allowance for looking after her disabled mother and �37 in income support, as well as claiming �180 a week in councillors’ allowance.

She was said to have wrongly received a total of �4,931 in income support as well as �6,411 carers’ allowance, which is only available to those earning under �100 a week. The overpayment came to light in November 2008.

Ms Coupland, who stepped down as councillor last summer to clear her name, had always maintained that she notified the benefits office of her public role shortly after being elected – but the DWP claimed to have no knowledge of this.

She was cleared of two charges of failing to notify DWP of a change in circumstances by a jury at the Old Bailey yesterday (Wednesday).