Former council candidate wrongly claimed benefits despite owning two houses, court hears

Croydon Guardian: Graham Axford allegedly claimed housing and council tax benefit while owning two properties Graham Axford allegedly claimed housing and council tax benefit while owning two properties

A man who stood for election to Croydon Council wrongly claimed housing and council tax benefit from the same council while owning two properties, including one in France, a court heard yesterday.

Graham Axford of Belgrave Road, South Norwood, denies six counts of fraud by false representation in relation to the benefits paid by Croydon Council between September 2000 and July 2007.

Croydon Crown Court heard the 58-year-old, who is also in receipt of incapacity benefit, failed to declare he owned a property in Wales bought in 1984 and part owned a farmhouse in Normandy, purchased in 1995.

Dominic Connolly, prosecuting, said: "It is the Crown's case that on benefit forms Mr Axford submitted, he failed to declare he was the owner of two properties.

"Both were purchased by him before the time we are concerned with. Mr Axford lived in rented accommodation from the local authority.

To stay in receipt of housing benefit and council tax benefit, Mr Axford would submit forms to continue the claim."

Benefit claim forms ask claimants to declare any savings or investments, including premium bonds, national saving certificates and any property they own either in the UK or abroad.

"The form states 'do you or your partner own a house or land in this country or abroad?' You can see on Mr Axford's form this is ticked 'no,' Mr Connolly told jurors.

"There are follow up questions about any rent from property you own, money or savings you have abroad, all of which are ticked no.

"There is also a declaration on the form which is signed by Mr Axford and as a result of him submitting the form he was successful in his claim."

Jurors were told Mr Axford, who stood for election as a Liberal Democrat councillor in Upper Norwood ward in 2010, completed the form this way between 2000 and 2003.

In 2006, the court heard he was visited by a council officer and was questioned about his circumstances but again made no mention of the two properties.

He also failed to include them on a change of address form submitted in 2007, the jury was told.

In 2010 Mr Axford was questioned about the property in Wales, after it was brought to the attention of Croydon Council.

The court heard he denied owning the property and told council officers he had purchased it, then subsequently transferred it to his wife.

Mr Connolly said: "He claimed he never lived with his wife and claimed he was unaware whether there was a mortgage at the property.

"Enquiries made with land registry showed the proprietor is Graham James Axford and there were two charges against the property; two mortgages one dated 2004 and a second dated 2007."

The case continues.

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