Belleau benefits claimant amassed £20,000 in savings despite not working since ‘96

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A benefits claimant from Belleau who managed to accrue £20,000 in savings, despite not working since 1996, has been made to repay almost £9,000 to the Department of Work and Pensions.

Geoffrey Baldock of Belleau near Alford pleaded guilty to two counts of making false statements to obtain benefits when he appeared before magistrates at Skegness last Wednesday.

Paul Wood, prosecuting, said the 61-year-old had been receiving job seekers’ allowance since 1996 and had also made claims for housing and council tax benefits.

Inquiries made by the DWP revealed he had three bank accounts, though Baldock only declared one when applying for JSA.

“When the inquiry revelled the full extent, this showed he had £5,000 which raised to £14,500 by spring 2008 and later went up to £20,000,” said Mr Wood.

Claimants with savings of more than £16,000 are not entitled to full payments and must declare their assets with the DWP.

Having failed to do so, Baldock had received almost £9,000 too much, though he has since repaid the amount in full.

Mitigating for Baldock, defence solicitor Andrew Havery explained he was a ‘gentleman of good character’ who had accumulated the money by living a ‘frugal life’.

Having lived far from any shops in the countryside with his brother and sister, with whom he split the household bills, he was said to have spent little money and eventually ‘accumulated a good deal of savings’.

Though he was obliged to have told the DWP about his savings, Mr Havery explained that Baldock was illiterate and had ‘buried his head in his sand’ when he started to receive ‘complicated and lengthy letters’ from the department.

But when the DWP inquiry revealed the overpayment, Baldock was able to repay the amount in full.

“He has not squandered the money, he has not lived an extravagant lifestyle,” said Mr Havery.

Magistrates fined Baldock £110, ordered him to pay costs or £100 and a victim surcharge of £15.

“We are giving you some credit for changing your plea but had you pleaded guilty in the first instance we would have given you full credit,” said the chairman.