Former Colnbrook councillor cleared of benefit fraud
A former Colnbrook with Poyle ward councillor has been cleared of benefit fraud at Guildford Crown Court following a two day trial.
Councillor Steven Burkmar was accused of dishonestly failing to notify the Department for Work and Pensions of a change of circumstances that affected his entitlement to a benefit payment.
Cllr Burkmar had failed to disclose that he had started to receive an annuity payment while also receiving pension credit between March 2010 and May 2015. In his defence he claimed that he had informed the DWP verbally and was already paying back the £8,000 overpayment. He described the trial as “a misunderstanding that has cost the public a lot of money“.
Jurors were unable to agree and the judge directed a “not guilty” verdict.
Steven Burkmar, these days a councillor in Spelthorne, served as a Conservative representative for Colnbrook until 2007.
In February Cllr Burkmar resigned the Tory whip following a row which saw former council leader Quentin Edgington quit ahead of a vote to remove him. He spoke out about “disquieting” threats that his career would be damaged if he did not vote with the Conservative group.
Last month Spelthorne Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct Committee upheld a complaint made against Cllr Burkmar made by a resident following an incident in April. The panel found that Cllr Burkmar had been disrespectful during their telephone conversation and been discourteous and disrespectful to email correspondents. It concluded that he had breached the Code of Conduct.
It was not the first time that Cllr Burkmar had been censured for a breach of Code of Conduct rules. In 2006, while still a Colnbrook councillor, Slough Borough Council’s Standards Determination Sub-Committee found that he had failed to notify the Monitoring Officer of changes to his interest in the Star and Garter public house. However, it dismissed a second allegation that he was qualified to be an elected Member of the Council by virtue of the fact that he worked at the pub, despite living in Surrey.
Cllr Burkmar unexpectedly lost out to Cllr Rakesh Pabbi, for Labour, in the 2007 local election, after a ten year stint representing Colnbrook with Poyle. Cllr Burkmar lost out to the unknown Cllr Pabbi, no stranger to the courtroom himself, following a determined challenge, which saw him canvassing most of the village.
Cllr Burkmar was subsequently struck off the Slough electoral roll in 2007 by the Council’s chief lawyer Steve Quayle, following a complaint.