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Councillor Shelley Coupland quits ‘to clear her name’ over benefits charges

Cllr Shelley Coupland

Daughter of former mayor steps down ‘for the sake of absolute transparency’

Published: 1st July, 2011
by PETER GRUNER

A  LABOUR councillor – and daughter of a former Mayor of Islington – has been committed to the crown court on benefit fraud charges.

Councillor Shelley Coupland – Joan, her mother, is also a councillor – is alleged to have received state handouts while not declaring she was being paid an annual allow­ance as a councillor for St Peter’s ward. Cllr Coupland, who has pleaded not guilty, has announced she intends to stand down immediately as a councillor to “clear my name”. A by-election is expected to be held in the autumn.

Her resignation is the biggest blow to Labour since they took control of the council at the  local election in May last year with a 22-seat majority.

Cllr Coupland is said to have received benefits as a carer for her mother who has a serious medical condition, and housing benefits. 

She appeared at Horseferry Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday facing charges brought by the Department of Work and Pensions. 

She is due to appear at Southwark Crown Court on August 5. 

Her mother, who represents St Mary’s ward, is a former nurse who defected to Labour from the Lib Dems in 2006. She was Mayor of Islington in 2005. 

It is alleged that between 2006 and 2008 Cllr Coupland failed to declare to the Department of Work and Pensions a change of circumstance after being elected.

She had been receiving benefits but it is claimed  that she did not disclose that, from 2006, as a councillor she also received an annual allowance of £10,000, which would have taken her over an earnings threshold.

Cllr Coupland was elected in May 2006 in a celebrated battle   in which the then Lib Dem Town Hall  leader Steve Hitchins was voted  off  the council. 

Labour group chief whip Councillor Kate Groucutt said: “The people of Islington expect the highest standards from their elected representatives and Cllr Shelley Coupland has made the right decision to resign so she can focus on clearing her name.  

“Shelley is a very popular local councillor, whose priority has al­ways been serving her constituents in St Peter’s ward.  She has protested her innocence and it would be ina­ppropriate for us to comment further until the case is concluded.”  

A statement from Cllr Coupland’s solicitor said: “Miss Coupland has offered her resignation from the position of councillor in order to concentrate on clearing her name.

“Miss Coupland has always served her constituents with honour and integrity and does not feel able to provide that continued level of commitment while the case against her is decided.  

“For the sake of absolute transparency, Miss Coupland will be stepping down to dedicate her time to the preparation of her defence. This is in no way an admission of any wrong-doing on Miss Coupland’s part.

“Miss Coupland would like to thank fellow councillors and constituents for their support.”

Comments

jtyJaAISebu

The attendance roecrd by all Councillors at the three LocaL Development Framework Public Consultaion metings so far held has been appalling. Just three out of the 69 attended the LDF meeting in Southall this week. How many will attend the last one in Acton on 1st October I wonder?You right about the number of meetings attended being an incomplete metric for measuring Councillor performance. So what is a better metric surely not every four years at the ballot box?As for Councillor Oxley's work on the planning fiasco that is the tower of portacabins at St John's School, I can only complement him on his efforts. However, the problem' is not solved despite all his efforts. The fiasco possibly points up the fact that Council Officers run the borough as opposed to elected Councillors.

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