Ex-council leader cleared in fraud claim

A government standards watchdog has cleared the ex-leader of Breckland Council of bringing his office or authority into disrepute.

A government standards watchdog has cleared the former leader of Breckland Council of bringing his office or authority into disrepute.

The Standards Board for England found no evidence that Breckland and Norfolk county councillor Cliff Jordan breached the code of conduct.

The investigation was launched after a member of the public alleged he had "brought his office or authorities into disrepute by making a fraudulent claim for incapacity benefit".

Mr Jordan joined Breckland in 1991, serving as its leader from 1998 to 2005.

In June last year a social security and child support appeals tribunal ordered Mr Jordan to repay some £17,000 of invalidity benefits he claimed between 1998 and 2003. At the time Mr Jordan said he had made a genuine mistake in failing to disclose receipts of his allowances from Breckland Council, and the tribunal chairman accepted there had been nothing fraudulent in his actions.

The ethical standards officer noted he had not acted fraudulently and that Mr Jordan had co-operated fully with the incapacity benefit officer when it was brought to his attention. The officer also found that the matter related to Mr Jordan's private life and so was not covered by the code.

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Mr Jordan welcomed the board's findings and said he was still determined to take the Department for Work and Pensions to the European court. He added: "I would have been very surprised to find that I was guilty of any wrongdoing.

"I complied with the government guidance to local government on members' allowances, and, as I have stated many times, I used the allowance for expenses. That the Department for Work and Pensions checked and found that was the case; I did not receive it as a wage.

"The comment by the appeal judge that I was negligent may in due course prove to be completely wrong.

"I am taking the Department for Works and Pensions to the European Court of Justice because it is my belief that they have acted unlawfully."

At the time of the tribunal Mr Jordan argued that, since allowances paid by authorities did not need to be reported or taken into account for the purposes of claims for unemployment benefit, it could not be right that those same allowances had to be reported for invalidity benefit.

The tribunal rejected these arguments.

Mr Jordan represents Upper Yare ward on Breckland and Yare and All Saints on the county council.