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Borough council in successful prosecution for false statements in social housing application

Tewkesbury Borough Council has successfully prosecuted an individual for knowingly withholding information from the council’s Housing Advice Team and making false statements in order to obtain social housing.

On 27 July 2022, Stuart John Norledge, currently of Overbury, Tewkesbury pleaded guilty to three offences under sections 171 of the Housing Act 1996 at Cheltenham Magistrates Court.

The local authority said the Magistrates stated that the offences by Norledge were a serious matter and that there was not only the failure to notify the council of a change in circumstances, but that he also positively misled the officers which led to an offer of social housing that he wasn’t entitled to.

According to the council, Norledge applied for social housing through HomeSeeker Plus in 2019 on behalf of his wife and young baby, stating that they were all living in a two bedroomed house in Northway with Mrs Norledge’s parents and so were overcrowded.

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He signed a declaration confirming that he would advise the council or housing association of any changes in his circumstances which occurred whilst the application was live, and in February 2020 he declared that he was due to be evicted, and this led to a change in his priority status.

Over the course of the next two years Norledge concealed the fact that his circumstances had changed as he had moved from Northway into a private rental in Hartpury, and it was proved that he knowingly made false statements as to his current address.

Norledge was fined £1,062.00, reduced to £708.00 for an early guilty plea, given a victim surcharge of £71.00 and order to pay costs to the council of £515.50.

Cllr Gill Blackwell, Tewkesbury Borough Council’s lead member for housing, said: “This was a successful prosecution against someone who gave false information and took up a lot of time and resources of our team. The joined up partnership working is a testament to everyone involved.”

The prosecution was brought by Tewkesbury Borough Council’s Housing Advice Team with assistance from both the Counter Fraud and Enforcement Unit and One Legal, the legal service shared by Cheltenham Borough Council, Gloucester City Council, Stroud District Council and Tewkesbury Borough Council. 

The prosecution stated that the average cost to the council of providing temporary accommodation to a homeless family was £18,000 per year and that although the offer of the property in Winchcombe had been withdrawn before he moved in, his behaviour had exposed the council’s budget to risk.

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