A WOMAN who claimed benefits after failing to declare more than £30,000 of savings has been criticised for “defrauding the public purse”.

Veronica Hackett, 62, of Fairfield, Flookburgh, appeared at South Lakeland Magistrates’ Court charged with claiming £1,930.08 in housing benefit and council tax between November 25 last year and April 6 this year.

“She knew at the time of completing the claim form that she would not be eligible to receive benefits,” said Nicola Hartley, prosecuting on behalf of South Lakeland District Council. “That proves her actions were dishonest.”

Ms Hartley explained that anybody with savings or capital of more than £16,000 was not eligible for housing benefit.

Hackett had previously been given this information by Bradford City Council, where she lived before moving to South Lakeland.

But the former employee of Lakeland Leisure pleaded guilty to failing to declare she had ‘capital’ and failing to tell the council her income had increased.

“She made a stupid decision and she is extremely sorry and embarrased and remorseful,” said Susie Kavanagh, in mitigation. “She wishes in her heart of hearts she could turn back time and change what she put on that form.”

She told the court Hackett had already paid back the money she owed.

Magistrates ordered Hackett to pay £1,606.80, including a fine of £1,125 and costs.

“You had the funds but decided against declaring them,” said chair of the bench at South Lakeland Magistrates Court, Jenny Farmer.

“You’ve knowingly defrauded the public purse.”