A FORMER Tetbury Town councillor who has been charged with benefit fraud appeared in court yesterday. 

Ann Pearce, of Upton Gardens, Tetbury, is alleged to have dishonestly failed to notify the Department for Work and Pensions of a change of circumstances affecting her entitlement to social security benefit between May 6, 2020 and November 9, 2022.

The charges relate to an accusation that her capabilities had improved which would have affected her entitlement to Personal Independence Payment.

The case was heard at Cheltenham Magistrates' Court yesterday morning, Wednesday, February 28.

Pearce, aged 57, was due to enter a plea at the hearing but did not because vital evidence had not been made available to her lawyers.

Her lawyer, Ted Jackson, told the court that the issue in the case is the extent of her disability.

Mr Jackson said: “A Department for Work and Pensions surveillance team has 28 hours of video and an edited version of around 41 minutes which was played to her when she was interviewed by the government department.

“However, despite being promised a disc containing these videos, it has not be supplied. 

"We’ve had to take matters into our own hands and travel to Gloucester to pick it up.

"But it was not in a format that was readable to us and we then had to take it to Bristol for it to be converted.

“While the disc has been converted into a format that is now readable, I’ve not had a proper chance to view the content or have discussions with my client.

“Under these circumstances I am asking for the hearing to be adjourned for discussions to be had.”

Judge Nicholas Wattam told Pearce that this delay was ’regrettable’ but wasn’t her fault.

The case was adjourned and Pearce was released on unconditional bail until the next hearing which will take place at the same court on Tuesday, March 26.

At a previous hearing the court heard that Pearce had suffered an industrial injury while working in the health and social care sector. 

The former councillor is entitled to benefits, but what is not accepted by all parties is the extent to which her disabilities from this industrial injury affect her life on a daily basis.