A FORMER Tetbury mayor has pleaded guilty to falsely claiming £27,000 in state benefits, which the prosecution claims helped fund her luxury lifestyle.

Ann Pearce, age 57, admitted dishonestly failing to notify the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) of a change of personal circumstances which affected her entitlement to benefits between May 6 2020 and November 9 2022 at Gloucester Crown Court on Friday, April 26.

Pearce, of Upton Gardens, Tetbury, denied this allegation at previous court hearings but changed her plea to guilty last week. 

The prosecution, representing DWP, alleged at the earlier hearings that after suffering an injury at work Pearce, who was mayor of Tetbury in 2020, appeared at official functions in a wheelchair and carrying an oxygen bottle - but did not use them when she was out and about privately.

They claimed that she was using her benefit money to help fund a luxury lifestyle which included holidays and regular eating out. 

At a previous hearing at Cheltenham Magistrates' Court, prosecutor Cathy Thornton said: “The informant suggests that Ms Pearce was using her benefits to fund a luxury lifestyle and was socialising nightly by eating in local pubs, shopping locally and going on holiday.

"A lot of this occurred whilst she was Mayor of Tetbury.”

DWP also made it clear it does not allege that Pearce was dishonest in her benefit claims from the outset - but their case is that she went on to claim a total of £27,314 in Personal Independence Payments to which she was not entitled because her health had improved.

Judge Rupert Lowe said he would require a pre-sentence report before passing the sentence. 

The sentencing hearing will take place at the same court on Friday, May 24 but the judge ordered her to attend an appointment with a probation officer beforehand.

“You need to be completely frank and honest with the probation officer," the judge told her. "I say that because there’s been a lack of frankness and honesty so far.

“I’m not giving you any indication of your sentence, but your guilty plea will be taken into account.”