A SELF-employed contractor from Padiham falsely claimed £20,000 in benefits while working for nearly four years, a court heard.

And when he was quizzed by borough council investigators, Kevin Gamble claimed he could not read or write and dodged further interviews, Reedley magistrates were told.

An inquiry determined that Gamble had worked for steel fabricators Bender Forrest in Haslingden since 2007.

The company provided statements showing he had been working regularly for them on a self-employed basis.

Gamble, who then lived in Ingham Street, Padiham, had claimed in January 2007 that he was unemployed when he began claiming income support and council tax and housing benefit.

And he carried on the fraud when he moved to nearby Hargrove Avenue from August 2010, the court heard.

Magistrates imposed an eight-week prison sentence on Gamble, suspended for 12 months, with £200 court costs. He was also given a 12-month probation order.

Gamble was first interviewed in December 2011 but he claimed to council investigators that he could neither read nor write.

The interview was suspended and several attempts were made to reschedule his questioning. But Gamble failed to attend any new appointments and a decision was taken to prosecute him.

A Burnley Council spokesman said: “We continue to work hard to identify and pursue those committing benefit fraud.”

If you suspect someone may be claiming benefits fraudulently, should call a benefits hotline on 0800 1691304.