A FORMER Padiham Town Council clerk who overpaid herself £12,000 has been warned she could face jail.

Elizabeth Bolton, 59, owned up to abusing her then position in a three-and-half year fraud, Burnley Crown Court heard Prosecutors said Bolton, then working 22 hours a week part-time, overpaid herself and to disguise the shortfall transferred money from one of two charity accounts held by the council into the authority’s main account as the tax year end approached.

After the tax year concluded, she would then “reverse” the payment, leaving a net shortfall in the main account, the court heard.

Bolton then paid money in from other sources, including her own account, to make good, but from March 2008, she didn’t make enough payments and the money owed began to “almost run away with itself”, prosecutors said.

By the time she was suspended in December 2011, the net overpayment was £11,696, a judge was told.

Bolton, of Palace Gardens, Burnley, who was due to stand trial in August, admitted fraud by paying herself a salary in excess of what she was entitled, between January 1, 2007 and December 29, 2011.

The defendant, was bailed until September 5 by Judge Jonathan Gibson who warned “all options” were open for sentence.

Prosecutor Adam Watkins said Bolton had been employed by the town council since 2002.

It was a very small body, with only two paid employees —she as the clerk and a caretaker — and she was responsible for arranging payment of wages to them both.

Mr Watkins said “rather oddly”, certainly from 2005 onwards, she arranged that she would be paid gross by Padiham Town Council. Her annual gross salary was about £15,000 for 22 hours.

Bolton would transfer funds to the main account from a charity account, then reverse it and make good the shortfall in the main account by paying money in, the court heard.

Mr Watkins said: “She stopped making good from March 2008, and the amount by which the council was down steadily increased.

“She was given a very considerable degree of autonomy and there were few, if any, checks conducted upon her.”

Bolton was given a suspended sentence of 12-months in prison, suspended for two years, 13 years ago, after petrol bombing a car in 1999.

The defendant, who had been forced to resign from her position as principal legal officer at Burnley Borough Council, pleaded guilty to arson with intent to endanger life at Lancaster Crown Court.

Katherine Pierpoint, defending Bolton, said: “It didn’t set off as fraudulent. It seems she got herself in a mess. However, she did pay back to cover up for that.

“It looks like she always had the intention to pay it back. In the latter part, she was making some payments, but never paid enough.

“All the outstanding money has been paid back, with interest, to the council, as well as them paying the council’s costs.”