AN Accrington businessman who lived in an imposing Grade Two listed 'Hall' claimed £39 a week housing benefit despite owning three other properties, one of them valued at £400,000.

Blackburn magistrates heard Mohammed Saleem, 56, did not reveal he had an interest in the other houses and was paid £1,887 in council tax benefit he was not entitled to.

And the chairman of the magistrates told Saleem his 'theft' was from the public purse. “Ultimately public services are affected by this kind of offence,” he added.

Saleem, of High Brake Hall, Huncoat, pleaded guilty to falsely producing a document to obtain benefits.

He was fined £180 and ordered to pay £270 costs.

Gordon McMillan, prosecuting for Hyndburn Borough Council, said Saleem submitted a claim form on the basis he was self-employed and had a partner and was awarded £39 a week council tax benefit.

“Information was received that he owned High Brake House which is next to High Brake Hall,” said Mr McMillan.

“He was interviewed by investigators and admitted owning High Brake House and two other properties in Quarry Street and Midland Street, Accrington.”

Saleem said he had a £300,000 mortgage on High Brake House and that members of his family were living in all the properties.

“He should have declared all the capital on the form in which case he would not have received any benefits,” said Mr McMillan.

Damian Pickup, defending, said his client had run his own electronics business for 10 years but in recent years the business had struggled, recording losses of £20,000 in each of the last two years.

“He made a claim for council tax benefit because he was struggling,” said Mr Pickup.

He said the houses in Quarry Street and Midland Street were effectively one property and had been left to him by his father four years ago. His sister and her family were living in the property.

He said “on paper” Saleem was the owner of High Brake House but all the bills were paid by his daughter and son-in-law who live there.

“He does not receive any financial gain from these properties but he is guilty of this offence because he is the legal owner and should have declared his interest,” said Mr Pickup.

The court heard arrangements have been made for the recovery of the overpayment.