A COUNCILLOR has been told he faces jail after admitting a £3,000 benefit fraud.

Shear Brow councillor Arif Waghat of Buncer Lane, Blackburn, admitted two offences of allowing or causing his wife Safia Umerji to make false income support and council tax benefit claims.

After the hearing, Waghat resigned from the local Liberal Democrat party of which he was deputy leader.

If he was to receive a three-month prison sentence or more at the next hearing, he would be disqualified from standing as a councillor under the council's Code of Conduct.

The borough's opposition leader called for Waghat to "consider his position as a councillor" from the council whatever the sentence.

After the case, leader of the Liberal Democrat group Coun David Foster confirmed Waghat had resigned from their party. When asked if Waghat should remain a councillor he said: "It is his decision.

"I'm sorry he's had to resign from the group but I respect the integrity he has shown in doing that. I don't want to comment on the particular case because I don't know the details but I think he's made a valuable contribu-tion to the Liberal Democrat party.

"I'm hoping he'll still use his expertise for the whole of the community. Obviously he'll be taking time to think about his long-term future but that's his decision."

Burnley Crown Court was told yesterday that the offences ran from January to November 2005 for the income support claim and June 2005 to April 2006 for the council tax benefit claim.

On both occasions Waghat failed to notify either the Depart of Work and Pensions or Blackburn with Darwen Council that he was working.

As a result £1,696 was overpaid in income support and £1,357 in council tax benefit.

Richard Bennett, defending Waghat, said his client had been repaid one portion of the benefits in question. Mr Bennett said Waghat was making direct debit payments to clear the outstanding debt.

Judge Richard Duckworth told Waghat that it was in his best interests to clear the over-payment.

But the judge warned him: "You can not buy your way out of justice. Please understand that cheating the public revenue is a serious matter and it may well be that the court takes the view that you will have to lose your liberty."

Waghat was remanded on bail for Probation Service reports and will be sentenced in September.

After the case, Labour leader Coun Kate Hollern, said: "Someone who can blatantly abuse the benefit system in this way should consider his position as a councillor."

Coun Colin Rigby, leader of the coalition of Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and For Darwen Party which runs the council, said: "I don't really know the ins and outs of it.

"It's a personal matter and he needs to resolve it with his legal advisors.

"What will happen depends on the outcome.

"I will comment in more detail when the sentence is given."