A COUNCILLOR who was given a suspended prison sentence for benefit fraud has not decided if he will quit.

Coun Arif Waghat had previously pledged to consult with his constituents before decid-ing whether to step down from the council.

The member for Shear Brow, Blackburn, was handed an eight-week sentence, suspended for 12 months, at Burnley Crown Court earlier this month.

Following the ruling, opposition politicians called for him to quit.

But he said he would "consult on a daily basis for the next week or so".

And speaking this week, he said: "I have still not decided. The feedback has been fairly positive.

"I thought it would take me a week, but it is going to take longer."

Coun Waghat, who worked as a welfare rights advisor for the council for nine years until he was made redundant in 2003, fraudulently claimed council tax benefit and income support of more than £3,000 from Blackb-urn with Darwen Council.

The fraud was committed before he was elected to the council.

Coun Waghat has already resigned from the Liberal Democrats group and now stands as an independent, but supports the council's ruling coalition of Conservative, Liberal Democrat and For Darwen councillors.

He has already been given the backing of Tory council leader Colin Rigby, who has described him as "a good ward councillor".

If Waghat had received a prison sentence of three months or more he would have been disqualified from standing as a councillor under the Code of Conduct.

A by-election, which could leave the balance of power hanging by a thread, would be triggered if Waghat, elected in May 2006, resigned.

If Labour won his seat they would have 32 seats to the coalition's 32 - meaning the mayor, currently Tory Maureen McGarvey, would keep the coalition in power with her casting vote.