A COUNCILLOR who committed benefit fraud has announced he is to stay in office - because he believes the majority of the public still support him.

Arif Waghat said he wanted to "draw a line under the episode" - but opponents claimed he had given all councillors "a bad name".

Coun Waghat was given an eight-week suspended sentence last month after fraudulently claiming council tax benefit and income support of more than £3,000 from Blackburn with Darwen Council.

The incidents took place before he was elected to the council.

Following the sentence, Coun Waghat told the Lancashire Telegraph he would consult with constituents in his Shear Brow ward before deciding on his future.

Now in a statement released to colleagues in Blackburn with Darwen council's ruling coalition, he has announced he will stay on.

The statement says: "As I indicated at the conclusion of my case that I will not be making any decision regarding my future on the council until I have consulted with my constituents.

"I have concluded that consultation and with a very few exceptions everyone I have asked has encouraged me to carry on.

"In view of all the above I have decided that it is in the best interest of Shear Brow ward and those who elected me that I do not resign.

"I hope this will clarify the confusion and the uncertainty.

"I would now like to draw a line under this episode and be allowed to carry on with the work for which I was elected."

Questioned later about the extent of his "consultation", Coun Waghat said he had spoken to hundreds of people.

He said: "I consulted quite a wide range of people.

"I didn't keep a count but it was literally hundreds. I am out in the ward on a daily basis."

Coun Waghat, who resigned from the Liberal Democrat group after admitting the offence, said he would continue to be an independent councillor "for the time being".

He said he would support the ruling Conservative, Lib Dem and For Darwen partnership. Labour currently trails the coalition by just two seats.

Coun Waghat said: "I am enjoying my independence.

"But I will be supporting the coalition - and not supporting Labour."

He has been given the backing of council leader Colin Rigby, but Labour members have called on him to quit.

Labour leader Kate Hollern said: "The man is a convicted fraudster."

Coun Dave Harling said: "I am not surprised he has stayed, and I am not happy at all.

"He has bloodied the name of all councillors, and he has given us a bad name by doing what he did."