A REDDITCH woman will carry out 200 hours of community service as part of a 12-month community order after pleading guilty to benefit fraud.

Leah Phillips, aged 45, of Hedgerow Close, Greenlands, was sentenced by Redditch Magistrates Court on January 8 after pleading guilty to claiming income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit amounting to £15,741 between December 2011 and March 2013 by failing to declare that her partner was living with her.

The court heard that Redditch Council started to investigate the case after an anonymous tip-off was received. The Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) were invited to join the investigation in order for the full extent of offending to be uncovered.

Before sentencing Mrs Phillips to a 12 month community order with 200 hours of unpaid work, magistrates said that they had taken into account her early guilty plea.

She was also ordered to pay £85 towards the prosecution costs and a £60 victim surcharge. The court heard that all overpaid benefits are being recovered by the council and DWP through their own methods.

A council spokesman said: "Prosecutions such as this one show just how helpful information given by local people can be in the fight against benefit fraud.

"It also once again demonstrates the importance of declaring true circumstances when claiming benefit and reporting any changes as they take place. Failure to do so will result in having to repay any benefit claimed incorrectly, may also lead to a criminal record and could have an impact on future claims.

Welfare Reform Minister Lord Freud said: "Benefit thieves are costing the taxpayer almost £1billion per year. This money is intended to help those most in need,not line the pockets of criminals. We will continue to tackle this problem at the front-line but also at the root by reforming the benefits system to make it less open to abuse."

Anybody wishing to report a suspicion of benefit fraud can do so by emailing as much detail as possible to benefitsfraud@redditchbc.gov.uk or by ringing the investigation team during office hours on 01527 534011.