Labour MP Got Flat Within Four Months When Average Wait Was Three Years, Fraud Trial Told
Apsana Begum was one of 26 new Labour MPs elected at the December 2019 general election. She won her seat in east London, which has a large Bengali community, with a majority of 28,904.
A Labour MP was given a studio flat by her local council in under four months, when the waiting time was usually three years, a court has heard.
Apsana Begum, 31, denies three counts of fraud.
The MP for Poplar and Limehouse in east London is accused of costing the London Borough of Tower Hamlets £64,000 in benefits.
Rafiqul Hoque, Head of Housing Options at the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, told Snaresbrook Crown Court she had failed to notify his department of several changes of circumstances.
Her original application, made in 2011, was based on the fact she was living in “overcrowded conditions” in the family home and was sharing a bedroom with her sister.
But prosecutor James Marsland said Miss Begum moved out of the property in Woodstock Terrace, Poplar, when she went to live with her new husband, Ehtashamul Haque, in 2013.
“It’s a significant change of circumstances, because we would need to assess her at the new address if she wanted to continue with her application,” replied Mr Hoque.
Mr Hoque said if she had moved from an “overcrowded” situation to “adequate” housing her application would have been downgraded from Band 2 to Band 3.
The court heard she later moved back into the family home but a living room was converted into a bedroom, meaning she was no longer “overcrowded”.
In June 2015 the council wrote to Miss Begum at the Woodstock Terrace address to see if she wanted to continue her application. In September they prepared to cancel her application but in November she contacted them and they agreed to restore it, effectively treating it as a priority case.
She was then offered the studio flat in March 2016.
Mr Marsland asked Mr Hoque: “She was able to obtain a social housing property by 7 March 2016. As far as getting to the top of the list that was by 5 February?”
“That is when the offer was made,” he replied.
Mr Marsland asked: “So from November to February is how long? It’s under four months?”
“That’s correct,” said Mr Hoque.
“When the average wait is three years?” asked Mr Marsland.
“That’s correct,” he replied.
“Are you aware of information that she had notified Housing Options of a change of address throughout the period of her application?” asked Mr Marsland.
Prosecutor James Marsland has told the jury Miss Begum used to work as a housing adviser with a charity, Tower Hamlets Homes, and would have known exactly when to contact the housing department.
The prosecution claim she made several fraudulent council house applications, although she will insist they were made without her knowledge by her “controlling” former husband, Mr Haque, from whom she is now separated.
The alleged incidents relate to periods between January 2013 and March 2016, in which the London Borough of Tower Hamlets alleges housing Begum cost £63,928 in rent.