A council leader from Eastwood charged with benefit fraud has been cleared by the courts after officials admitted his payouts ‘were wholly justifiable’ .
Milan Radulovic was about to undergo trial after allegedly falsely claiming more than £40,000 in benefits – but was cleared of all charges after the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) admitted they were at fault and had made a ‘clerical error’.
Cllr Radulovic, leader of Broxtowe Borough Council, said it was a ‘great relief’ but the ordeal had been ‘detrimental to his health’ and his ‘standing in the community’.
He said: “It’s a great relief. All along I said I had done nothing wrong.
“It’s be a very difficult time. I have been in surgery twice this year and I’m going back in this week.
“It’s been detrimental to both my health and my standing in the community.”
The council leader, who lives in Cross Street, said he had been ‘badly let down’.
“They (the DWP) admitted ignorance of the facts,” he told the Advertiser this week.
“I’ve been badly let down. And at a time of austerity, this has cost tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of pounds, without any justification.”
He now plans to take legal action against the DWP, he said.
But despite feeling let down, he is happy his name has been cleared and said his colleagues at Broxtowe Borough Council had been ‘brilliant’.
“I don’t think it’s ruined my reputation,” he said.
“The judge said I can walk away without a stain on my character.
“Councillors at Broxtowe have been brilliant and they always went with the theory innocent until proven guilty.”
The councillor was charged in January this year with falsely claiming £45,511 in incapacity benefit.
The DWP claimed he had failed to declare council allowances on a claim form, and they had subsequently wrongly overpaid him.
However, at a hearing at Nottingham Crown Court last Friday, November 16, the prosecution said it was not going to pursue the case.
In a letter outlining that charges against him had been withdrawn, the DWP said they “accepted he was not given an opportunity to put forward his case” and his entitlement to the benefits “were wholly justifiable”.
But the DWP said it was pursuing Mr Radulovic to pay back the lesser sum of £7,000, which officials still believe has been overpaid to him in error.
However the councillor said he had been entitled to the incapacity benefit during a hospital stay because he had not been claiming councillor allowances at the time, and he will appeal.
He said because he was on incapacity benefit he did not claim the extra expenses he was entitled to.
A DWP spokesman said: “We always do our utmost to prosecute fraud cases to the full extent, but on this occasion we felt it was in the public’s best interests to withdraw the prosecution.”
Cllr Radulovic did not step down last year following the charges, but the council’s deputy leader Pat Lally took on his duties due to him spending time in hospital.
He said he was looking forward to getting back into this role as council leader, but due to health problems, this would not be straight away.
A spokesman for Broxtowe Borough Council said: “Cllr Radulovic is the leader of the council, and will continue in his role.”
The Labour councillor, who received an MBE in 2007, held the position as council leader from 1995 to 2007 and was re-elected again as leader last year.