A councillor who 'pleaded poverty' in court owns a £500,000 Victorian home, we can reveal.
Coun Hussain Akhtar, who was accused by a judge of 'concocting a story' to avoid hygiene charges at his food shop, has now been heavily criticised by councillors. The situation emerged after he successfully applied for planning permission to widen the drive at his house in Shear Bank Road, Blackburn.
In November, when he was fined £3,500 with £5,000 costs after admitting two breaches of hygiene regulations, the court was told he was relying on his overdraft. His solicitor told the court that Akhtar's Food Store, Whalley Range, only made a trading profit of £20,000 and his client, who lived above the premises, was making about £200 a week alongside his £5,000 council allowance.
And the solicitor said unwittingly: "As you will appreciate he is not a wealthy man. At the moment any money he has is generated from his overdraft."
But Land Registry documents show that in June 2003 the Shear Brow councillor and his wife Tahzeem paid £365,000 for the large semi-detached house in a sought-after location within a Conservation Area, with a mortgage from the National Westminster Bank.
Last year alone property prices in the town rose by 22 per cent. Coun Akhtar suspended himself from the Labour Party after the hygiene case but was re-admitted into the party's ranks on Blackburn with Darwen Council. After details of Coun Akhtar's house were confirmed, Conservative opposition leader Coun Colin Rigby said: "He pleaded poverty at court. I would suggest that he should examine his conscience.
"Maybe he thinks he can get away with it because he is a politician.
"Because of what he has done he has left himself open to people thinking he has tried to get the sympathy of the court and get a reduced fine."
And former Liberal Democrat leader and planning committee member Coun Paul Browne added: "I think it stinks, he's a bloody hypocrite.
"I am disappointed in him."
Leader of the council, Labour Coun Kate Hollern, said: "I would not call him a hypocrite because I am not in the business of commenting on people's personal circumstances."
When asked about the situation, Coun Akhtar said the home had been bought with money earned over the past 40 years but he was not making as much now. His registered address with the council is in Whalley Range where he lives above the shop, and the Victorian semi-detached home is currently empty and undergoing renovation.
A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service said it did not appear that any offence had been committed. But he added that solicitors reasonably expected their clients to be completely open about their circumstances. He said that trust was also applied to means forms that are filled in when judging in how many installments someone should pay their court bill.
When contacted Coun Akhtar originally said he had bought the property ten years ago, but when challenged with documents from the Land Registry admitted it was 2003. He said: "It was before the court case in 2006. "We can't afford to improve it. Hopefully in July we will move in."
He said the cost of removing the tree and widening the drive of the property that overlooks Corporation Park was just a few hundred pounds. He said "When it is ready it will be a good house. The family is going to live there with me. When asked about opposition comments he said: "Politicians can speak any language they want.
"I want to live in my ward. I was looking for a house for 40 years. I sold my other two houses."
He said it was common practice for businessmen to use overdraft facilities.
"I am sure that every business is not making enough," he added.
He said in the past 40 years he had made his money but was not making as much now. He added: "I am not complaining but I am having to work twice as hard.
"This is my retirement home. I am community figure. I don't want to speak the politics language - people are going too far with this."
During the court case in at Liverpool magistrates in November District Judge Miriam Shelvey said she found Coun Akhtar had "concocted" a story to try to avoid charges of having cockroaches and rodent droppings in the food shop which he runs.
Coun Akhtar had claimed that the council had given an undertaking not to inspect his store for six months, four months prior to the probe that found the evidence. He could not produce any evidence of this and Judge Shelvey said: "I find that Mr Akhtar has concocted the promise as a way of seeking a stay in the proceedings."
His solicitor Peter Turner said Akhtar was only making about £200 a week from his business and recieved about £5,000 from his council allowance. Mr Turner said: "It's right to say that his business has declined quite substantially over the last few years."
He said Akhtar had financial responsibilty for his two sons and was paying for a £15,000 course for one. Akhtar pleaded guilty after the judge refused to discontinue the case. She said he failed to produce any evidence of his means and that if he had pleaded guilty earlier the costs awarded against him would not have been as high.http://www.asianimage.co.uk/news/latest/display.var.1250173.0.councillor500_00_house.php