'˜Morally he should resign'
The leader of Luton Council's Conservatives has said that Cllr Mohammed Ashraf 'morally' should resign after being convicted of five counts of fraud.
In an ironic case, it was officers from Luton Council working with counterparts in Birmingham who brought Cllr Ashraf to trial.
“My personal view is that he should resign,” said Cllr Michael Garrett. “He as an elected member should never have got himself into a position like this.
“What he did was totally wrong.”
During the two day trial at Luton Magistrates Court, it emerged Cllr Ashraf, 59, fabricated a document to state his firm Luton Travel Services was covered by Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing (ATOL).
Cllr Ashraf – previously portfolio holder for trading standards at the council– was also convicted of four other charges relating to breaches of ATOL and unfair trading regulations.
He was cleared of one alleged breach of unfair trading regulations.
Suspended from the Labour Party, Cllr Ashraf’s future hangs in the balance after the council ruled there was a suspected breach of members’ Code of Conduct.
His case has been forwarded to The Standards Committee, for a local assessment panel to decide whether an investigation should take place – with the potential to remove Cllr Ashraf.
Each of the charges Cllr Ashraf has been convicted of carry a maximum fine of £5,000 and he also faces a bill of £6,401 in prosecution costs.
But after the verdicts were passed down the court heard that at present Cllr Ashraf receives between £500-£600 a month in allowances from Luton Borough Council.
Despite this, magistrates were told that he will need a ‘substantial’ amount of time to pay his fines. He has offered to pay £40 a month.
“That council money is not for him to live on,” said Cllr Garrett. “The money you get is to use to promote yourself as a councillor. It’s not for your benefit as a wage.
“I’ve known him for many years and always found him to be a good councillor, but this changes things.
“How can people he represents trust his judgement? It’s a shame, but he did it.”
Luton Council’s head of infrastructure Laura Church said: “These were serious offences and we are content that the court through its verdict agreed it was appropriate to prosecute in this matter.
“Our message to any businesses not conforming to consumer protection law is that the Council will always take action without fear or favour where information comes to our attention.”