Labour MP Apsana Begum ‘withheld information’ from council to boost her chances of social housing

·3-min read
Apsana Begum, Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse
Apsana Begum, Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse

Labour MP Apsana Begum “deliberately withheld” information from housing officials to boost her chances of obtaining a council flat, a court has heard.

The politician, 31, is accused of hiding the fact she was no longer in living in an overcrowded home in order to avoid dropping down the social housing waiting list.

Snaresbrook crown court heard Begum, the MP for Poplar and Limehouse, denies any dishonesty and says she kept housing officials informed “as best she could”.

“In July 2011, Ms Begum applied to join the social housing register for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, and she remained on the register until March 7, 2016”, prosecutor James Marsland told jurors this morning.

“In March 2016, she was awarded the tenancy in relation to a studio flat.

“The basis of her application in July 2011 was that she was living in overcrowded conditions in her family home at the time.

“In making that application to join the register, Ms Begum was under an ongoing duty throughout the time on the register to inform the London Borough of Tower Hamlets of any changes in her circumstances.

“The prosecution case in short is that over three distinct periods of time, Ms Begum deliberately and dishonestly decided not to inform the London Borough of Tower Hamlets housing options – the people to whom she had made the application – of a significant change in her circumstances.

“The reason she didn’t tell them was she knew that if she did, it would negatively affect her application. So she withheld the information.”

Begum is on trial accused of three counts of fraud, covering periods from January 2013 to March 2014 and from October 2015 to March 2016.

In her original application, Begum wrote: “Our home is currently overcrowded, I’m sharing with two other people.

“Our room consists of bunk beds and another bed. I struggle to study in the circumstances and do not get privacy.”

Mr Marsland said Begum’s family had benefited from the Right to Buy scheme in the past, and she had been employed by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

He told jurors they will also see emails sent to Begum which involved overcrowded housing and discussions about social housing prioritisation.

“Her knowledge of social housing on both a personal and professional level is something to be taken into account”, he said.

Outlining Begum’s case, Mr Marsland added: “Her response, in a sentence, is that at no point was she acting dishonestly.

“She says she kept the London Borough of Tower Hamlets informed as best she could, including where she was going through difficult moments in her life.”

He said jurors will be asked to decide whether Begum informed the council of a change in circumstances, and if she did not whether that was a dishonest action.

Begum told police she was forced to leave her family home “as a result of honour-based harassment” from relatives over her relationship with a man she went on to marry.

She said she called council departments to alert them to her change in circumstances, and believed her new husband was also notifying them.

Begum later split from her husband, accusing him of “coercive and controlling behaviour” in their marriage which she reported to police.

The Shadwell-born MP denies all the charges against her.

The trial continues.

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