A PUB landlord who cost local taxpayers almost £250,000 by subletting his council house has been jailed for two years.

John Bristow had a property provided by the borough for more than 12 years even though he was living and working at The Bakers Arms in Upper Stratton.

As well as depriving a needy family of a home – costing taxpayers £219,680.99p – the 66-year-old even let it out, making profit on the rent.
And he told the woman to whom he was subletting to lie to the council about why she was living there and not to register her name and address with them for anything.

When he was questioned he said he had kept hold of the Penhill house for his retirement, or in case his relationship or pub tenancy collapsed.

Harry Ahuja, prosecuting, told how Bristow was given an temporary tenancy at a house on Abbey View Road, Moredon, from August 2003 to November 2005.

He was then given a secure tenancy for a two-bed house on Imber Road, Penhill, but by then he was living at a pub. In March 2005 he and partner Kathy Kelly got the tenancy of The Bakers Arms on Beechcroft Road, where they still live.

This Is Wiltshire: Bakers Arms, Upper Stratton, where Bristow was a landlord Picture: GOOGLEBakers Arms, Upper Stratton, where Bristow was a landlord Picture: GOOGLE

Bakers Arms, Upper Stratton, where Bristow was a landlord Picture: GOOGLE

But he kept the house until the council took it back in October 2017 after an investigation.

And it was discovered that in 2011 he had sublet the house to a woman charging her £100 a week while he was paying the council £60, raising to £80 a week. Over the six-year period it could be proved he had a tenant in the house Mr Ahuja said he had made a profit of £3,699.

The court was told that it could not be established whether he had anyone else living there before her.

When he was questioned by the council he initially claimed he had been living at the two homes with his sons, even though his partner told investigators otherwise.

As a result of the extra inquiries he said the costs to the council of the case totalled £20,148, making the total loss to them nearly £240k.
Bristow pleaded guilty to charges of fraud and deception between April 1, 2005, and May 30, 2017.

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Susan Cavendar, defending, said the offences were caused by him trying to seek stability for his family.

After his marriage collapsed in the early noughties he wanted a home for him and his children and was never sure how long the pub job would last. “He thought if he held on to it if he would retire there or the job would end and the tenancy go,” she said.

This Is Wiltshire:

John Bristow photographed by the Advertiser in 2010 Picture: ALAN OWENS

Jailing him Judge Robert Pawson said “This  country is going through a period of almost unprecedented austerity. In housing terms it doesn’t have property to hand over to someone like you to profit from.

“The waiting list at the start was 15,000 people, the waiting list at the end was 3,000 people.

“As a result people on the emergency housing list have had to be housed by the council at a conservative estimate that costs a little more than £18,000 per annum. And that loss of money, and it is a loss of money has to be made up by council tax payers in the Swindon area.

“It comes down to your dishonesty and your selfishness. You are remorseful. This went on for 12 years. You were only sorry when you were caught.”

‘This sentence sends out a strong warning...’

Swindon Borough Council has welcomed the outcome of the jailing of Bristow.

Councillor Cathy Martyn, cabinet member for housing and public safety, said: “I hope it sends out a strong warning that this sort of behaviour will not be tolerated.

“The welfare of our tenants is a top priority for us. We will not allow people to take advantage and abuse the system in this way. Mr Bristow’s actions cost the council almost a quarter of a million pounds and he took advantage of other people who were in actual need of a home by denying them that opportunity, preventing them from accessing housing to which they were entitled.

This Is Wiltshire:

Coun Cathy Martyn

“We work closely with the police and I can say with confidence that people engaging in fraudulent activity will always be caught in the end.”

If you have suspicions that council houses are being sublet, misused or not lived in, contact the Fraud Team on 01793 464690 or reportfraud@swindon.gov.uk.