If a councillor is in arrears with their Council Tax payments is it a purely personal matter or something of wider public interest? The Government believe it should be the latter as this Written Answer demonstrates below.
In 2013/14, SDC had three Cllrs in arrears, one owing 1505.69, it is not know who the three Cllrs were as they hid behind Data Protection. However, the Conservative Minister states very clearly that the Public Interest should be paramount. Two paid up when they received their reminders, but the third owing a rather large sum above was summonsed to court. What Shepwayvox finds hard to square is that the residents of Shepway get reminders and get a summons to court for sums as little as 130.00 pounds. It would appear that Cllrs are treated differently.
I say it again: Three councillors got reminders. Two paid up at that stage. One didn’t and was summonsed to court and had to pay £1,505.69. None was barred from voting, which would be a Breach of the legislation set out below.
It appears that there is One Rule For SDC Cllrs and Another For Everybody else in Shepway.
I am surprised that the Cllr ‘s debt wasn’t passed to Stanford and Green or Equita, SDC’s preferred bailiffs as this happens so often with Shepway residents, with far smaller sums. Is this another case of special treatment? It would appears so.
If a councillor is in arrears with their Council Tax payments is it a purely personal matter or something of wider public interest? The Government believe it should be the latter as this written answer demonstrates.
Mr Burley: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what guidance has he issued to local councils on naming councillors who are barred from voting in council meetings due to failing to pay their council tax.
Brandon Lewis: Section 106 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 makes it an offence for a councillor in council tax arrears (with at least two months unpaid bills) to vote at a meeting of the council, a committee or of the council’s executive where financial matters relating to council tax are being considered. It is also an offence if any such councillor present, who is aware of the arrears, fails to disclose that they are in arrears of council tax.
I am aware that, in response to Freedom of Information Act requests, it is common for local authorities to refuse to name individual councillors in council tax arrears, citing ‘data protection’. While noting that individual tax affairs are a personal matter, Ministers believe that there is a strong public interest in the names of councillors who are barred from voting being accessible to the wider public.
If an individual councillor is unable to represent their electorate and undertake their duties because of this statutory prohibition, then it is reasonable that this fact is open to legitimate public scrutiny, especially given the legal duty to declare it at a meeting at which they are present, and given this relates to their public life not their private life. [Hansard]
So even the Conservative Minister for the DCLG agrees they should be named, so who are the three and why were they seemingly allowed to carry on voting when clearly in breach of the legislation?