Bath councillors exposed

November 23, 2011 11:53 AM

Finally, a response, on appeal, to my Freedom of Information request about Bath & North East Somerset (B&NES) councillors not paying their council tax. Shockingly, it has revealed that one Bath councillor has had to have legal action taken against him or her to recover the outstanding council tax. Who this is has not been disclosed.

Initially my FoI request was turned down by B&NES council, but I appealed and the Head of Audit, Risk and Information stated that the original refusal by the council ‘was applied incorrectly and the requested information should be provided to you.’ The information he passed on reveals that over the last two years a total of eight B&NES councillors have been sent reminder letters for late payment of their council tax—an amount totalling £3,429.55. Three of these councillors then had to be sent a second reminder letter—at taxpayers’ expense—for a total of £491. One of these then had to have legal action taken against them to recover the outstanding tax.

[caption id="attachment_42194" align="aligncenter" width="483" caption="Bath TPA supporters protest outside B&NES Guildhall, with Tim Newark (centre) displaying his Freedom of Information request"][/caption]

We are all human and we all make mistakes, but councillors are elected by us to represent us and we are entitled to expect them to act with due responsibility when it comes to paying their council tax—the money that funds our local government. They should display leadership and lead by example—not delay or avoid paying their council tax. Can they not set up a direct debit payment?

Such information is only being revealed by FoI requests and yet elsewhere in the South-West there are signs that councils are trying to close down these avenues of legitimate enquiry. North Devon Council is introducing charges for material printed as part of FoI requests, as well as charging £25 per hour for public access to environmental information.

North Devon councillors say they are levying the charges to curb excessive requests made under the information laws, but their decision comes a month after the North Devon Journal used FoI requests to reveal that some of these councillors had made late payments of council tax. ‘They are obviously smarting from this exposure,’ says Bideford TPA supporter Graham Jones, ‘particularly as they were also claiming allowances at the same time.’

Tim Newark, Bath & South-West TaxPayers’ AllianceFinally, a response, on appeal, to my Freedom of Information request about Bath & North East Somerset (B&NES) councillors not paying their council tax. Shockingly, it has revealed that one Bath councillor has had to have legal action taken against him or her to recover the outstanding council tax. Who this is has not been disclosed.

Initially my FoI request was turned down by B&NES council, but I appealed and the Head of Audit, Risk and Information stated that the original refusal by the council ‘was applied incorrectly and the requested information should be provided to you.’ The information he passed on reveals that over the last two years a total of eight B&NES councillors have been sent reminder letters for late payment of their council tax—an amount totalling £3,429.55. Three of these councillors then had to be sent a second reminder letter—at taxpayers’ expense—for a total of £491. One of these then had to have legal action taken against them to recover the outstanding tax.

[caption id="attachment_42194" align="aligncenter" width="483" caption="Bath TPA supporters protest outside B&NES Guildhall, with Tim Newark (centre) displaying his Freedom of Information request"][/caption]

We are all human and we all make mistakes, but councillors are elected by us to represent us and we are entitled to expect them to act with due responsibility when it comes to paying their council tax—the money that funds our local government. They should display leadership and lead by example—not delay or avoid paying their council tax. Can they not set up a direct debit payment?

Such information is only being revealed by FoI requests and yet elsewhere in the South-West there are signs that councils are trying to close down these avenues of legitimate enquiry. North Devon Council is introducing charges for material printed as part of FoI requests, as well as charging £25 per hour for public access to environmental information.

North Devon councillors say they are levying the charges to curb excessive requests made under the information laws, but their decision comes a month after the North Devon Journal used FoI requests to reveal that some of these councillors had made late payments of council tax. ‘They are obviously smarting from this exposure,’ says Bideford TPA supporter Graham Jones, ‘particularly as they were also claiming allowances at the same time.’

Tim Newark, Bath & South-West TaxPayers’ Alliance

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