Cornwall: Have your councillors been paying their taxes?

August 18, 2011 9:40 AM

Councillors in Cornwall haven’t been paying their council tax. Let me say that again: the people who set the rates of council taxation, who stand on a manifesto of delivering services for residents and who are paid generous allowances from taxpayers' money, have been failing to pay their council tax.

A Freedom of Information request has revealed that 17 councillors in Cornwall - that's one in seven of the men and women charged with setting council tax rates - had to be sent payment reminders. It appears only 3 took heed of this, as 14 required a second reminder letter. Councils frequently encourage residents to set up direct debits to avoid this kind of problem, maybe the councillors in questions should practice a bit of what they preach?

Worst of all, one case led to court action, resulting in a farcical situation where Cornwall council instigated court proceedings against its own councillor while they continued to collect their allowances and perks. Maybe they should have used those allowances to pay up?

At first, the identity of the worst offenders was unknown, but two have now been exposed. Councillor Andrew Wallis, representing Porthleven and Helston South, had a court action taken against him for getting into arrears.

On his website, Cllr Wallis explained what happened. "Two years ago I failed to pay my council tax on time which led to court action," he confessed. "Like many people in Cornwall I was faced with the problem of juggling mounting bills with a limited income and at that time I chose to pay for essentials such as rent, electricity and food rather than pay my council tax bill." Wouldn’t we all rather do that! "Hindsight is a wonderful thing," he continued, "but I made that choice of not paying and I will have to live with it."

Cornwall Council has refused to name any further councillors and the details of their arrears on the grounds that it would breach data privacy laws. This is wrong; standing in a democratic election means a commitment to being held to account for your actions while in public office. Failure to pay your council tax in a timely fashion costs the council money in administration, and ending up in court means further expense. The councillors' negligence in paying their bills on time will almost certainly have cost local taxpayers money.

Councillors are responsible for spending local taxpayers' cash, setting the rate of council tax and even deciding policy over tax write-offs. A councillor not paying their council tax is surely compromised when discussing these issues. A councillor taken to court by their own council cannot be a credible representative of the community they wish to represent.Councillors in Cornwall haven’t been paying their council tax. Let me say that again: the people who set the rates of council taxation, who stand on a manifesto of delivering services for residents and who are paid generous allowances from taxpayers' money, have been failing to pay their council tax.

A Freedom of Information request has revealed that 17 councillors in Cornwall - that's one in seven of the men and women charged with setting council tax rates - had to be sent payment reminders. It appears only 3 took heed of this, as 14 required a second reminder letter. Councils frequently encourage residents to set up direct debits to avoid this kind of problem, maybe the councillors in questions should practice a bit of what they preach?

Worst of all, one case led to court action, resulting in a farcical situation where Cornwall council instigated court proceedings against its own councillor while they continued to collect their allowances and perks. Maybe they should have used those allowances to pay up?

At first, the identity of the worst offenders was unknown, but two have now been exposed. Councillor Andrew Wallis, representing Porthleven and Helston South, had a court action taken against him for getting into arrears.

On his website, Cllr Wallis explained what happened. "Two years ago I failed to pay my council tax on time which led to court action," he confessed. "Like many people in Cornwall I was faced with the problem of juggling mounting bills with a limited income and at that time I chose to pay for essentials such as rent, electricity and food rather than pay my council tax bill." Wouldn’t we all rather do that! "Hindsight is a wonderful thing," he continued, "but I made that choice of not paying and I will have to live with it."

Cornwall Council has refused to name any further councillors and the details of their arrears on the grounds that it would breach data privacy laws. This is wrong; standing in a democratic election means a commitment to being held to account for your actions while in public office. Failure to pay your council tax in a timely fashion costs the council money in administration, and ending up in court means further expense. The councillors' negligence in paying their bills on time will almost certainly have cost local taxpayers money.

Councillors are responsible for spending local taxpayers' cash, setting the rate of council tax and even deciding policy over tax write-offs. A councillor not paying their council tax is surely compromised when discussing these issues. A councillor taken to court by their own council cannot be a credible representative of the community they wish to represent.

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