Senior politicians 'shocked' at unpaid council tax bill - but culprit remains a mystery...for now (From Times Series)
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Senior Barnet politicians 'shocked' at unpaid council tax bill - but culprit remains a mystery...for now
Senior politicians say they are “shocked” at news a Barnet councillor was summonsed over a £1,400 unpaid council tax bill.
The revelation brought cross-party condemnation yesterday, but the identity of the elected member remains a mystery after Barnet Council maintained its stance on data protection.
A Freedom of Information (FOI) request revealed at least six councillors had to be sent reminders to pay their council tax bill between January 1, 2013, and January 31, 2014.
Two of those resulted in court summons for members, one of whom has since paid their debt of £450.
Conservative council leader Cllr Richard Cornelius said: “I am really surprised. Councillors should of course set an example and pay their council tax and it is pretty outrageous if one hasn’t.”
The FoI response, dated March 13, maintained there was one councillor with an outstanding debt of £1,400, but Barnet Council later revealed this had been paid in the past eight weeks, making it more difficult to establish who the culprit was.
Party leaders in Barnet criticised the anonymous member though for their failure to maintain standards.
Labour group leader Cllr Alison Moore said: “I take a pretty hard-nosed line on this. We levy our residents to pay council tax and we should do the same.
“I’m genuinely surprised and I would be quite shocked it if turns out to be a Labour councillor, given that I have raised this with the group in the past.”
Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Jack Cohen added: “Councillors are like any other resident and they should not be treated differently. There may be personal reasons behind this but I find it quite shocking.”
Barnet Council was criticised in 2009 for its failure to collect more than £9million in unpaid taxes and the ruling Conservative group recently lowered council tax by one per cent in what is an election year.
Campaign group the Taxpayers’ Alliance said it was disappointed with news that some councillors had failed to pay their taxes on time.
Chief executive Jonathan Isaby said: "A councillor who is being chased to pay their own council tax bill can’t claim to be a credible representative of residents.
“Local politicians should set an example and pay on time, not create further costs to taxpayers from the resulting legal action.
“It’s not surprising that some struggle though given a decade of council tax rises have added to the burden of bills faced by every family."
A Barnet Council spokesman said: “It is obviously important that everybody pays their council tax on time, and that is as true for councillors as it is for every other resident.
“The council has a very good record for collecting council tax, in part because we vigorously pursue late payments.
“The council would treat a late payment by a councillor as we would a late payment by any other resident.”