'It's obviously very disturbing' - Barnet Borough Council leader Cllr Richard Cornelius speaks out after member reported to police

Times Series: Councillor Richard Cornelius Councillor Richard Cornelius

Barnet Borough Council's leader has said he is “very disappointed” a member at the forefront of a council tax scandal has not come forward to offer an explanation.

Councillor Richard Cornelius said he found it "disturbing" the councillor has not revealed their identity, despite Barnet Borough Council reporting them to the Metropolitan Police for a potential breach of the Local Government Finance Act.

The authority believes the member failed to make an appropriate declaration and voted “inappropriately” on the 2014/15 budget at the full council meeting on March 4.

Earlier this week Barnet’s Labour group admitted that one of its members was summonsed over an unpaid £1,400 council tax bill

Section 106 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 prohibits members from voting on council tax setting, administration and enforcement if their council tax payment “becomes payable and remains unpaid” for two or more months.

Cllr Cornelius told the Times Series: “It’s obviously very disturbing and it’s rather sad that the councillor hasn’t come forward and explained themselves.

“There are only three explanations – they deliberately didn’t pay, didn’t pay because of an oversight or didn’t pay because they were in a dispute – and if they’re not coming forward it’s not likely to be the third.”

Cllr Cornelius told the Times Series he has been “sworn to secrecy” and cannot reveal the name of the councillor, although he believes the councillor should reveal their own identity.

Speaking about the feeling among other members, he said: “We’re pretty annoyed because councillors cannot vote in these matters if they have not paid they’re council tax – we all know that.

“I’m very disappointed. I think it’s a really very difficult situation that needs to be resolved rapidly."

But he admitted the council's hands are now tied as it waits for the outcome of police investigations.

He added: “The council can do nothing other than report it to the police and it’s for the police to decide if they’re going to take further action.”

Comments (19)

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1:01pm Fri 11 Apr 14

marccohen53 says...

If Labour can't manage their own finances, how can we possibly trust them to manage ours!
If Labour can't manage their own finances, how can we possibly trust them to manage ours! marccohen53
  • Score: -1

2:09pm Fri 11 Apr 14

Mrs Angry, Broken Barnet blog says...

Can Richard Cornelius confirm that there are Tory councillors who have been in arrears with their council tax payments?
Can Richard Cornelius confirm that there are Tory councillors who have been in arrears with their council tax payments? Mrs Angry, Broken Barnet blog
  • Score: 4

2:49pm Fri 11 Apr 14

AverageBarnetResident says...

Mrs Angry – If tory councillors have also been to court over non-payment of council tax then that needs to be exposed. But it seems unlikely, given that there have been no reports by Hendon Times or any other outlet. I hope you’re not just making these things up in order to deflect the attention away from the Labour party. That would be really naughty...

Why don’t you clear the whole thing up by telling us everything you know right here and now. – All the names of all councillors who have been to court for not paying their council tax. That way you could truly be the bastion of openness and transparency that you claim to be!

We’re waiting....
Mrs Angry – If tory councillors have also been to court over non-payment of council tax then that needs to be exposed. But it seems unlikely, given that there have been no reports by Hendon Times or any other outlet. I hope you’re not just making these things up in order to deflect the attention away from the Labour party. That would be really naughty... Why don’t you clear the whole thing up by telling us everything you know right here and now. – All the names of all councillors who have been to court for not paying their council tax. That way you could truly be the bastion of openness and transparency that you claim to be! We’re waiting.... AverageBarnetResident
  • Score: -2

2:51pm Fri 11 Apr 14

Don't Call Me Dave says...

How typical of you, Mrs Angry, to try and divert attention away from the matter at hand to protect one of your Socialist chums. Even if there were genuine bona fide reasons for the original failure to pay the council tax due at the correct time, the councillor in question has seemingly broken the rules on participation and voting at meetings. This is a quite separate and more serious matter, although arguably the council should have instigated its Member disciplinary process before calling in the Rozzers.

But the continuing failure to name the person involved, when there is no lawful impediment to publication, is contemptuous of the taxpaying public who continue to provide this councillor with a monthly allowance.
How typical of you, Mrs Angry, to try and divert attention away from the matter at hand to protect one of your Socialist chums. Even if there were genuine bona fide reasons for the original failure to pay the council tax due at the correct time, the councillor in question has seemingly broken the rules on participation and voting at meetings. This is a quite separate and more serious matter, although arguably the council should have instigated its Member disciplinary process before calling in the Rozzers. But the continuing failure to name the person involved, when there is no lawful impediment to publication, is contemptuous of the taxpaying public who continue to provide this councillor with a monthly allowance. Don't Call Me Dave
  • Score: -3

3:37pm Fri 11 Apr 14

Rog T says...

David remind me. How much did Richards predecessor as Leader of the Barnet Tories knock the taxman for? I dont seem to recall to many Tories saying very much then. Do you? And do you think the Tory councillor banned for drunk driving should be named &shamed.?
David remind me. How much did Richards predecessor as Leader of the Barnet Tories knock the taxman for? I dont seem to recall to many Tories saying very much then. Do you? And do you think the Tory councillor banned for drunk driving should be named &shamed.? Rog T
  • Score: 8

3:49pm Fri 11 Apr 14

Don't Call Me Dave says...

Rog

I wasn't aware that Richard's predecessor did "knock" the tax man but, as she is deceased, it is probably too late to do anything about it now. As for the Underhill councillor who was convicted of drunk driving, I thought everyone already knew his name. It is a matter of public record.

But you should stop trying to defend the indefensible. Don’t you understand how much the public hates it when a politician does something wrong and the best defence anyone can come up with is “Oh well, the other guy did something bad as well”. Two wrongs don’t make a right. You lefties are quick to demand that every Tory is hung out to dry, however minor the alleged misdemeanour. When it comes to one of your own, the rules seem to be different.
Rog I wasn't aware that Richard's predecessor did "knock" the tax man but, as she is deceased, it is probably too late to do anything about it now. As for the Underhill councillor who was convicted of drunk driving, I thought everyone already knew his name. It is a matter of public record. But you should stop trying to defend the indefensible. Don’t you understand how much the public hates it when a politician does something wrong and the best defence anyone can come up with is “Oh well, the other guy did something bad as well”. Two wrongs don’t make a right. You lefties are quick to demand that every Tory is hung out to dry, however minor the alleged misdemeanour. When it comes to one of your own, the rules seem to be different. Don't Call Me Dave
  • Score: -3

4:13pm Fri 11 Apr 14

Rog T says...

Where did I defend anyone. If theyve deliberately dodged taxes thexy deserve what they get. As to previous Tory boss, you have certainly changed your tune. Are you now saying you are unaware of the main creditor of their bankrupt company and the circumstances. More to the point do you deny the blind eye senior Tories turned to it. It is the hypocrasy of the living that gets me.Not the actions of the deceased. As to the id of the drunk councillor. if it is so well known follow your own advice and name him. Unlike the Lab councillor hes been nicked and convicted
Where did I defend anyone. If theyve deliberately dodged taxes thexy deserve what they get. As to previous Tory boss, you have certainly changed your tune. Are you now saying you are unaware of the main creditor of their bankrupt company and the circumstances. More to the point do you deny the blind eye senior Tories turned to it. It is the hypocrasy of the living that gets me.Not the actions of the deceased. As to the id of the drunk councillor. if it is so well known follow your own advice and name him. Unlike the Lab councillor hes been nicked and convicted Rog T
  • Score: 4

4:45pm Fri 11 Apr 14

MillHillian says...

I would say Councillor Reuben Thompstone removing 25 per cent of Mapledown Schools budget for after-school sessions and half-term play schemes so this authority can reduce council tax by 1% is “Very Disturbing”
I would say Councillor Reuben Thompstone removing 25 per cent of Mapledown Schools budget for after-school sessions and half-term play schemes so this authority can reduce council tax by 1% is “Very Disturbing” MillHillian
  • Score: 4

7:40pm Fri 11 Apr 14

Don't Call Me Dave says...

Your right, Rog, Lynne Hillan's former company did knock the taxman. How silly of me to forget. After all, I did write about it extensively on my blog at the time. But you are proving my point – this is all a deliberate distraction from the issue of the Labour councillor here and now. Not a councillor who died two years ago.
Your right, Rog, Lynne Hillan's former company did knock the taxman. How silly of me to forget. After all, I did write about it extensively on my blog at the time. But you are proving my point – this is all a deliberate distraction from the issue of the Labour councillor here and now. Not a councillor who died two years ago. Don't Call Me Dave
  • Score: -4

8:33pm Fri 11 Apr 14

Rog T says...

David,

The point is that the same group of people who are screaming blue murder about this were silent then. Isn't that called double standards and hypocrisy?
David, The point is that the same group of people who are screaming blue murder about this were silent then. Isn't that called double standards and hypocrisy? Rog T
  • Score: 5

9:21pm Fri 11 Apr 14

Rog T says...

David have you seen the latest press reports stating councillor in question was actually in credit? Any comment?
David have you seen the latest press reports stating councillor in question was actually in credit? Any comment? Rog T
  • Score: 4

2:24am Sat 12 Apr 14

Don't Call Me Dave says...

Rog

Yes, I have seen the “press reports” and have commented elsewhere. But as you are always so fond to remind people, we should not rush to judgement. These “reports” seem to be statements from the Labour Party. I have not yet seen any comment from Barnet Council confirming that they did, in fact, make a mistake.

The story which appears to be emerging is that either the councillor claimed a council tax discount to which he/she was not entitled or the council forgot to apply a discount to which he/she was entitled. One version of events is obviously more serious than the other.

What I find difficult to understand is why this matter has been reported to the Police. This is the main reason why I am not rushing to believe the Labour Party’s version of events. If the councillor didn’t owe the money and the council had simply made a mistake, then no offence occurred under s.106 Local Government Act 1992.

Even if the council believed that an offence had occurred at the time of the budget meeting (because the dispute was still unresolved at the time) it would still not justify a subsequent referral to the Police now if (and it is a big ‘if’) the Labour Party statement is correct. The only way a prosecution could succeed is if the councillor was genuinely in arrears at the time. Why hasn’t the council contacted the Police and said “Sorry, we made a mistake. Our records were wrong and the councillor was entitled to vote”.

Unless the council withdraws the Police complaint, there is clearly something still going on that has not been disclosed to the public. That being the case, it is clear that Barnet Labour have learnt nothing from the Maria Miller PR disaster.
Rog Yes, I have seen the “press reports” and have commented elsewhere. But as you are always so fond to remind people, we should not rush to judgement. These “reports” seem to be statements from the Labour Party. I have not yet seen any comment from Barnet Council confirming that they did, in fact, make a mistake. The story which appears to be emerging is that either the councillor claimed a council tax discount to which he/she was not entitled or the council forgot to apply a discount to which he/she was entitled. One version of events is obviously more serious than the other. What I find difficult to understand is why this matter has been reported to the Police. This is the main reason why I am not rushing to believe the Labour Party’s version of events. If the councillor didn’t owe the money and the council had simply made a mistake, then no offence occurred under s.106 Local Government Act 1992. Even if the council believed that an offence had occurred at the time of the budget meeting (because the dispute was still unresolved at the time) it would still not justify a subsequent referral to the Police now if (and it is a big ‘if’) the Labour Party statement is correct. The only way a prosecution could succeed is if the councillor was genuinely in arrears at the time. Why hasn’t the council contacted the Police and said “Sorry, we made a mistake. Our records were wrong and the councillor was entitled to vote”. Unless the council withdraws the Police complaint, there is clearly something still going on that has not been disclosed to the public. That being the case, it is clear that Barnet Labour have learnt nothing from the Maria Miller PR disaster. Don't Call Me Dave
  • Score: 0

1:47pm Sat 12 Apr 14

Mrs Angry, Broken Barnet blog says...

Ha: "we should not rush to judgement", says DCMD, who has done just that! The councillor has not dodged any taxes, and the matter is a typical Barnet cockup. Another cockup is the delay in putting the facts in the public domain, and whose fault that is I'm not sure.

But DCMD: you live in Essex now: why are you spending so much time delighting us with the benefit of your opinions on Barnet matters? Is there nothing happening in Chigwell? Do they not have Tory councils, and councillors, and political intrigue, and Eric Pickles? Or have you been spending too much time in the tanning salons and started to feel homesick?
Ha: "we should not rush to judgement", says DCMD, who has done just that! The councillor has not dodged any taxes, and the matter is a typical Barnet cockup. Another cockup is the delay in putting the facts in the public domain, and whose fault that is I'm not sure. But DCMD: you live in Essex now: why are you spending so much time delighting us with the benefit of your opinions on Barnet matters? Is there nothing happening in Chigwell? Do they not have Tory councils, and councillors, and political intrigue, and Eric Pickles? Or have you been spending too much time in the tanning salons and started to feel homesick? Mrs Angry, Broken Barnet blog
  • Score: 4

2:06pm Sat 12 Apr 14

Don't Call Me Dave says...

Mrs Angry

As you claim to know the “facts”, why do you remain so tight lipped? You are not bound by Alison Moore’s undemocratic orders for people to keep quiet? Do you really think that if you all keep shtum, the identity of this councillor will never slip out? Do you really not understand how bad this looks? If the councillor is innocent of any wrongdoing or impropriety, and the council is guilty of a ****-up, then shout it from the roof tops. Otherwise it looks like there is still something to hide – even if there isn’t.

If the councillor is innocent, why hasn’t the council withdrawn the complaint to the police? Another **** up?

Whatever the facts in this matter, this issue is symptomatic of the political classes. They simply don’t understand that if you hold public office, you are accountable to the public. End of.
Mrs Angry As you claim to know the “facts”, why do you remain so tight lipped? You are not bound by Alison Moore’s undemocratic orders for people to keep quiet? Do you really think that if you all keep shtum, the identity of this councillor will never slip out? Do you really not understand how bad this looks? If the councillor is innocent of any wrongdoing or impropriety, and the council is guilty of a ****-up, then shout it from the roof tops. Otherwise it looks like there is still something to hide – even if there isn’t. If the councillor is innocent, why hasn’t the council withdrawn the complaint to the police? Another **** up? Whatever the facts in this matter, this issue is symptomatic of the political classes. They simply don’t understand that if you hold public office, you are accountable to the public. End of. Don't Call Me Dave
  • Score: 0

4:09pm Sat 12 Apr 14

Don't Call Me Dave says...

Correction - I should have said "...symptomatic of the contempt of the political classes..."
Correction - I should have said "...symptomatic of the contempt of the political classes..." Don't Call Me Dave
  • Score: 0

6:27pm Sat 12 Apr 14

Rog T says...

David,

Given your former role in the Chipping Barnet Conservative Party, throwing accusations about "Contempt of the Political Classes" is a bit rich. During your time, how many scandals did you know about which were hushed up?

It seems to me that your case has been reduced to berating Labour for being bad at spinning stories, which is not the worst crime in the world.

It seems pretty clear that this is a council **** up, which I'm sure even you will accept happens on occasion. This has been compounded by a bunch of Tory Councillors getting over excited. If as you suggest the latest explanation from Labour is a **** and bull story, they will rightly get crucified, but for all her sins, I doubt anyone thinks Alison Moore is a porkiemiester.

Perhaps the honourable thing at this stage for you would simply to say "fair enough guvnor, we all got a bit carried away. I'm always getting told all manner of tales of woe about what councillors get up to. If 10% of those stories are true, then both the Tories and Labour are both sitting on powder kegs. I suspect that both parties know details of most of these scandals one way or another. Are they just sitting on them? Is there aquid pro quo? Why has this case suddenly got media traction?

I suspect that is the real story and I suspect that the reason for that is also far darker than you have twigged yet, I also suspect that neither Lab or Tories will come out of it with much credit if what I've heard emerges. However that is hearsay and for all I know a **** and bull story.

If you think it all through though, work out who has something to gain and possibly people have been a bit misguided on both sides in their handling. Anyone who believes there has been any great deal of intelligence in how this has been managed by Tories or Labour is perhaps a bit too keen on conspiracy theories. I have been told that some councillors will be rather pleased when a certain presence departs (as expected) in May. A presence that is taking great delight in disrupting the Status Quo
David, Given your former role in the Chipping Barnet Conservative Party, throwing accusations about "Contempt of the Political Classes" is a bit rich. During your time, how many scandals did you know about which were hushed up? It seems to me that your case has been reduced to berating Labour for being bad at spinning stories, which is not the worst crime in the world. It seems pretty clear that this is a council **** up, which I'm sure even you will accept happens on occasion. This has been compounded by a bunch of Tory Councillors getting over excited. If as you suggest the latest explanation from Labour is a **** and bull story, they will rightly get crucified, but for all her sins, I doubt anyone thinks Alison Moore is a porkiemiester. Perhaps the honourable thing at this stage for you would simply to say "fair enough guvnor, we all got a bit carried away. I'm always getting told all manner of tales of woe about what councillors get up to. If 10% of those stories are true, then both the Tories and Labour are both sitting on powder kegs. I suspect that both parties know details of most of these scandals one way or another. Are they just sitting on them? Is there aquid pro quo? Why has this case suddenly got media traction? I suspect that is the real story and I suspect that the reason for that is also far darker than you have twigged yet, I also suspect that neither Lab or Tories will come out of it with much credit if what I've heard emerges. However that is hearsay and for all I know a **** and bull story. If you think it all through though, work out who has something to gain and possibly people have been a bit misguided on both sides in their handling. Anyone who believes there has been any great deal of intelligence in how this has been managed by Tories or Labour is perhaps a bit too keen on conspiracy theories. I have been told that some councillors will be rather pleased when a certain presence departs (as expected) in May. A presence that is taking great delight in disrupting the Status Quo Rog T
  • Score: 2

3:22am Sun 13 Apr 14

Don't Call Me Dave says...

Rog

The answer to your first question is none. You know me well enough to know that I am not someone who would partake in a cover up for political gain. Unlike many politicians, I have studied history. And history tells us that the truth behind scandals always comes to light eventually, and it always ends up worse for the people who tried to hush things up.

The public’s contempt of the political classes has been rising since the MPs expenses scandal broke in 2009. A week after the Maria Miller scandal and politicians still haven’t learned the lessons of how to manage a crisis.

As for the Barnet Labour councillor, of course it is possible that the council got it wrong. I deal with local authorities all across the country and the number of mistakes they make with rate demands is staggering. I also know, from experience, that getting a council officer to admit to making a mistake is near to impossible. So the Barnet councillor has my sympathy in that regard.

But there is still no escaping the matter of the Police referral. I just don’t get it. Even if Barnet officers don’t want to publicly admit that they messed up on this occasion (assuming that is the case), calling in the Police is a major development and possibly unprecedented in Barnet’s history. Most fair minded people would surely agree that the logical first step should have been to instigate the council’s internal disciplinary process. If the councillor was in credit, rather than arrears, there would have been no case to answer. End of story. You have to assume, therefore, that there is something more to this than meets the eye. There is no way that legal action against a serving councillor would have been instigated without the knowledge and approval of the chief executive and chief legal officer. Perhaps they should explain themselves?
Rog The answer to your first question is none. You know me well enough to know that I am not someone who would partake in a cover up for political gain. Unlike many politicians, I have studied history. And history tells us that the truth behind scandals always comes to light eventually, and it always ends up worse for the people who tried to hush things up. The public’s contempt of the political classes has been rising since the MPs expenses scandal broke in 2009. A week after the Maria Miller scandal and politicians still haven’t learned the lessons of how to manage a crisis. As for the Barnet Labour councillor, of course it is possible that the council got it wrong. I deal with local authorities all across the country and the number of mistakes they make with rate demands is staggering. I also know, from experience, that getting a council officer to admit to making a mistake is near to impossible. So the Barnet councillor has my sympathy in that regard. But there is still no escaping the matter of the Police referral. I just don’t get it. Even if Barnet officers don’t want to publicly admit that they messed up on this occasion (assuming that is the case), calling in the Police is a major development and possibly unprecedented in Barnet’s history. Most fair minded people would surely agree that the logical first step should have been to instigate the council’s internal disciplinary process. If the councillor was in credit, rather than arrears, there would have been no case to answer. End of story. You have to assume, therefore, that there is something more to this than meets the eye. There is no way that legal action against a serving councillor would have been instigated without the knowledge and approval of the chief executive and chief legal officer. Perhaps they should explain themselves? Don't Call Me Dave
  • Score: 0

12:13pm Sun 13 Apr 14

Mrs Angry, Broken Barnet blog says...

DCMD, I can assure you the councillor in question wants to put the facts in the public domain, and will do so as soon as they are able - you will just have to take it on trust that there are good reasons for this not having happened yet - and it is not up to me to make such a statement.

The last sentence of your comment is the most interesting.

And here is the crux of the matter: why is this councillor being subjected to this formal process now - and is it at all possible that political pressure is being applied?

There have been, to Mrs Angry's certain knowledge, occasions where Tory councillors have escaped any censure for transgressions reported to senior officers.

Who decides when to pursue these matters - and why?
DCMD, I can assure you the councillor in question wants to put the facts in the public domain, and will do so as soon as they are able - you will just have to take it on trust that there are good reasons for this not having happened yet - and it is not up to me to make such a statement. The last sentence of your comment is the most interesting. And here is the crux of the matter: why is this councillor being subjected to this formal process now - and is it at all possible that political pressure is being applied? There have been, to Mrs Angry's certain knowledge, occasions where Tory councillors have escaped any censure for transgressions reported to senior officers. Who decides when to pursue these matters - and why? Mrs Angry, Broken Barnet blog
  • Score: 6

4:39pm Sun 13 Apr 14

Don't Call Me Dave says...

Well, Mrs Angry, Cllr Coleman tweeted that he wrote to the Chief Executive last week threatening to report the councillor to the Police, but it isn’t really credible to suggest that the Council acted solely as a result of Coleman’s intervention. They would have needed good cause to do so.

In any event, it is hard to believe that the council would have given in to any political pressure to call the Police if, as is being suggested by Labour, the council had already acknowledged that they had made a mistake with the councillor’s tax bill. If that is the case, however, then perhaps the Boys in Blue will issue a summons against the Chief Executive for wasting Police time?

Someone, somewhere, is not telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It is rather important, in the run up to an election, that we find out precisely who has been economical with the actualité
Well, Mrs Angry, Cllr Coleman tweeted that he wrote to the Chief Executive last week threatening to report the councillor to the Police, but it isn’t really credible to suggest that the Council acted solely as a result of Coleman’s intervention. They would have needed good cause to do so. In any event, it is hard to believe that the council would have given in to any political pressure to call the Police if, as is being suggested by Labour, the council had already acknowledged that they had made a mistake with the councillor’s tax bill. If that is the case, however, then perhaps the Boys in Blue will issue a summons against the Chief Executive for wasting Police time? Someone, somewhere, is not telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It is rather important, in the run up to an election, that we find out precisely who has been economical with the actualité Don't Call Me Dave
  • Score: 1

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