Two Bolton councillors summonsed to court for not paying council tax
TWO Bolton councillors were summonsed to court after they failed to pay their council tax for two years in a row, The Bolton News can reveal.
The pair — one Labour and one Conservative — were threatened with legal action after failing to pay a total of £4,660.
But they avoided a public humiliation and a ban on being able to vote in council after agreeing to pay before their court cases could take place.
Both councillors have now paid their arrears in full.
When town hall bosses wrote to the two councillors, asking if they would agree to be named by The Bolton News, neither replied.
The Bolton News has been pressing the council since last October to identify the council members, who help to set the level of council tax for the borough as part of their duties.
The matter is now being investigated by the Information Commissioner’s Office, which will make a landmark decision in the coming months about whether the councillors can be named.
Bolton Council’s chief executive, Sean Harriss, said that the councillors had not been named because the council took the view that it would breach data protection laws.
Mr Harriss said: “Councillors are treated exactly the same as other residents with regards to council tax collection across the borough.
“They are provided with two reminders for outstanding arrears and if they do not respond to either, are summonsed to court.
“However, they can still make arrangements to repay any arrears or set up a payment plan up until the date they are due to appear in court.
“We are unable to provide the names of individual councillors who are in arrears under data protection laws.
“ The case has been referred to the Information Commissioner’s Office and we expect to hear their decision in due course.”
Everyone over the age of 18 must pay council tax.
The ultimate penalty for failing to pay is a prison sentence, although there are exemptions and discounts for students and other groups.
If councillors’ payments are not up-to-date before the annual February vote on the forthcoming year’s council budget and council tax figure, they are banned from voting, or they run the risk of committing a criminal offence under the Local Government Act.
However, the pair in question brought their accounts up-to-date before the deadline.
In October 2012, The Bolton News asked Bolton Council if any councillors had failed to pay council tax in the previous 12 months.
The council said six elected councillors — three Labour and three Conservatives — had missed payments and received reminders through the post.
One of them had their right to pay by direct debit rescinded.
Four of the six councillors paid after receiving the reminders. The outstanding amounts they paid ranged from £103.37 to £300.51.
But two of the councillors did not pay even after receiving the letters and were ordered to appear before Bolton magistrates.
The Labour councillor owed £936 for the 2011/12 tax year and paid it in full.
The councillor owed £1039.89 for the 2012/13 tax year and has now paid the arrears.
The Tory councillor owed £1331.18 for the 2011/12 tax year and paid it in full.
The councillor owed £1353.18 for the 2012/13 tax year and, has now paid this in full.
The Bolton News asked the council to identify the two councillors, but the local authority refused, citing the Data Protection Act.
In March, we asked Bolton Council to write to the two councillors to ask if they were prepared to be named, as at least one other council had previously done so in a similar case.
A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “Local councils are responsible for setting and maintaining levels of council tax.
“Councillors should lead by example.
“It is unacceptable for any of them to be in arrears and legislation stops them from voting on any financial matters if they are two months behind in payments.”
Taxpayers’ Alliance spokesman Eleanor McGrath said: “Councillors failing to pay their bill on time hardly inspires the confidence of local residents.”
See Bolton's party leaders' reaction to the revelation here.
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