ONE of two Bolton councillors who failed to pay their council tax on time has come clean — after a two-year legal fight by The Bolton News to name the pair.
Bradshaw councillor Mudasir Dean — who once stood as a prospective Tory MP — last night apologised to voters but said he would not stand down over the issue.
The 43-year-old, who said he fell behind with his council tax after losing his job, was one of two Bolton councillors summoned to court over late payment.
The other councillor is a Labour member — but the party’s leader Cllr Cliff Morris said he did not know their identity.
Cllr Dean finally spoke out yesterday — despite a 21-month legal battle between Bolton Council and The Bolton News resulting in a top judge saying that naming the councillors would infringe their human rights.
He said: “I am one of the two Bolton councillors referred to in recent press coverage concerning the late payment of council tax.
“I would like to apologise for any misunderstanding or upset caused.
“I decided to come forward for the sake of transparency and because speculation as to the identity of the two councillors has been unfair to council colleagues.”
Cllr Dean was ordered to go to court for unpaid tax in 2011/12 and 2012/13 — but he avoided a court appearance by settling his bill on both occasions.
The Tory councillor’s admission comes after The Bolton News used freedom of information laws back in October, 2012 to ask Bolton Council if any councillors had been summoned to court about unpaid council tax.
The council said there were two — one Labour and one Conservative — and that they were ordered to go to court to explain the non-payment of a total of £4,660.
But council chiefs refused to reveal the names of the two councillors — citing data protection laws.
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Both councillors paid their taxes late — avoiding embarrassing court appearances.
The council wrote to both Cllr Dean and the other councillor in April, 2013 to ask if they were prepared to be named — but both refused.
The Bolton News then appealed to the council, the Information Commissioners’ Office and the First Tier Tribunal as part of a 21-month legal fight — but all organisations ruled the councillors were entitled to privacy, with the tribunal saying that naming them would infringe their human rights.
Cllr Dean said his problems began in March, 2011 when he lost his job at a community-cohesion project in Bury.
Between April, 2011 and March, 2012, he was summoned to court for not paying £1,331 council tax — he was not a councillor at the time.
The summons was withdrawn when Cllr Dean paid the full amount in a lump sum in March, 2012.
Cllr Dean won his Bradshaw seat in May, 2012, but received another court summons between April, 2012 and March, 2013 for not paying £1,353 in rates.
The order was again withdrawn when Cllr Dean agreed a payment plan with the council.
Cllr Dean, who said he had been under no obligation to come clean, added: “I would like to make three important points.
“Firstly, the news story concerns the late payment of council tax instalments and not the non-payment of council tax.
“I have always paid council tax owing in full and I have not been in arrears at any point in 2013/14 or the present 2014/15 council tax year.
“Secondly, there were pressing personal and financial reasons for the late payment of some of my council tax instalments.
“These reasons included losing my job in March, 2011 and having a young family to support.
“And thirdly, I did not attend or vote at any budget meetings during the period I was in arrears.
“Therefore, there was never any conflict of interest in my role as a councillor.
“I very much hope this draws a line under the issue.
“I look forward to continuing my work to make Bolton a better place for local residents.”
Since the tribunal’s ruling, Conservative councillors who paid their bills on time have grown angry at having the finger pointed at them, prompting Cllr Dean to break his silence.
It is understood he was due to tell his fellow Tories about his tax problems last night.
Labour leader Cllr Morris said the issue would be raised at the next meeting of the Labour group and that it would be down to the individual as to whether they wished to make themselves known.
It is a criminal offence for councillors who miss two council tax instalments in one tax year to vote on the council’s budget for the following year — however, Cllr Dean did not attend the full council budget meeting in February, 2013.
Tory leader Cllr Greenhalgh said: “I wholeheartedly believe that councillors should set an example to residents and behave responsibly and I hope people will look beyond the sensational headlines and look at the facts and the individual circumstances of Cllr Dean’s case.
“It has never been about non-payment. It has been about late payment.
“I welcome the action that he has taken by coming forward and ending speculation. He has now given an explanation to the people of Bolton and more importantly, to the residents he represents.”
In profile: Mudasir Dean
MUDASIR Dean was born in Bolton after his grandfather emigrated from India in the 1920s.
The 43-year-old’s grandfather was one of the first Asians to set up home in Bolton and he ran a homeopathic surgery based in the centre of Rochdale.
Cllr Dean successfully completed a BA (Hons) in business administration at the University of Bolton and later worked in local government.
In 2009, he announced that he would be representating the Conservative Party, standing in the Rochdale Parliamentary seat, ultimately finishing third behind Labour and the Lib Dems in the 2010 General Election.
In May, 2012, he finally tasted political success, gaining 1,584 votes in the Bradshaw ward — and won a seat on Bolton Council.
In April this year, he put forward a motion suggesting that all schools in Bolton should fly the Union Flag and sing the national anthem, a motion that was passed by the council and later copied by other authorities around the UK.