Shropshire cabinet member taken to court over unpaid council tax bill
A cabinet member was taken to court and banned from voting, while 36 late payment reminders were sent to 12 different Shropshire Council members over non-payment of council tax in the last three years.
Between the 12, they owed the cash-strapped authority £5,386.46 when the reminders were sent – with cabinet member for highways, Councillor Steve Davenport, summoned to court in both 2016/17 and 2017/18.
Councillor Davenport had court orders made against him on both occasions (for owing £240.97 in 2016/17 and £138.20 and £97.13 in 2017/18).
On the first occasion he lost his right to vote on financial matters relating to the council.
Councillor Matt Lee, member for Llanymynech, was also given a court order for failing to pay £104.63 in 2017/18, while Councillor Simon Harris, portfolio holder for transport, was sent two reminders for non payment of two amounts of £56 in the same year.
Shropshire Council said it takes the matter “very seriously” and vowed to do all it can to recoup owed tax.
A Freedom of Information Request, submitted by Newsquest’s Data Investigations Unit, also revealed that two councillors – Simon Jones for Shawbury and John Clarke (known as Ted Clarke) for Bayston Hill, Column and Sutton, have been sent reminder letters in each of the last three years.
Councillor Jones and Councillor Richard Huffer were also sent court summons, but paid before their hearings.
Other councillors who were sent reminders over the three-year period were Kevin Turley, Karen Calder, Tom Biggins, Jane McKenzie, Les Winwood and Jonny Keeley.
Councillor Andy Boddington, member for Ludlow North, said he was “surprised” by how many of his colleagues had been sent reminders.
He said: “I am surprised by the number of councillors who have been sent reminders and that two have appeared in court.
“I have had financial trouble in the recent past and can understand that there can be a variety of reasons for falling behind on council tax payments, from family issues to tenants of rented properties not paying and then the owner being liable.
“But to me it seems a very high amount and it doesn’t look great."
All councillors mentioned have now paid the amounts owing.
Claire Porter, director of legal and democratic services at Shropshire Council, said: “The council takes its responsibilities to collect all council tax due very seriously and uses the enforcement methods available to us within the regulations.
“We will also enter into appropriate payment arrangements with people who are struggling to pay their council tax.
“Under Section 106 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 a councillor whose council tax payments are two months’ overdue must make a declaration to that effect, and refrain from voting on matters relating to budget requirements, council tax amounts, or precepts.”
The Local Government Association said the figures were evidence of town halls pursuing their own officials and in doing so, proving “nobody was above the law”.
A spokesman for the LGA said: “Local authorities have a responsibility to all taxpayers to ensure that council tax is collected.
“Town halls pursuing councillors for non-payment demonstrates nobody is above the law.
“Many councils also act early when councillors get into arrears by deducting money from their allowances.”
Minister for Local Government and Homelessness, MP Luke Hall, added: “Locally elected representatives, at all levels, should seek to inspire confidence and have the trust of the people who elect them.
“All residents, including councillors, should pay their council tax to help fund our precious local services and every local authority is required to adopt a code of conduct for all council members.”