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Guess Who: Councillors hauled to court over council tax

Scarborough Town Hall, where up to four councillors who sit in it have been summoned to court for not paying their council tax

Scarborough Town Hall, where up to four councillors who sit in it have been summoned to court for not paying their council tax

Up to four councillors have been summoned to court – for not paying their council tax.

Our town hall probe has discovered that some elected representatives, whom the council refuses to name, have been ordered to appear before magistrates over the past few years after failing to pay on time to the council of which they are members.

We asked each current member of the 50-strong council if they were one of the culprits but no-one confessed – with the vast majority of tight-lipped councillors not even replying.

Exclusive new figures show that councillors were not the only ones struggling to pay the levy, with the council hauling thousands of hard-up residents to court over missed payments in the past year. Figures that we obtained under the Freedom of Information act show that in 2013 alone, 5,559 people were summoned to court, a 21 per cent hike on the previous year.

Scarborough Council say all the councillors tax debts are now cleared, and that other recovery methods - such as bailiffs - were ultimately not needed.

And cabinet member Cllr Bill Chatt added: “At the end of the day councillors are only human, and if you asked anybody if they’ve ever missed a payment before, the likelihood is that they will say yes.”

However, the council’s system for tackling missed payments sees two reminders and a final notice issued to the taxpayer, before a summons is issued - giving them months to settle the bill before it ends up in court.

But outside the confines out town hall, the spike in tax summons’ being issued throughout Scarborough has been attributed to the implementation of the Local Support for Council Tax scheme last April.

Scarborough Council say that there had been a steady decline in the number of summons’ issued over the last few years, before the scheme was launched.

But as a result of the scheme, an extra 4,000 people had been forced to pay, regardless of their means, resulting in a “knock-on effect” in having to remind those who were previously exempt that they had to pay.

and Cllr Chatt said: “For the first tie some people are having to pay it for the first time, and there has been a reluctance from some to pay it.

“They say ‘I never have before, so why should I now,” estimating those who had never been hit with a council tax bill in the past are now, on average, around £100 a year worse off.

The figures released under the act by the council show that there were four court summons issued in the previous five years to councillors.

But due to data protection, the council won’t state if they were issued to multiple councillors - or just one individual.

Due to the nature of the council, it’s possible that those who received a summons are no longer a serving member,

A spokesperson for Scarborough Council said: “None of the councillors have had summons in the current financial year and there was only one in 2012/2013, so the majority of summons cases are historic.

“All paid in full, without the need to engage any other recovery methods.

They added: “A councillor would be treated in the same way as any other person and therefore protocol around customer confidentiality applies i.e. we do not reveal names.”

 

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