Portsmouth councillor did not pay more than £1,000 council tax

Cllr Lee Hunt
Cllr Lee Hunt
From left, Bryn Bashford, Portsmouth City Council fire safety advisor, Jasmin Myhill from Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks, special constable Kim Braddock and watch manager Stuart Damen, fire safety inspector.

Picture: Sarah Standing

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AN OPPOSITION councillor has been named after being summonsed for not paying council tax.

Lee Hunt is the final elected city councillor to be named after The News asked authorities across the Portsmouth area to say which politicians had not paid over a number of years.

Portsmouth City Council had refused to name Cllr Hunt, a Lib Dem, along with Cllr Rob New, a Tory, who had not paid, in a response to a request for information in November last year.

Now after a lengthy Freedom of Information request battle, the council confirmed Cllr Hunt received a summons for £1,055.25, but it was cleared in full in July 2011 so no court liability was raised.

Cllr Hunt said: ‘This was an oversight at the time my house was being done up. As soon as the matter was brought to my attention, the amount was paid in full.

‘I would like to add that this happened at a difficult time after the distressing break-up of a long and happy relationship – a break-up I did not choose.

‘I was rebuilding my life, which had been turned upside down and was struggling with daily life, whilst putting on a brave face publicly.’

Tory councillor Rob New confirmed he had not paid tax – but without saying when or how much – in a Facebook post after The News requested the information of all councillors who had not paid council tax.

The community safety cabinet member said ‘private’ and ‘quite painful’ reasons meant he ‘fell behind’ on the compulsory tax.

Now the authority has confirmed Cllr New received a summons for £959.17, which was cleared in full in August 2014.

Councillors can be barred from voting on the budget, one of their key roles, if they do not pay.

As reported, independent councillor Paul Godier received a summons and liability order for £1,095.94 in the 2015/16 tax year.

Council leader Donna Jones has previously hit out at people for not paying council tax when a man in Tipner refused to pay over a rat problem.

‘I condemn anybody that doesn’t pay their council tax,’ Cllr Jones said in 2015.

As reported, The News was able to obtain the council tax information after a landmark case in which a judge ruled councillors who did not pay up should be named.

The judge, Kate Marcus QC, said: ‘There is a compelling legitimate interest in the public knowing whether a particular councillor has failed to pay the council tax, at least in circumstances where they have remained in default for over two months with the result that Section 106 applies.

‘In most cases this compelling interest will outweigh the councillor’s personal privacy.’

Councillors across the area racked up unpaid council tax bills of around £8,000.