Revealed: the councillors who failed to pay council tax
COUNCILLORS have racked up nearly Â£8,000 worth of unpaid council tax, The News can reveal.
Three elected councillors – Conservative, Liberal Democrat and an independent – have been named as having been summoned to court by their councils.
Portsmouth City Council has refused to name two councillors who did not pay about £1,000 each for two months and were issued with summons but then paid up.
Those who spoke to The News gave varying reasons – from being busy with elections to saying their child took reminder letters from the doormat.
John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance: ‘Some councillors may be in financial difficulty, in which case they should have the help and support afforded to others.
‘But the rest should be leading by example and anyone who has failed to pay what’s due ought to have the guts to own up.’
Arrears of £1,771.45 were accrued by Cllr Clare Satchwell, Conservative for Hayling East, in 2015/16.
She was summoned to court but paid the bill off afterwards and was not barred from voting on the budget.
Cllr Satchwell said her son had taken the reminders to play with and she had changed her bank account details.
Cllr Paul Godier, ward member for Charles Dickens in the city, was issued with a summons and liability order for £1,095.94 in 2015/16 and barred from voting on the budget.
That comes after he admitted in 2014 he was behind on his bill and was paying off the arrears.
‘There’s no issue, everything has been paid off,’ he said.
Two other unnamed city councillors were two months in arrears in 2015/16 and 2016/17, with one owing £959.17 and the other £1,055.25. They were summoned to court but the council refused to name them. The News has appealed this decision.
No liability orders were issued as the accounts were paid.
Meanwhile in Gosport, Liberal Democrat leader Peter Chegwyn, member for Leesland, was issued with a summons for £844.85 in 2012.
He said he was busy co-ordinating his party’s effort in the local elections and payment crossed with the summons, which the council confirmed was withdrawn a day after issue after crossing with the payment.
Cllr Chegwyn was sent two reminders in 2012 and two in 2013 for around £422 each time.
He also received a reminder in 2014 and 2015 for £425.
Fellow Lib Dem and Leesland ward member Cllr Maria Diffey received a reminder for £86.52 in 2012 and two for £73 in 2015.
She was not summoned to court and has paid up.
No councillors at Fareham Borough Council were subject to recovery action between 2012 and 2016.
Cllr Edward Brant, member for Alton at East Hampshire District Council, was issued with a liability order for £2,002 after being summoned to court on August 6 in 2015, with it being cancelled in August 19, 2016, when £1,476 was paid.
He refused to comment.
In 2015 it was revealed Portsmouth’s council was owed £13.2m in council tax, Havant £4.09m, Fareham £2.469m and Gosport £6.356m.
WHAT THEY SAID...
Clare Satchwell, Havant Borough Council, Hayling East
‘I changed my bank account and I thought I had updated the details.
‘I’ve got a full-time job and am a councillor, it was an oversight on my part.
‘My then six-year-old has a little bit of an obsession with post, he was playing post office with it.
‘As soon as I was aware of it, it was paid.
‘The good thing is that councillors don’t get special treatment, the process was followed and I think that’s a good thing.’
Paul Godier, Portsmouth City Council, Charles Dickens
‘It was job and building debts, all of those things that people like me experience.
‘Whilst I was paying it off the actual summons was automatically generated.
‘It really was a build-up and council tax, yes it’s a bad thing, because I’m a councillor now.
‘Before I became a councillor that was just one of a million debts. I had a lifetime of getting off the streets. I was trying to pay off my debts.’
Maria Diffey, Gosport Borough Council, Leesland
‘Don’t you ever forget to pay sometimes?
‘I’ve never had a summons – this annoys me so much, they need to crack down on ones that don’t pay.
‘I don’t get paid until the end of each month.
‘But now I pay it on time.
‘They don’t give people a chance to pay do they?
‘I know some people will not pay.
‘But I’ve always paid my bills.’
Peter Chegwyn, Gosport Borough Council, Leesland
‘I did actually pay my council tax before the council sent me a summons.
‘I wrote a cheque on the Friday after the local elections and put it in the internal town hall postbox but it didn’t reach the finance office until the following week by which time they’d posted a summons.
‘When I explained this to the council treasurer, Julian Bowcher, he accepted it was the council’s mistake, not mine, and cancelled the summons.’
‘Compelling interest outweighs their privacy’
CONFIDENTIAL tax affairs are normally just that – private.
But in an earlier landmark case a judge has ruled councils, under certain circumstances, must reveal details of councillors who do not pay up when requested, under the Freedom of Information Act.
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.’