Senior Portsmouth councillor admits '˜falling behind' on council tax

A SENIOR councillor on the ruling cabinet of Portsmouth City Council has admitted not paying council tax.

Friday, 23rd June 2017, 12:26 pm
Updated Tuesday, 18th July 2017, 8:45 am
Cllr Rob New. Picture: Sarah Standing

Cllr Rob New, ward member for Copnor since 2011, posted online to say due to ‘private’ and ‘still quite painful’ reasons he had not paid.

It comes as The News has pushed the city council to reveal the names of two councillors who had not paid the tax through Freedom of Information requests.

But Cllr New, cabinet member for environment and community safety, revealed late last night he fell behind on the compulsory tax.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Posting online Cllr New, who was Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt’s election campaign manager, said: ‘During one of the most difficult years of my life personally for various reasons that remain private and still quite painful, I fell behind on my council tax, but paid the bill in full as soon as I could and the matter was closed.

‘It’s only when you reach the bottom and feel so desperate for help that you can fully understand the stresses and strains that others feel too when they reach out to you for help, often out of desperation.

‘I felt too embarrassed to ask for help at that time, but soon realized that it was silly to not do so.’

Independent Paulsgrove ward councillor John Ferrett said: ‘I have a very simple view on it: if councillors don’t pay their council tax then they shouldn’t be councillors.’

He added: ‘Council tax payers, those who are struggling, really struggling, to make ends meet but paying their council tax will be aghast, absolutely aghast, that we have more councillors who don’t feel it’s necessary to pay their council tax.’

The council has refused to name the councillors who have not paid.

Portsmouth City Council has refused to name two councillors who did not pay about £1,000 each. It is unclear if this relates to Cllr New or other, unnamed councillors.

In his post, Cllr New added: ‘It is with my own experience in mind that since 2014, I have specialised in assisting residents with getting help around bills such as Council Tax, housing association rents and Winter Fuel bills. It’s also part of the reason why myself and other Councillors launched our popular annual ‘Winter Fuel Help’ street stalls in the winter of 2014.

‘I talk candidly with residents about my own experience and troubles, and have never hid that I fell behind on my council tax bill, so that it can better help them to not have to experience the same stress and anxiety that I went through and to let them know that they’re not alone in this.

‘I believe that my own problems have brought empathy, understanding and a drive to help others that I’d perhaps not have should I have not been through the same experience.

‘It’s profoundly lonely when you feel that there’s no way out, but one of my proudest achievements to date is being able to help people with the same issues, privately and quickly to give them piece of mind.

‘I’m sorry that the situation and reasons behind this ever happened to me, but I’m not sorry that I’ve been empowered through this to help others so that they can get help quickly and reduce or remove accumulative stress that can sometimes result in things much worse, darker and sadly, sometimes fatal.’