Four Leeds councillors failed to pay council tax bills
Four Leeds councillors have been taken to court over non-payment of council tax and made subject to liability orders to settle outstanding bills over the last two years.
Leeds City Council initially refused to provide any information about councillors in arrears but has now partially relented and disclosed limited details in response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.
However, the authority has only identified two of the four – Labour Headingley ward councillor Jonathan Pryor and party colleague Ghulam Hussain, who represents Roundhay.
The council has also declined to say whether there were more councillors who received a summons but subsequently paid their bill in full to avoid being made subject to a court order and declined to divulge the amounts involved in any of the cases.
Coun Hussain said: “I can only apologise to those who elected me I have no excuse for not keeping on top of my bills and I have now put in place arrangements to ensure that no payments are missed in the future.”
Coun Pryor added: “I apologise for what was an unacceptable oversight which occurred as I moved house. I’ve now set up a direct debit to ensure it doesn’t happen.”
The council’s records show Coun Hussain received £22,893.88 in allowances in the latest published figures for 2014/15, while Coun Pryor received £12.801.88 for the same year.
Leeds City Council said it would not disclose the identity of the other two councillors subject to court orders to settle their arrears.
The local authority’s response to the FOI request said in one case it considered because the councillor was jointly liable for council tax with a business partner that releasing the information could identify the business partner.
The council said information relating to the partner was considered private and therefore exempt from disclosure under the FOI Act.
In the other case, the authority said information would not be disclosed because of personal reasons.
Leeds City Council has said that none of its councillors took part in annual budget meetings over the last two years while being in council tax arrears above the legal limit.
It is an offence under the Local Government Finance Act 1992 for any councillor to vote in such meetings if they are more than two months in arrears.
Being made subject to a liability order is the final stage in recovering money owed and Leeds City Council’s website acknowledges it is an option taken only when all other avenues have been exhausted.
The statement reads: “If you have received a Court Summons and we are granted a Liability Order against you by the Magistrates’, the Order will give us certain powers that we can use to obtain payment.
The statement adds: “However, we would rather make a suitable payment arrangement with you than use those powers.”