Cllr Alex Folkes, the Deputy Leader of the Lib Dem group on Cornwall Council has been taken to court for non-payment of Council Tax. He did not dispute that the money was owed but says he had got into financial difficulties:
Cllr Folkes writes on his blog:
“The law is pretty clear. A councillor is disqualified from voting on budget issues if he or she is two or more months behind on their council tax payments. I have never fallen foul of that rule. However between budget votes I did fall behind on two occasions to the extent that legal action was taken against me and I deeply regret that this was the case. My excuse, such as it is, is that since I was elected in 2009 I have lived for the most part on my councillor allowance of £12,100 per year and I put other bills before council tax. But it is wrong to fall behind and I apologise to the people who I represent for letting them down in this way. I can assure anyone who cares that I have paid my full council tax for the current year and won't fall behind again"
"What this episode has done, however, is shown me how many people have difficulty paying their council tax. For some (like me) it is a foolish mistake. For others though, the bills are just too much to cope with in the current climate. As a council, I think there is more we could be doing to ensure that those in genuine hardship are helped to get any support and benefits to which they might be entitled. The schemes are there, but we sometimes fail to make people aware of them. Cornwall Council needs to raise tax to provide crucial services, but we have to ensure that families do not suffer disproportionate hardship as a result"
The explanation is confused as he says it was a "foolish mistake" but also that he didn't have the money to pay the bill. I hope Cllr Folkes will reflect on his experience that the Council Tax is too high and that further spending cuts should be identified in his authority to allow a Council Tax cut – particularly for those who don't get paid £12,100 a year in councillor allowances.