A SENIOR Conservative member of Wiltshire Council narrowly avoided a court appearance for failing to pay his council tax bill on time.

Fred Westmoreland, councillor for Amesbury West, was summonsed over an unpaid bill of almost £2,000 in the 2016/17 financial year.

Cllr Westmoreland paid the outstanding £1,930.28 before his case got to court, according to information released to Private Eye magazine under the Freedom of Information Act.

Another five councillors, whose names were not revealed, were sent reminders about their overdue bills but paid before a summons was issued.

Cllr Westmoreland, who chairs the council’s southern area planning committee, said it was a “simple oversight”.

He said in recent yeas he had usually paid his whole year’s bill upfront and had not received any reminder from the council.

And he said he had paid in full as soon as he received the summons.

“I’m aware I made that mistake,” he said.

“I wasn’t happy at the time because they never bother with any reminders. I remember at the time being irritated because a simple reminder and it wouldn’t have gone to that.”

Councillors who fail to pay their council tax can be barred from voting on their own budget, but Cllr Westmoreland said he had never had to miss a budget vote.

He initially told the Journal he remembered getting a summons “about six or seven years ago”, but later accepted that it “could potentially have been” in 2016/17, adding: “If they say it was two years ago then that’s what it was.”

Cllr Westmoreland said the incident had been embarrassing, adding: “I have probably blocked it from my memory.”

He said: “These things happen I’m afraid,” later adding: “I don’t even feel particularly guilty about it.”

Private Eye, edited by Ian Hislop, has published an interactive map of every council in Britain detailing “which local authority councillors failed to pay on time the tax they ask everyone else to pay”.

The website says: “We asked all 377 local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales that process council tax payments if their elected representatives had settled their bills on time in the 2016-17 tax year.

“We asked how many councillors received reminder letters, how many were summonsed to court, how many of those cases went ahead and how many councillors were barred from voting on the council’s budget as a direct result of their own council tax affairs.”

To view the map visit


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