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Revealed - the councillors who had to be forced to pay their council tax

Graham Smith | 14:33 UK time, Sunday, 29 January 2012

The four Cornwall councillors who were so behind with their council tax that they had to be chased through the courts have been identified. They are Chris Pascoe, Jan Powell, Alex Folkes and Sasha Gillard-Loft.


All four councillors are Liberal Democrats, although at the time of her liability order Mrs Powell was a Conservative.

Chris Pascoe was the subject of a liability order at Truro magistrates in July 2011 for more than £1,800. Chris said the debt relates to a property owned by his recently deceased father, which was the subject of probate at the time.

Sasha Gillard-Loft's £210 liability order was issued by Bodmin magistrates on 23rd March 2010. She claims financial hardship.

Only a few weeks earlier, on 16th February, Sasha was one of 35 named councillors to vote against the proposed council budget. As liability orders usually follow three months of demand, reminder and final warning, the council this week had to check if there had been any breach of the 1992 Local Government Finance Act, which disqualifies councillors from voting on a budget if they are more than two months in arrears. Sasha was in arrears on the day of the budget vote, but by only one month and 16 days. She therefore escapes the risk of a fine of up to £1,000.

Alex Folkes, who two weeks ago admitted two liability orders, is now identified as having been the subject of a third. Alex said the third council tax summons "slipped his mind" and he apologised if in an interview on 17th January he had inadvertantly given a false impression. The council had to take him to court on 22nd April 2010, 23rd September 2010 and 12th July 2011.

Jan Powell's husband, Tony, says he was responsible for the liability order issued jointly against them on 25th August 2010. Tony, who last year was Mayor of Liskeard, says Jan had no knowledge of their £833.85 summons. He claims he offered a repayment-by-installments scheme to the council which, he says, should have prevented the liability order.

The disclosures, which come as a result of a joint investigation by BBC Radio Cornwall and the Falmouth Packet newspaper, mean that 10% of Cornwall Council's Liberal Democrat group had to be taken to court before paying their council tax between 2009 and 2011.

The revelations were made possible by trawling through public documents in magistrates' court records This increases pressure on the Information Commission to rule against Cornwall Council - which has stubbornly refused to identify the councillors, claiming that to do so would breach data protection laws.

The disclosures also make it clear that Porthleven councillor Andrew Wallis, who "outed" himself last year as having been the subject of a council tax liability order, was actually confessing to a non-payment which pre-dated the 2009-11 financial year accounting period.

There will be more on this - much more - on BBC Radio Cornwall's Breakfast programme on Wednesday morning.


Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Dear Graham

    It would be good if you got your facts right especially after our many 'chats' this week. I even pointed out your 'Jan Harvey' mistake. Pat might be unhappy. First of all neither Jan or I have ever been £833.55 in debt to the Council- the figure represents the amount we were liable to pay over the balance of the year. Two weeks prior to the summons being issued all arrears (max 6 weeks) had been paid and a new payment schedule put in place. We received no summons or a copy of any Liability order and were only made aware of the order by e-mail from the Councils' solicitor on 27 Dec 2011. These matters are the subject of representations to Cornwall Council.

    You are aware of all these points yet still report in this manner which i find very disappointing considering this all came about from an inadvertantly cancelled Direct Debit and not from any intention not to pay or ability to pay. This followed some 15 years of prompt advanced payments.

    There is no question of my 'claiming' anything and you were offered a photocopy of the relevant documents which you declined saying 'I believe you'.

    Nothing is ever quite what it seems and that is why the public rely on accurate reporting.

  • Comment number 2.

    Alex Folkes was the subject of not two but three liability orders? It slipped his mind? The final one was less than two months before I posed my questions to the leader of the Council on 06 September 2011. His position on the Council is now surely untenable ...

  • Comment number 3.

    Hi Tony - I think your post is an attempt at deflection. The point is not really about the actual sum that was owed but is more about the fact that a summons had to be issued in the first place. Just because the specific sum may be incorrect does not let any Councillor off the hook for ignoring the reminders that would have been sent ... by the very Council they are members of.

  • Comment number 4.

    Adam

    I take your point but the fact is that all reminders received were responded to and dealt with. We just had an admin cliche with our d/d and s/o so apr/may and jun/jul were paid by double instalments. An agreement was in place by 23 Jul10 over a month before the court date and maintained subsequently. we Had conversations with CC staff which are the subject of dialogue with the council and we are awaiting a response. Had we actually known about the court date we would have attended armed with our records. Still ,you cant change history, only move on and concentrate on the big issues that are facing Cornwall like housing,employment and inward investment. The cllrs who were summonsed represent.0002% of the total in Cornwall issued for that yr.

  • Comment number 5.

    As you state above "As liability orders usually follow three months of demand, reminder and final warning" none of the people named today have any excuse for it getting as far as Court.

    And for Mr Folkes to state "the third council tax summons "slipped his mind"" makes you wonder what else has slipped his mind - advising whether he received Council Tax benefit and Housing benefit seemingly as we cannot get an answer to that one.

    On Spotlight this morning it stated for Sasha Gillard-Loft that her landlord was due to pay the Council Tax, not her (not the actual wording of course), but again, why did it get as far as "three months of demand, reminder and final warning", when it could have been prevented by a word with her Landlord after the first letter?

    Tony above stating "considering this all came about from an inadvertantly cancelled Direct Debit" - why would you even touch a Direct Debit setting in your bank account if it is for something as regular as Council Tax, especially as with my Bank it also advises the account holder to advise the recipient of the funds that the D/D has been cancelled, and, once again, why did it get as far as "three months of demand, reminder and final warning" before he did something about it?

    Whilst Tony states "The cllrs who were summonsed represent.0002% of the total in Cornwall issued for that yr.", which may well be correct, but the remainder were not supposed to represent us, nor set budgets etc. and his comments are only trying to deflect from the fact that they were summonsed in the first place.

    Let's hope that the voters remember this ducking and diving come the next Council election.

  • Comment number 6.

    I am a pensioner who pays council tax. Every March the council informs me of the payment I must make. On receipt, I set up a standing order for the following ten months. It takes just a few minutes to do this. A councillor who cannot carry out this simple task ought to be considering his or her position. In other words, resign.

  • Comment number 7.

    5. Superale: Alex does not get council tax or housing benefit.

  • Comment number 8.

    Hi Graham

    Thanks for advising that Alex folkes does not get council tax or housing benefit, did you find this out by another FO! request or did he remember to tell you??!!

    Keep up the good work - this blog goes from strength to strength, especially now that your techie has sorted out the problems you encountered.

    Now all you have to do is sort out the excessive demands from SWW once again!!

  • Comment number 9.

    I see that Jeremy Rowe, Lib Dem group leader has stated that his deputy "would keep his job and that it is not a resignation issue." Does Councillor Rowe mean that Alex Folkes will remain deputy leader of the Cornwall Lib Dem group or that he will remain a Cornwall Councillor?

    Either way it is clear that the sheer number of liability orders against Councillor Folkes is demonstrative not of "the issue slipping his mind" but repeated and regular late payment resulting in reminders and Court action.

    As with other Councillors who have held up their hands and admitted human errors, one such incident could be forgiven. I find it incredulous that anyone, let alone a Councillor, would allow a matter requiring Court action by the Council of which they are a member to slip their mind a second time ... that would be careless. But a third time?

    Clearly Councillor Folkes has let down his party, his party leader on the Council, his party nationally and most importantly the decent, hard working and law abiding Cornish people of Launceston. I am sure that when it is time to elect new Councillors to represent them they won't let Councillor Folkes's actions "slip their minds."

  • Comment number 10.

    What a shameful group of people, if they had any morals they would resign, yet we know they have no honour.

  • Comment number 11.

    Graham Smith wrote:-
    "Alex does not get council tax or housing benefit."

    If his only income is the £12,000 allowances, as has been claimed, and this is the only money coming into the house, and he has very little in savings, then he would be entitled to claim these benefits, and receive a substantial contribution towards his council tax.

    IF.

  • Comment number 12.

    Alex Folkes states “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."
    I understand that this figure does not include Travel and other expenses which are claimed by Councillors.

    Does this not come out of the Council tax we ALL pay?

    So all these Lib Dems are getting more than us pensioners and indeed many Cornish wage earners - after tax. Yet we have to manage to pay our Council Tax as well as thier allowances.

    They should all be ashamed of themselves and do the right thing.
    I am sure that the electorate will not forget by the time the next elections come round!

    We all need to make sure that OUR money is used correctly to provide the services we need.

  • Comment number 13.

    Both Alex Folkes and Sasha Gillard-Loft appear to meet the criteria for Council Tax Benefit and Housing Tax Benefit as they have both stated that their only income is the Councillors Allowance of £12k - and, presumably, as he has missed payments over 3 years due to financial hardship, Mr Folkes has little in the way of savings.

    So surely, if they do indeed meet the criteria, why are they not claiming their legal entitlement, and that way ensuring that their Council Tax is paid (as they seem to want us to do!!).

    Perhaps in the case of Mr Folkes it slipped his mind with regard to claiming his legal entitlement - which doesn't auger well for constituents asking him for advice on matters appertaining to Council Tax, and any benefits that they might claim?

  • Comment number 14.

    If you are of working age, any savings you have under £6,000 will not be taken into account when we assess your claim. If you have savings between £6,000 and £16,000 we will treat your savings as producing a tariff income of £1 a week for each £250, or part thereof.

    If you are of pensionable age, any savings you have under £10,000 will not be taken into account when we assess your claim. If you have savings between £10,000 and £16,000 we will treat your savings as producing a tariff income of £1 a week for each £500, or part thereof. These are prescribed amounts which are set by law.

    If you have £16,000 or more you will not be entitled to Housing Benefit and/or Council Tax Benefit. If you have more than £16,000 and in receipt of Guaranteed Pension Credit you will be entitled to Housing Benefit and/or Council Tax Benefit.

    If these Councillors are liable to pay Council Tax, they must have capital or earnings or both, over and above the limits, as seen above.

  • Comment number 15.

    Hi Slimslad

    Many thanks for setting out so clearly the criteria for receiving Council Tax Benefit and Housing Benefit - as Mr Folkes is obviously of working age, even if the only "work" involved is that of a Cornwall Councillor, it would seem that he had absolutely no excuse for not paying his Council Tax during the three years in question. Nor any excuse in future now that it is out in the open!

    Certainly not a case of heating or eating as is the case for so many senior citizens that's for sure - especially as he received expenses payments for attending council meetings, which seems to indicate that he is using his own car and can afford to run it, which is more than a lot of people can do on an income of £12k (especially if they are paying their council tax out of it!!)?

  • Comment number 16.

    From the Register of Members Interests:

    Alex Foulkes: "I work as a freelance photographer as a sole trader trading as Fishnik Photography" Tenant


    Sasha Gillard-Loft: Trenuth, Pipers Pool, Trewen, Launceston, Cornwall, PL15 8PH Own Home

    Chris Pascoe: Self Employed Electrician - Sole Trader. (part-owner of home)

    Jan Powell: Pengover Heights, Liskeard, Cornwall, PL14 3UA Own Home

  • Comment number 17.

    Sasha Gillard-Loft - Own Home or Not - depends on where you read the information

    Register of members Interests

    Sasha Gillard-Loft: Trenuth, Pipers Pool, Trewen, Launceston, Cornwall, PL15 8PH Own Home

    http://www.thisiscornwall.co.uk/Councillors-fail-pay-council-tax-time/story-15097921-detail/story.html

    Miss Gillard-Loft, representing Launceston South, said she had not gone public previously because she lived with a friend who owned the house. She said he was responsible for paying and she did not believe his finances should be public.
    "I shouldn't be listed on the council tax at all," she said.
    "Cornwall Council made the assumption we're a couple but I'm not in a relationship with him and never have been.

    Alex Folkes - lives for the most part off of his councillor allowance, or also has an income as a freelance photographer as well?

    Register of members Interests

    Alex Foulkes: "I work as a freelance photographer as a sole trader trading as Fishnik Photography" Tenant

    http://www.thisiscornwall.co.uk/Launceston-councillor-Alex-Folkes-8216-sorry-8217/story-14456535-detail/story.html

    Alex Folkes states “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."

    So which is incorrect - the Register of Members Interests or the local media?

 

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