Two Councillors Taken to Court for Council Tax Arrears

Both voted on reduction of financial support for low income Council Tax payers

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Two Councillors in Ealing Borough have been taken to court and fined over late payment of Council Tax. A third was in arrears by over a year but paid up before legal action was taken.

Court proceedings were taken earlier this year against Jon Ball who represents Ealing Common ward for the Liberal Democrats and Natasha Ahmed-Shaikh who is Labour’s Councillor for Northolt Mandeville. Seema Kumar, who represents Ealing Broadway for the Conservatives, was in arrears but paid the account in full before court action was necessary.

Legal action was taken against Cllr Ahmed-Shaikh over £1,299.40 arrears which she had to pay plus costs. The amount owed by Cllr ball was £1,175. Both Councillors are no longer in arrears and neither was required to attend proceedings.

The Councillors have been criticised for taking part in a Council meeting in which the decision was taken to remove financial support for payment of Council Tax from people on low incomes and taking part in the vote last January without disclosing that they were in arrears. It has been alleged that under section 106 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992, members of a local authority must not attend meetings where matters relating to council tax are under consideration if they are more than two months in arrears. Cllr Kumar has denied she was in arrears for this meeting which took place in January. The matter has been referred to Ealing’s Chief Executive, Paul Nsjarek.

An Ealing Council spokesperson said, "Ealing Council considers that section 106 does not apply to the council tax support scheme approval and so all councillors, including any who were in council tax arrears, were eligible to vote on the decision."

Cllr Ball said, "I apologise to Ealing residents and my Party colleagues for my late payment of the 2015/16 council tax.

"I paid the outstanding amount in full plus charges before the end of that financial year and prior to the budget-setting meeting and so was allowed to vote on this year's budget.

"As the Council has confirmed, the law does not prohibit voting on the council tax support scheme while in arrears. I and my Liberal Democrat colleagues voted against cuts to vulnerable people at this meeting while Labour and Conservative councillors voted for them.

"To avoid any risk of repetition, I have already paid my 2016/17 council tax in full."

Cllr Natasha Ahmed-Shaikh said, “My personal circumstances changed dramatically meaning I temporarily fell behind on my Council Tax payments. During that time I excluded myself from some council business as required. I am now entirely up-to-date with my payments.”

The court actions have come to light due to a Freedom of Information request. Up until recently Councils were allowed to decline requests for information about any Council Tax arrears by Councillors but a recent judgement by Upper Tribunal judge Kate Markus QC said there had been an error in law by in the previous tribunal and Information Commissioner’s Office decision.

August 6, 2016

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