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Councillor John Matthews keen to go public over payments

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: November 08, 2012

By Joel Cooper

HONESTY: John Matthews.

HONESTY: John Matthews.

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A COUNCILLOR has demanded that his council tax payments be made public to prove that he is not a liar.

District councillor for Newport John Matthews said dishonest members of North Devon Council had made the authority sound like a group of liars and believes waiving his right to anonymity is the only way to clear his name.

Mr Matthews made his comments in reference to a Journal story which revealed that four members of the council had made late council tax payments in the past year.

The authority refused to name the councillors in question saying it would breach Data Protection laws.

The Journal contacted all 43 members of the council to ask if they had made a late payment.

Only one councillor, North Molton ward member Richard Edgell, admitted making a late payment.

The remaining 42 councillors all said they had not missed a payment in the past year.

Last week Fremington district councillor Frank Biederman urged dishonest members of the authority to come forward to save the reputation of the council and its members.

No other councillors have admitted making a late payment.

This week Mr Matthews has written to the council to request that his anonymity under the Data Protection act be lifted and details of his council tax payments be made public.

He said: "I support the Journal's inquiries to identify those councillors who have not paid their council tax on time.

"I agree with Mr Biederman, it makes us sound like a group of liars.

"My wife and I wish to waive our protection under the Data Protection Act to allow our records to be made public in respect of council tax payments."

Mr Matthews wants other councillors to do similar in order to "flush out the miscreants". He said: "If they've got nothing to hide then they shouldn't be worried.

"How can we expect the public to pay on time when their councillors do not?"

But the council said waiving anonymity under the Data Protection Act could, in itself, breach the Act.

North Devon Council's communication manager Claire Holm said: "By allowing members to give up their anonymity to prove they have not missed a payment, it may well identify those who have paid late, which would be a breach of data protection."

The Journal also suggested that councillors' council tax payments should be deducted directly from their basic allowance of £4,570.

Council spokesman Claire Holm said: "Council staff can already opt to have their council tax taken directly from their wages.

"It wouldn't be difficult to do the same for councillors, all they have to do is ask.

"However, this is no easier than simply setting up direct debit payments."

The council's chief executive Mike Mansell said: "Our records show that four councillors were sent reminders regarding their council tax.

"It is up to the individual councillors to decide on any comments they chose to make about their personal financial circumstances."

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