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'Own up and save us'

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: November 01, 2012

By Joel Cooper

TAXING TIMES: Who are the four North Devon district councillors in question?

TAXING TIMES: Who are the four North Devon district councillors in question?

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A COUNCILLOR has claimed that dishonest members of North Devon Council have made the whole authority sound like a group of liars.

Fremington district councillor Frank Biederman made his comments in reference to a story in last week's Journal, which revealed that four members of North Devon 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 North Devon Council to ask them if they had made a late council tax payment in the past year.

Combe Martin councillor Yvette Gubb initially said she was guilty of missing a payment.

However, Mrs Gubb contacted the Journal to say that she had misread the message and responded incorrectly.

She said: "I pay my council tax by direct debit so it comes out of my account automatically.

"I misread the original message and I apologise for responding wrongly."

Another councillor, North Molton ward member Richard Edgell, got in touch to say that he had also misunderstood the question.

Last week Mr Edgell said he was up to date with his council tax payments but told the Journal this week that he had not read the original message properly.

He said: "I did receive a reminder notice for a late council tax payment. This was probably because I had been away.

"I pay my council tax at local post offices to support them; the more we pay using electronic means, the more services we lose.

"I deliberately pay my bills at the Post Office because they are a community hub and it gives me a chance to speak with constituents.

"I'm sorry if me being away coincides with missing a council tax payment but I won't change the way I pay."

Councillors Suzanne Haywood and Chris Turner had not responded to the enquiry by the time the Journal went to press last week.

However, both members have since been in touch to say that they have not made a late council tax payment in the past year.

This means 42 of the 43 councillors say they have not made a late payment in the past year – despite the authority stating that four members have.

Mr Biederman believes those members who have not told the truth have brought the authority's reputation into disrepute.

In a letter to Mike Mansell, the council's chief executive, Mr Biederman, said: "I must say I agree with the Journal, we should pay on time. Mistakes happen and that is understandable, but I think the one thing we owe to the people of North Devon is that we pay up on time.

"How can we expect others to do so if we don't?

"There is also extra cost to the council in sending out reminder letters and in these times this is not insignificant."

Mr Biederman said some councillors had let everyone down by not owning up. He said: "They have placed us all in a position of suspicion, not only of not paying (our council tax) on time, but much worse of being liars.

"I urge those members to come forward and save our names and the reputation of our council."

North Devon Council's Chief Executive Mike Mansell said: "Our records show that four councillors were sent reminders about their council tax.

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

Comment on page 41.

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