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Top Tory 'forgot' to pay his council tax
12:25pm Friday 6th September 2013 in Local News
VETERAN councillor Bill Sharp defaulted on council tax payments 18 times, and only paid his latest bill after being summonded to court, the Echo can reveal.
The former Castle Point Council leader was due to appear before magistrates over a council tax debt of more than £1,456, including added legal costs.
Jeffrey Stanley, the council’s deputy leader, expressed his shock and said councillors had more of a legal duty to keep-upto- date with their council tax than a member of the public.
Councillors can get banned from voting on any budget and rental issues if they fall two months or more behind.
Mr Sharp, 65, a Tory, has had continued problems keeping up with the tax for his band E Evenlode, in Softwater Lane, Hadleigh.
Yet since 2008, the former city broker has been sent 18 reminder letters by Castle Point Council’s recovery department after defaulting on payments.
The controversial politician is one of about 1,650 residents summoned to court by Castle Point Council for non-payment of the tax since April.
His case was withdrawn when he settled up the bill in full the day before the scheduled hearing in June.
Mr Sharp blames his problems with paying on time on being quite a “laid-back person”.
Mr Stanley said: “Castle Point Council takes a very robust stance against cases of persistent council tax arrears.
“I am surprised councillor Sharp has found himself in this position as I understood he was a man of some means.”
Mr Stanley, who is also deputy chairman of Castle Point Conservative Association, of which Mr Sharp is vice-chairman of fundraising, added: “A councillor has more of a legal duty to keep up-to-date with their council tax thanamember of the public.
“In fact, you are banned from taking part in votes concerning the budget and rents matters if you go into arrears.
“I think this is something the Conservative Association should have been made aware of by Mr Sharp.”
Mr Sharp apologised for the late payments.
He said: “There is no excuse, but I had not paid it for two or three months.
“I did not go to court, as I paid it off in full for the year the day before. I know it is wrong, but I am quite a laid-back person. It is not something I deliberately tried to do, but did not give it enough priority. I thought it was being paid by direct debit, but it wasn’t.
“I know it must be irksome to people, so I apologise, but 95 per cent of people will probably get a reminder at some point.
“It did not seem a big thing to me at the time.”
A council spokeswoman said: “Since 2008, councillor Sharp’s account has been subject to the intervention of the recovery and enforcement section and req- uired some 18 reminders to be issued.”
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