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Councillors missed tax; Pair summonsed over late payments.

Byline: Ian Johnson Reporter ian.johnson01@trinitymirror.com

TWO councillors threatened with legal action for not paying their own council's tax have been named.

Stockton Council's Phil Dennis and Tracey Stott were summonsed to court for falling behind with their council tax bill.

Labour's Cllr Stott's blamed a job loss for failing behind while Conservative Cllr Dennis said his bank account was "cloned".

However, with more than 50,000 summons issued to residents by Stockton Council in three years, a pressure group claims the pair should be "leading by example".

All three major Teesside councils were asked to disclose councillors' records in paying their bills.

Stockton was the only authority to refuse The Gazette's request, submitted following a legal ruling which unmasked a non-paying Bolton councillor.

Despite Middlesbrough and Redcar and Cleveland disclosing the information, Stockton Council claimed it would "unfair".

However, after The Gazette appealed it agreed to name both.

Cllr Stott, who represents Mandale and Victoria, said she fell behind following personal problems.

And she admitted: "It is easy to fall behind when you have so much going on in your life."

In total, 50,910 summons letters have been sent out to over the last three years.

That figure equates to 46 a day on average, and she added: "The figures show how hard life can be for people and just how many people are struggling.

"When things are going bad, you stop thinking about certain things as other things in your life are just far more important at the time."

In total, four letters were sent out to Stockton councillors for falling behind, but only two were named after they reached the summons stage.

It is understood both Cllr Stott and Cllr Dennis have since paid the outstanding money.

When councillors owe money they are barred from voting on financial matters and nationally, the issue has forced some members to step down.

Eaglescliffe representative Cllr Dennis refused to be drawn on his future but the Tory councillor felt the money he had owed to his council was a "private matter".

"I was on holiday and my account was cloned," he claimed.

"Within two days of returning I had put the money back into account. It was a private matter and the leader of the council knew about it."

Stockton Council is yet to comment.

However Harry Davis, of the Taxpayer's Alliance, said: "Stocktonon-Tees has raised council tax 18 times in the last two decades so local taxpayers have every right to be angry that their money is being spent pursuing elected representatives who haven't paid on time."

CAPTION(S):

| Councillors Tracey Stott, above left, and Phil Dennis

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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Jul 27, 2016
Words:441
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