Council ‘wrong’ to offer part payment
A LEADING Tory has criticised a decision by Canterbury City Council to pay part of leader John Gilbey’s tax bill as “illogical”. Councillor Simon Cook spoke out at a meeting of the council’s scrutiny and audit committee after calling in the issue of the tax that should have been paid on some of Cllr Gilbey’s mileage claims. Officers investigated after HMRC bosses told Kent County Council that members could not claim for journeys from their homes to County Hall. They were told that as Cllr Gilbey had an office in Military Road he too must pay tax on any expenses claimed for journeys to it – backdated for four years.
This left him with a bill of £1,250 and officers decided to pay it from council funds rather than try to reclaim it, as they had advised him incorrectly. Cllr Cook said:
“I understand it is a matter of judgement but I just think in this case your judgement was wrong. It is Cllr Gilbey’s liability to pay back tax.”
He said the council had more of a duty to taxpayers than to the council leader. Chief executive Colin Carmichael told councillors:
“Technically this is a matter for the individual. From my point of view it feels like as we had initiated it, we had not asked councillors, we would have burdened you without you being aware of it. For me it felt like natural justice to pay Cllr Gilbey’s tax.”
He said he raised the issue of paying the bill with the leaders of the opposition political groups, and had no response from Cllr John Wratten, of Labour or Cllr David Hirst, of Ukip. Cllr Perkins did respond, and said the issue should be discussed in public rather than hushed up. From April 1 this yeaz Cllr Gilbey has been taxed on his home-to-office mileage. Cllr Glibey said:
“The council officers rightly took the decision that it could result in significant back-payment of tax for 50 councillors. It was never that I said it should be paid, it was that they said they should pay it. The fact it got down to just me was fortunate in one way for the council and fortunate for me. But I think to call it in was wrong and I would not have called in two senior officers like that. I think it was absolutely wrong.”
Cllr Gilbey is appealing the HMRC decision, having first checked it would not lead to a bill for other councillors. He is waiting to hear from officials there in response.
Herne Bay Gazette, June 25th 2014