We recently sent a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the council about councillors’ pay and council tax support.
Councillors Paid in Advance
We asked if councillors received payments before voting on a pay increase. We also asked who authorised the payments in the first place.
The council states that councillors receive their pay in advance at the start of each month. They also confirmed that the chief executive authorised the additional payments before councillors had voted on it. This was to ensure they received the additional payments in December.
However, if councillors had voted against it, the additional payments would have been deducted from their pay in January. In addition, Conservative councillors raised concerns but didn’t send their payments back. What’s more, the Tories also supported the recent council tax increase.
Extra Support During Lockdown
We also asked about refunds for people getting council tax support following extra funding provided by the government. The council states that it did not have bank details for every customer so sent them cheques in the post. However, this seems odd because many people pay their council tax by card.
The council issued refunds to more than 11,000 people in 2020 totalling £751,000. However, the council still holds £34,853 for more than 700 accounts. What’s more, the council states that uncleared cheques will be “offset” against future council tax bills.
It appears that nobody has tried to contact residents about these payments. This is a shame because many people may not have been able to go to the bank during lockdown. What’s more, the point was to help people at a time when they needed it most. However, the council has decided to hold on to them for safe keeping.