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Eastbourne councillor taken to court over unpaid council tax
A councillor was prosecuted over unpaid council tax after officials refused to settle the matter out of court.
Patrick Warner, who represents Sovereign ward on Eastbourne Borough Council, claims the local authority he serves is using summons as a way to raise money.
He missed payments on his rates after losing his job last year.
Among 1,300 people in the area issued with court notices in recent months, Coun Warner has since said he will repay the amount in the coming months.
However, the Conservative councillor questioned if the Lib Dem-run local authority was using the procedure to raise money at a time when its budget was being cut by central government.
The council demands an extra payment of £85 in costs from those taken to court.
Coun Warner told The Argus: “I’m not a silver spoon Tory.
“I have worked hard all my life from when I grew up on a council estate and never tried to shirk my responsibility.
“Those at the top obviously have enough during difficult times and those at the bottom can access council tax benefit.
“But it’s the people in the middle who work hard every day that are being treated somewhat unfairly.”
Coun Warner said he missed two separate payments after being made redundant for the first time in his life in August 2012.
After being issued with a summons, he said he called the local authority to agree a payment plan.
However, he claimed the council officials told him it was easier to take him to court.
Coun Warner added he believed it was because the council was using the system as a “revenue stream” and help support it finances.
He said: “Where people are actively avoiding council I wholeheartedly agree attempts to recover it.
“But when there is an offer to agree a deal before court I would have thought anyone would have thought it reasonable to settle it.”
Ian Lucas, chairman of the Eastbourne Conservatives Association, said it remained “full square” behind him, adding it would not be suspending Coun Warner from the party.
A council spokesman said: “The council does not comment on individual cases concerning the non-payment of council tax.”
“Delays in collection or non-recovery of debts can lead to higher council tax bills being passed on to other residents who pay promptly and in accordance with the statutory instalment scheme.”
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