Dear Sir,

Cllr. Clare stated recently that “Cllr. Chandran knows full well that the rules do not allow a councillor to take part in a decision which might affect them financially. Since double taxation will affect Durham County Council, which pays my councillor’s allowance, I consulted the DCC legal officers, who informed me in writing that, yes, I should declare an interest. I am sure Cllr. Chandran thinks he knows better. But what kind of councillor do you want – one who breaks the rules if it suits him, or councillors like the five County Councillors who listened to the legal advice?”

The challenge is to see through the fog of rhetoric and conflicting views


The Localism Act 2011, dealt with the issues concerned. The Minister of State in Hansard on 16th January 2013 stated: “The simple fact is that one cannot identify a disclosable pecuniary interest that relates to the setting of council tax. A beneficial interest in land is probably the nearest to that, but that interest is clearly not materially affected by the setting of council tax” and “The key point is that the advice being given to councillors that they cannot do that is wrong. They can do it and, actually, that is how we represent our residents.”

So concerned was the Minister of State that on 5th February 2012 he wrote to all leaders of Local Authorities stating: “As you will know, the Localism Act 2011 abolished the last Administration’s bureaucratic and controversial Standards Board regime.” Furthermore he stated in a letter to all Leaders of Local Authorities “that some council monitoring officers are informing their councillors that being a council tax payer is a disclosable pecuniary interest in any Budget debate. Councillors are then informed they would be committing a criminal offence if they speak or vote in that debate unless they obtain a formal dispensation.

Whilst my department does not issue legal advice, in our opinion, such dispensations are unnecessary. Council tax liability applies to the generality of the population; councillors have no unique position in that regard. Being a council tax payer or being eligible for a discount under the new local arrangements for council tax support are pecuniary interests, but are not disclosable pecuniary interests as specified in regulations. Therefore, a councillor does not need to seek a dispensation in order to participate in discussions or vote on decisions in the council tax setting process or local arrangements for council tax support.

I made this clear in the Parliamentary debate, which I would encourage you to read. I believe that the blanket act of every councillor declaring the obvious (that residents are liable for council tax) adds nothing to that cause. Indeed, Section 106 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 prohibits councillors who are in council tax arrears (by two or more months) from voting on Budgets. So there is a clear expectation that the generality of councillors are paying council tax. I hope this is helpful in reducing your council’s unnecessary administrative paperwork. Council tax liability applies to the generality of the population; councillors have no unique position in that regard”.

Councillor Clare, yes I do know better. Since 2012 every Council and its Councillors and Monitoring Officers should also know the law on that issue. In the Newton News, nearly 10 years ago, I did publicly challenge all County Councillors to prove me wrong, check with their County Solicitor/Monitoring Officers . . . but answer came there none.

Cllr. Clare was absolutely happy to put his case on double taxation on Facebook, he admitted he could have applied for a dispensation to speak in Town Council but decided not to!

The Town Clerk would happily put any dispensation to the meeting but, none there came. The Law says quite clearly, clarified by the Minister of State in 2012, any councillor can speak and vote on Budgetary Matters especially if you wear two hats ie: on Town and County Council, there is no pecuniary interest, no dispensation required.

Just occasionally one has to put the facts in the public domain, the five Labour County Councillors were wrong to declare interests and wrong to leave the meeting. Guess what? In May 2021 you the public can drain the swamp . . . again.

Cllr Arun M Chandran