Kent

Thanet council leader Chris Wells 'missed tax payment'

Thanet council leader Chris Wells
Image caption Mr Wells received a final notice and a court summons

A council leader who fell behind with his tax payments to his own authority is facing calls to resign.

Thanet council's UKIP leader Chris Wells received a summons after he failed to pay a monthly instalment in April last year.

He paid his entire annual council tax bill in November, six months after he became leader in May.

Mr Wells declined to comment to the BBC, but a UKIP spokesman said the case had no bearing on his leadership.

He told the Kent Messenger newspaper, which revealed the details, he was unable to pay because he was not getting a lot of work as a self-employed management consultant and was owed money.

Opposition politicians have said his position is "untenable".

Final notice

Labour councillor Iris Johnston said: "The council had to pursue him at a cost to the council. That really concerns me."

She added: "There are a number of reasons why I consider his position is not tenable and this is just one of them."

Mr Wells's council tax bill for 2015-16 was £2,579.10.

After his first instalment was not paid, he was sent a reminder notice on 28 April 2015 and a final notice on 19 May.

Image copyright PA
Image caption UKIP won control of Thanet Council days after party leader Nigel Farage lost out on the local parliamentary seat in last year's general election

The authority said any council tax payer who received a final notice forfeited their right to pay in instalments, and Mr Wells then received a bill for the full amount of £2,579.10.

A summons was issued on 22 June and a liability order obtained at a hearing on 14 July, with £50 court costs added to the bill.

The account was paid in full by 25 November.

'Council praised'

Thanet council said Mr Wells agreed payment arrangements before the hearing and did not need to attend court.

North Thanet's Conservative MP Sir Roger Gale said: "I think most of us have sympathy with somebody who privately is having difficulty in paying their bills.

"MPs deal with people in that situation all the time. But I do find it a little extraordinary that the leader of a council should allow this to get to court."

UKIP won a majority in last year's Thanet elections but lost overall control after five members defected.

A UKIP spokesman said a "phenomenally good" independent report released this week had praised the council.

"The case is embarrassing for Cllr Wells personally, but all the outstanding tax was paid and it is now closed," he said.

"It has no bearing on the council he leads, as can be seen by the report."

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