Kirklees councillor not guilty of breaking tax voting rules

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A former mayor of Kirklees has been found not guilty of breaking local government rules.

Coun Jean Calvert (Lab, Ashbrow) was accused of two offences – that she twice voted in council meetings on matter relating to council tax while she was in arrears with her own council tax by at least two months.

But at Bradford Magistrates’ Court today (Monday) District Judge Sue Bouch ruled that Coun Calvert was not aware of the rules.

Clare Benson, prosecuting, had argued that the cabinet member for health, wellbeing and communities knew that she was in arrears by £523 and she should not have been voting in two council meetings in January and February of last year.

The court was told of the financial difficulties that Coun Calvert found herself in and her busy life as a ward councillor, which meant she put some issues to the back of her mind.

Coun Calvert said she was “really upset” when she found out she had been charged with a criminal offence after a freedom of information request by the Yorkshire Post triggered an investigation.

The court heard from two senior Kirklees Council officers – director of resources, David Smith, and assistant director Jane Brady – who both gave different answers when asked if they thought Coun Calvert was allowed to vote in the meetings.

Dan Powson–Pound, defending, said there was confusion at Kirklees Council about whether Coun Calvert should have been allowed to vote. He added that the councillor had been let down by Kirklees because she was not made aware that being in arrears with her council tax should have stopped her voting.

Coun Calvert said she had not received training on the relevant law – section 106 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 – since she became a councillor in 1992. She also said she did not know a direct debit payment had been reversed more than two weeks before a full council meeting in February 2012, where council tax was increased by two per cent.

Judge Bouch said: “I believe everything you have said and accept you did not know that you were required not to vote because you were in arrears.”

In a statement read outside court on behalf of Coun Calvert, she said: “I am delighted at the verdict and relieved to be cleared of any wrongdoing.”