The first thing a politician must do when making a mistake is to admit it and deal with the consequences face on. Two years ago I failed to pay my council tax on time which led to court action. While I cannot change what happened; I would have paid if I could have.
Like many people in Cornwall I was faced with the problem of juggling mounting bills with a limited income and at that time I chose to pay for essentials such as rent, electricity and food. Council tax at that time felt like a lower priority less immediate debt. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, sometimes choices have to be made and I made that choice of not paying. I will have to live with that.
I became involved in politics because I wanted to make a difference to the lives of people in Cornwall. I try and solve some of the important issues that never seem to go away. While no one forced me to become a Councillor, I did not realise the financial sacrifice I would have to make.
Some people criticise the allowances given to Councillors – but the facts are that I do a full time job for a basic allowance of £12,200 a year. As well as this amount being taxed, there is also a lot of other councillor expenses involved in which I have to meet.
I would not be a Councillor now if it was not for the extra allowance I now get for being Chairman of the Parking Advisory Panel. This extra money has helped greatly, as without it I could not afford to be a Councillor. Even with this extra allowance money is still tight, but I manage, just.
Does concentrating on the essentials and not paying on time make me a bad person? I hope not and I ask people no to judge me too harshly. It does however make me human and shows that being a Councillor does not exempt me from facing the same day to day struggles as everyone else.
Having struggled to keep my head above water has allowed me to empathise with people who are struggling themselves and who have come to me asking for help. I have never criticized anyone for struggling to pay their bills and have used the experiences I have faced to solve problems. Much of the work I have done in tackling the issue of child poverty has been taken from my own recent experiences.
Some may argue that I should not be allowed to remain in office because I have not paid my council tax on time. Again, I hope that this is not the case. While it is true that I did not pay on time, I subsequently paid the full amount and, since then, have not missed a payment. I could have chosen not to come forward and hidden behind the data protection act, but failing to own up to my actions is not my style and I wanted to put the record straight. I have made a mistake and I am sorry for my actions.
Over the last two years I have done my best to serve my community. I thought hard about whether to resign. I wrote a resignation letter, but a friend ripped it up and said don’t be stupid, you work hard. I have also been told by other that I should stay and continue to work hard on behalf of local people. It is good to hear this, but I still made the mistake; which I have always regretted.
When I contacted the Packet on Monday they were shocked I had chosen to come forward saying no-one else had got in touch to admit even receiving a reminder letter. I could not of course ask them to kill the story, but rather to allow me to explain why I did not.
While I am not proud of my actions, Like many people my choices were the result of financial necessity and not because I wanted to avoid paying my council tax. Sometimes you have to deal with the issues you would rather not face.
I have no idea what the future faces me at Cornwall Council. The people I represent may well call for me to stand down. If they do, I will have to deal with that. I hope they accept my apology and allow me to continue to fight for them. After all isn’t it best to have someone who understands their issues and difficulties rather than someone who sits in an ivory tower?
I hope this statement allows you to have a better understanding why I did it.