Transparency Begins With Oneself

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.

35 comments

  • Anonymous

    Fair play Andy. Many people have found themselves in the same position. Credit to you for holding up your hands. Will anyone else

  • david craig

    very concerned about your latest post – "criticized" is spellt with an "s" – tut *

  • EmHarrison

    Well done, Andy, firstly for having the balls to come clean and be prepared to face whatever consequences may come as a result, and secondly for an outstanding blog post. Sometimes people forget that Cornwall Councillors are, indeed, human, and face the same daily struggles as we do, and your passion for wanting to make your local area a better place to live in is what truly matters, not whether you've paid your council tax on time!

  • Anonymous

    Andrew, you're one of the best Cllrs up there. A strong voice in the Chamber and a hard worker in Porthleven. Work though this.

    Rob Nolan

  • Gill Martin

    The public should realise that being a councillor does not make one exempt from life's circumstances. I believe that honesty is the most important aspect of any role in life. I commend you for that. You have acheived so much within the roles of Town Councillor and Cornwall Councillor with a lot of hard work, and if the public cannot put aside this controversial error, then they are a little insular thinking. Lets face it, in reality, how many people are guilty of job related errors and if the public were aware of them, the critics would have a field day. I really hope this controversy is soon forgotton. You are an excellent councillor and it is good to have representation from someone who is not on the higher income scale.

  • Rob's blog

    Just a quick message to say I sympathise with you Andrew and agree with other posters (and not just on the spelling of criticized ( ;). You're a good councillor and you do a good job, the fact that you paid your bill late I think is inconsequential to that. We've all paid bills late and I don't see why there's all the fuss…

  • Anonymous

    Why should the public trust someone to make decisions on financial matters at county level,when they cant even run their own finances,Council work isnt full time-Get a Job-that you state you need the extra income from being Chair of Parking means you are compromised,what happens if that post is taken away from you,will you fail to pay your taxes again?,how much has it cost the people of Cornwall to take you to court,have you made a donation to cover officer time wasted etc…
    Yet another example of the poor standard of cllr we have in Cornwall, even at the Top of the two parties its a choice between a Bartender and a Bartender,very low quality…

  • Jules

    Andy, you're widely regarded as a hard working councillor who really makes an effort to serve your community. I'm sure your constituents will recognise that. The Council, as we both know, can be a different beast; I hope any response will be balanced and fair. Well done for putting your hands up; the FOI reply makes clear you're not alone.

  • mellenoweth

    Bravely done. Sounds like you were in a very hard place.
    I appreciate your characteristic honesty but dislike this mania for holding Councillors to a level of disclosure the rest of us don't have to make. Surely intrusion into difficult times will discourage good people from standing. It's in the part & was dealt with appropriately so why drag it up again?
    Wish I was in your constituency so could vote for you, and hope your constituents can see past to all the good hard work you do and the amazing work you and the Twittering Councillors have done to open up Cornwall Council & help Cornish voters be informed. You'd be a great loss.
    On a lighter note – think serving on Parking Panel should count as penance enough! An impossible job you've worked hard on to do the best for Cornwall.

  • Anonymous

    Well, I unlike all these people saying how wonderfull Cllr Wallis is actually live in Porthleven and I voted for him last time but never again,clearly you cant be trusted and you have brought shame on the village,you should resign,let someone who knows how to behave ,stand for the post.
    You only admitted this because you knew you were going to be outed, that says all I need to know about you,doubtless some more of your mates from the council and outside will be on here saying how wonderfull you are but they cant vote for you…You clearly by not getting a job want the people of Cornwall to subsidise you, how many trips to Truro do you make just to claim mileage,?ridiculous and an affront to all those hard working people who struggle but pay bills on time,you should resign at once…

  • Anonymous

    Hello Andrew,
    Heard you on the radio this morning &, as a Porthleven voter, I thought you presented well. To me – in your Chair role, you came across as knowledgeable, articulate & competent. Then re- the Council Tax issue, you appeared to have been set-up by an opportunist radio station, and again you gave an adequate & honest answer, which I think worked well.  It gave the station little to work against you with, when immediately after they included it on the hourly news.

  • Jules

    I notice that people wishing to snipe at Cllr Wallis prefer to do so under the cloak of anonymity. If Andy is prepared to be open and up front, why not you?

  • Clive Price-Jones

    Andrew, you are one of the few politicians I respect and you are very honest. It took guts to say what you did and, if anything, my respect for you has increased

  • Anonymous

    Oh dear as expected The Cllrs long time followers all say what a wonderfull chap he is and anyone not agreeing is "sniping"
    Clearly its a slap in the face to people who struggle but pay bills on time,cllr Wallis put himself up to be a Cllr ,he knew how much the allowance was,hes failed to get another job ,how many cllrs rely on allowances for 100% of their income?
    All your pals,saying how brave,honest,"it took guts" blah,blah ,blah,did cllr wallis admit this of his own free will?did he think after hed been taken to court"That was bad ,I must admit what happened" No he didnt,hes only doing it now because of a newspaper campaign,so its not exactly "very honest","open and up front" is it,he kept quiet while he thought he could get away with it.
    All your pals talking about how honest you are need to think again,

  • Graham Walker

    Hi Andy
    It has largely been said but….anyone who knows you will confirm that you are honest and without doubt one of the most hard-working members of Cornwall Council. You are also one of the few from the ruling Tory/Independent coalition who will openly criticise the leadership when it is necessary.
    I cannot imagine that anyone in your situation would have behaved differently. I almost certainly would have done the same thing.
    You have done the right thing by explaining why you paid late. Now continue to do the right thing by continuing to represent the people of Porthleven to the best of your ability.
    Finally, I refuse to read the comments of those who are not prepared to put their name to what they write.
    Cllr Graham Walker, St Austell

  • Cllr Andrew Wallis

    Dear Anon,

    You have every right to say I did wrong. I have already admitted that. I would happily talk to you in person.

    I have never claimed to be perfect, nor have I ever stood for election on a holy-than-thou ticket. I did not have to come forward, but felt it was the right thing to do.

    I paid the full amount off before the end of the year, so it was not like I did not pay.

    Many people make mistakes. I admitted mine. It is a shame you feel you cannot vote for me again because since I made the mistake two years ago I have only worked hard for my area. This though is your right, it is just a shame you feel this way.

  • Gill Martin

    It should be remembered that had Andrew not been honest he would still be unidentified, covered by the data protection act. No matter what anyone says, at the end of the day no matter what newspaper campaign, it would never have been proved who was guilty unless they admitted it. I also think that if one posts anonymously just to make derogatory comments they are a complete coward. I am completely against remaining anonymous unless it is for charitible reasons. As for anon stating Andrew has brought shame on the village that is complete tosh, and a typical comment from a small minded insular thinking person.

  • Gill Martin

    Re anon, if someone struggles to pay their bills on time then hard as it may be, they obviously are not struggling as much as someone who cannot pay their bills on time. It is easy to sit back and be judgemental. On your theory then, you may as well just write everyone off completely that has ever been to prison.(No I have never broken the law) I think it is wrong to judge people on their past.

  • Anonymous

    You only posted because you were caught……

  • Cllr Andrew Wallis

    Anon,

    I was not caught as you put it. It is highly likely that under the data protection act this information would never have come out.

    I decided to make it public on my own free will. I could have remained anon, but unlike you, I thought it was best to be public about it.

    Feel free to call me to chat further and discuss.

  • Jen Pearce

    Try not to worry about it, hopefully it will blow over, MP Andrew George's controversy did. (My mother could enter the Guinness book of records for controversy, as a London Borough Council as well as many other people could testify to) As for 'anons' i wonder what awe inspiring contributions they have made to the local community, i wish i knew how to be so perfect then i could call myself anonymous.

  • Janemac

    Let he/she that is without sin cast the first stone. how many of us put in a similar situation of feeding our families etc would not make a similar decision. I too had to pay late on some important bills, does that mean i should not be allowed a position in politics should i want one? I personally would trust a person who has owned up to his/her mistakes over one that has allowed a law to protect their identity. Learning from mistakes is how we prevent them from recurring.
    To those that say he shouldnt stand again…will you stand against him?
    Carry on your good works Andy – honoured to know and acknowledge you

  • Anonymous

    Andy, I’m sure the vast majority of people in your ward and beyond are grateful for your sincerity and honesty, and so am I.  At the end of the day, we are all human! There is no excuse for not paying Council Tax, but when there are genuine reasons for late or non-payment, the individual has deal with it as and when it arises.  I’m sure this ‘story’ will fizzle down soon, and you can go back to concentrating on the things that really matter.
     
    Wendy Radford-Gaby

  • Amanda

    This amazes me. So many small minded people. Would it bother you if Cllr Wallis taught maths and was still unable to pay his bills on time. What if he was previously declared bankrupt…through no fault of his own but jobs don't last forever…bills pile up…kids have to be fed. Do you think that would change the way he fights for our area? Of course it doesn't. He was late paying his council tax, I have had late reminders, I'm sure majority of people forget a bill from time to time. Cllr Wallis held his hands up, showed that he is normal, just like the rest of us. He is only human! If you want to post then don't hide behind the anon button…or do you have something to hide?
    Amanda.

  • www.venetianmasquerademasks.co.uk

    To struggle and make mistakes is human and to admit to them is brave.
    Most of the most successful business men in the world have struggled, many have been bankrupt but we don't judge them on their failures, we applaud their success, their ability to stand up carry on and succeed. If you have never been late with your council tax then lucky you, you are obviously in a much better place than most of us mere mortals.
    On a final note,all the anonymous posts, have the courage of your convictions, get some guts about you and don't hide behind anonymity!

  • Andy Marchant

    Andrew – carry on doing what you have been excellent at Cllr Wallis. Ignore the narrow minded anonymous comments of the minority on here. I am sure the majority of people will back you. Chin up!

  • Richard Rayment

    I've known you for a while now, and more recently worked 'along side' you (although not professionally 😉 ) . As someone who has made many of his own mistakes in both personal and professional life that could possibly be reflected on 'badly'; I have no qualms in stating I think you do a very good job – I think you are an incredibly friendly and approachable councilor (unlike many others!) and I would fully support you now and in the future, regardless of this minor slip up in you're history. Well done on being transparent, it is good that you can be so frank and honest – but you're supposed 'crime' is nothing for me to judge you on. I probably would have done the same in you're situation, you would have been damned if you did and damned if you didnt! Just Keep up the good work!

    R

  • Aaron James

    Andrew- in a world where elected body integrity and honesty becomes rarer, your approach to this is appreciated. Likewise to Ann Kerridge- who also came forward. Both of you strike me as councillors with honesty and integrity and I hope the majority of Cornwall see this come election time. Someone needs to keep the ruling toerags in check from time to time and you do this well.

    My father has faced the same- and to be honest enforcement needs to draw the line from struggling to evasion. Come down hard on tax evaders, but those genuinely struggling should be helped. And realism on council tax too- we in Bodmin pay one of the highest rate in town but the majority of our town councillors border on the egotistical and incompetent. The local area has little interest in their activities as a result- a few local councillors (Phil Kerridge and Nick Walter to name two) do do a good job.

    Keep up the good work. At least you were honest about it.

  • Anonymous

    Very concerned about your well-being.

    Sending you a quid

  • Anonymous

    How mant posts that dont say how wonderfull you are have been censored,honest and transparent were not words being used when this came up in the pub last night,your pals may support you,but the public doesnt.

  • Cllr Andrew Wallis

    Last Anon,

    Not a single post has been censored.

  • Cllr Andrew Wallis

    I am now drawing a line under this post. Still receiving comments majority of them good with a few negative ones who are all anon.

    Happy to talk in person though.

  • Anonymous

    You are only human Andy, and financial difficulties cause a huge amount of stress. When funds are limited we can do nothing but prioritise and the essentials are a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. No-one gets things right all of the time, usually for good reasons, and it is important to be accepting and understanding of this.

  • defiant9174

    Hi, I feel proud that a Cornish councillor has the strength to stand up and say "I made a mistake". Many others would of just stayed hidden behind the data protection act.
    I personally (even though I live in St just (Penwith)) feel that you are an excellent councillor, you always seem willing to say, call me or meet over a coffee and we will discuss your views, at the end of the day thus helps to show that your human, struggle like the rest of us & still do a low paid public sector job.
    I sincerely hope you do not resign, you are a credit to your constituency and Cornwall as a whole.
    Stuart olds

  • Anonymous

    Honesty is not always the best policy in your line of work but fair play to you for admitting ones mistake. Shame that you do not support the call for the Cornish to be Recognised as a National Minority.. Then again the Cornish people have been so ruthlessly assimilated into England that it's not surprising to me that you oppose it!

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