Note: Since this article was published, further facts have come to light over a court summons for non-payment in 2017/18 and Cllr Goddard’s comments to the press. Click here for our latest article and here for our dossier on the issue.
Private Eye has revealed that Tory Councillor and Uttlesford cabinet deputy for sport Thom Goddard was taken to court by the council for a second year running for non-payment of council tax in 2016/17.
Following a successful motion by Tory council leader Howard Rolfe to remove Cllr Tina Knight as chair of the Standards Committee over her controversial remarks on the Presidents Club dinner, Saffron Walden Labour Party has called on action against Cllr Goddard.
In 2016, Cllr Thom Goddard (Stansted South & Birchanger) was told to pay £2,548, including costs, when Uttlesford took him to court for non-payment of council tax after he ignored a reminder from UDC. The matter came to light after Private Eye staged an investigation into councillors convicted of council tax non-payment, using Freedom of Information requests to councils throughout the country. Uttlesford Tories appear to have taken no action in response, beyond preventing him from voting on the 2016 council budget. He apologised for a “genuine error.”
On 28 February 2018, he told the Walden Local the error was caused by “a simple mistake while moving bank accounts [which] has not hindered my work for the Council.”
Last month Private Eye‘s latest investigation stated that Cllr Goddard was summonsed again for non-payment of council tax in 2016/17, this time owing £2,637. [Update: On 8 March 2018, the Saffron Walden Reporter reported Cllr Goddard’s claim that he had not received the 2016/17 reminders as his post had been mislaid due to a postcode mix-up. His subsequent moving of bank accounts affected his direct debit, which led to a further “legal notice” in 2017/18. He denies being taken to court, being fined or being barred from voting on the budget.]
Cllr Goddard is deputy cabinet member with responsibility for sport and vice-chair of the licensing and environmental health committee. Despite being a portfolio holder, Cllr Goddard’s attendance record is one of the worst at UDC. Since he was elected in May 2015, he has attended well under half of the meetings he was expected to attend. Between May 2017 and January 2018, he attended just two meetings at UDC out of the nine he was expected to attend.
Council tax non-payment saw 4,800 people in England and Wales summonsed to court with at least 62 jailed in 2016/17. In many cases, legal action by councils has seen people shamed in the local media.
Saffron Walden Labour Party believes it is hypocritical for Cllr Goddard to maintain his portfolio and committee positions. This is a fundamental issue of standards and values and if he does not face the same measures as Cllr Knight, Tory double-standards will erode public confidence in the council.