A Blackpool councillor who was taken to court for not paying her council tax today said her money struggles are “no different to that of millions of UK citizens.”
Coun Kim Critchley, who was named in a Freedom of Information request, was barred from voting at a key budget meeting but now says she has paid back all her arrears.
She was one of nine councillors in the borough who received reminders to pay their council tax for the financial year 2015/16.
She was also one of three who were summonsed to court over non-payment.
Blackpool Council refused to name the other two as they paid before the cases went to court.
It also withheld the level of arrears which had been owed.
Today, Coun Critchley said: “I have been quite open about my financial circumstances, and discussed these with the leader of the council before accepting nomination as a candidate.
“I am a single parent who works part time in a sandwich shop.
“Aside from a small amount of child tax credit, I claim no benefits, and have always tried to pay my own way in life.
“Unfortunately, for a short period last year I fell behind with my council tax payments.
“As soon as it was brought to my attention, I entered into a repayment agreement with the council, and have now cleared my arrears in full.
“My situation is no different to that of millions of UK citizens, or to that of many of my constituents, who frequently find themselves struggling financially.”
Coun Critchley was elected as a councillor for Hawes Side in May 2015 alongside colleague Debbie Coleman when she got 1,204 votes to win her seat.
Blackpool Council leader Simon Blackburn has previously spoken out about council tax dodgers – but today backed his colleague.
He said: “Councillors are first and foremost human beings, who live and work in the communities that they serve.
“Kim is a very hard working public servant. She informed me that she was experiencing financial difficulties before she was adopted as a candidate for election - but I insisted that as long as she was committed to prioritising her council tax arrears, she should press on and seek election.
“She has paid every penny owing, is an excellent councillor, and her personal experience means that she understands the pressures which her constituents face on a daily basis.
“I’m proud to have her on our team.”
In January this year, he was quoted as saying: “The money from these bills helps to fund important services like repairing the roads we drive on, making sure that the bins are emptied on a regular basis and looking after vulnerable residents.
“Every penny that is outstanding could be spent on providing services to the people of Blackpool.”
Wyre Council was shown to have a clean bill of health having sent out no reminders, while Fylde sent out five reminders.