Despite taking responsibility for setting council tax rates for residents, one in seven councillors on Cornwall Council have failed to pay their own bills on time.

A Freedom of Information request submitted by the Packet has revealed that in the past two years 17 councillors out of 123 on the authority had to be sent reminder letters after failing to cough up a grand total of £5,388.80.

Second reminder letters were also sent to 14 members for a total of £4,070.74 – and court action had to be taken to recover outstanding payments from at least one member.

Each reminder letter and subsequent court action costs the taxpayer further money from the council’s already stretched budget.

The authority has refused to divulge any further information, saying it would breach the data protection act.

The Packet has appealed against this decision and is awaiting a response.

Falmouth MP Sarah Newton said it was the duty of anyone in public office to pay their tax on time.

She said: “If you hold public office, it is your duty to act in a manner beyond reproach – you have a responsibility to set an example to others.”

Helston MP Andrew George added: “While I can understand a situation where you can overlook a utility bill by accident, surely if you are a councillor your council tax bill must be a priority to be paid on time.”

Robert Oxley, campaign manager at the Taxpayers’ Alliance pressure group, said: “The councillors involved in this scandal should be ashamed that they have allowed this to happen.

“It’s outrageous that councillors who claim taxpayers’ money in allowances are failing to pay their own council tax bill."

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