DARLINGTON Borough Council has defended a fresh refusal to name councillors in council tax arrears.

A recent Northern Echo investigation found a number of councillors across the North-East had been served with council tax demands totalling more than £11,000.

Since 2012, at least 38 councillors failed to pay their council tax bills in time – including four Labour councillors and one Conservative councillor from Darlington.

Those in more than two months of arrears became automatically banned from voting at meetings where financial matters relating to council tax were discussed.

Darlington Borough Council refused to name the councillors at the time of the investigation and has refused again following a Freedom of Information request from a member of the public.

The authority staged an internal review into a recent FoI request asking for the names of said councillors including those who lost their voting rights and those sent pre-summons to court letters.

The FoI was refused with a response from the authority saying disclosure would breach the Data Protection Act 1998 as the information is personal.

The review came after the authority was accused of not giving the request due consideration.

Referring to the naming of MPs caught up in the expenses scandal, the man behind the request said: “The elected councillors are public figures who are accountable to residents of Darlington for their conduct and integrity.”

Lee Downey, DBC’s complaints and information governance manager, upheld the refusal and said the council had considered the request fairly.

Referencing a similar tribunal involving another authority, he said that the refusal was reasonable and in accordance with the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.