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Harrow Borough Council: 'Councillors are innocent until proven guilty'
"By law all councillors are entitled to their basic allowance," said Harrow Borough Council's Labour group after two councillors continued claiming while criminal proceedings against them were active.
A spokesman said the fundamental principle in English Law is that people are innocent until proven guilty.
Councillor Brian Gate, former portfolio holder for children, schools and families, continued to receive £680-a-month from taxpayers despite being arrested in September last year for possession of indecent images of children.
The former cabinet member only stopped claiming the basic members’ allowance when he resigned last month, having racked up more than £2,700 since his arrest.
Independent councillor David Gawn, who pleaded guilty to fraud offences in December, also continued to claim his allowance despite a court-imposed curfew preventing him from attending council meetings for six weeks.
The politician was able to claim the cash throughout the legal proceedings against him, which dragged out over 12 months from January last year.
The Harrow on the Hill representative, who remains a member of Harrow Borough Council despite being thrown out of the Labour group over the charges, pleaded guilty in December and was sentenced to ten weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months.
The news has angered opposition councillors who say the situation is unfair on taxpayers.
Councillor Susan Hall, leader of the Harrow Conservative group, said: “I am stunned that David Gawn has not had the decency to resign.
“Their criminality is bad enough but for somebody to continue to claim taxpayers’ money is totally unacceptable.”
Cllr Hall also questioned why the Labour group had continued to receive allowances for the two councillors to support its office.
She added: "The Labour group also has serious questions to answer. If Cllr Gawn was apparently suspended from the group by the Labour Party nationally and Cllr Gate was ‘administratively suspended’, according to the previous leader, why did Labour continue to receive their allowance payments into their group budget?”
A Labour group spokesman said: “By law councillors are entitled to their basic allowance for as long as they remain an elected member.
“Although a councillor is administratively suspended, it is a neutral act not implying guilt or innocence.
“Allowances continue to be paid until investigations are finalised.
“Brian Gate was paid his basic allowance until he resigned as a councillor on January 9 – two days after he received a police caution.
“Cllr Gawn remains a ward councillor and is entitled to his basic allowance.
“By law Cllr Gawn may continue in his role despite his suspended sentence.
“Neither Brian Gate or Cllr Gawn are a member of the Labour Party or Harrow Labour group.
“In a previous administration, a Conservative councillor was suspended from Harrow Conservative group for a sexual offence.
“He continued to receive his allowance as provided by law since he remained a councillor.
“He voted with Conservative group when he attended council meetings.
“Harrow allocates £3,581 per year to each councillor to support their constituency and council work which funds general office support.
“The allocation of this funding is only changed when group membership changes.”
The Labour group budget has since been reduced following Brian Gate’s resignation and Cllr Gawn becoming an independent councillor.