Burnham-On-Sea’s MP has hit back at a national Sunday newspaper which claimed she faces police action after falsely claiming a council tax discount while sharing her house with a BBC DJ.
The Mail On Sunday reported that Tessa Munt is locked in a row with Sedgemoor District Council after staff accused her of pretending to be a ‘single occupant’ even though BBC broadcaster Andy Kershaw and a GP were living there.
Council tax rates are based on at least two adults living in a property, therefore if a person says they live alone, the bill is reduced by a quarter.
The newspaper says that its investigation discovered that Mr Kershaw was registered to vote at her house near Highbridge at a time when he was “on the run from authorities” on the Isle of Man over a broken restraining order. Tessa also offered GP John Laband ‘a place to stay’ briefly when his wife was filing for divorce.
However, talking to Burnham-On-Sea.com on Sunday afternoon, Tessa said she has done nothing wrong.
She added: “Every autumn Sedgemoor District Council carries out a comparison of its council tax register and its electoral register – and that’s when my situation came to light. I fully support Sedgemoor doing this check and it’s right that they follow up any cases where the two don’t match up.”
The MP added: “It’s important to realise here that if someone visits your house they don’t live there. I have known Andy as a good friend for over 10 years and in the autumn of 2008 he visited me from the Isle Of Man, bringing his backpack and dog with him. He went off to visit friends in Liverpool and Derbyshire while I looked after his dog during that period.”
“Surely having someone else’s dog living with me does not mean I have to pay council tax for it too? I also had a doctor, John Laband, stay here briefly during his divorce, but I am alone in my house and do not have anyone else living with me.”
“The matter has been complicated by the fact that Andy Kershaw is registered to vote from my home because he lives in the Isle Of Man, which is not a UK address. Under electoral rules, anyone can live abroad and have a UK address to vote for 15 years.”
Tessa said that the newspaper’s claim that she is “furious” about the situation is untrue.
“I’m not furious because I haven’t done anything wrong, but I am unhappy that the Daily Mail has knocked on the doors of all my neighbours and contacted my family in its attempt to create a story.”
She added that she is unaware of any police action outstanding against her. “There is no police action pending or underway in any way and I have confirmed this with Avon and Somerset Constabulary,” she told Burnham-On-Sea.com.
She added that she has “fully co-operated” with the council and that they are “correctly doing their job to investigate the case.”
Council spokeswoman Claire Faun told Burnham-On-Sea.com on Sunday morning: “Due to our obligations under the Data Protection Act, we cannot say anything about individual cases.”