SCANDAL-RIFE Argyll and Bute Council was yesterday engulfed in crisis after it was revealed that a serving councillor twice voted on setting council tax rates when he was himself in arrears of four figures on his own council tax payments.

The National has established that Councillor Robert Graham McIntyre, an Independent member for Lomond North, voted to set the council tax rate in 2013 and 2014 at a time when he owed £1,209 and £1,213 respectively.

Voting on council tax while in arrears is a criminal offence under Section 112 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992. The National can also reveal that Argyll councillors and officials tried to cover up the matter for more than two years, but their efforts were blown apart by the Scottish Information Commissioner, who ruled the offender’s name should be made available to the public if requested.

A freedom of information request by another Lomond North Independent, Councillor George Freeman, exposed both the cover-up and McIntyre’s illegal voting.

After Freeman himself was accused of not paying his council tax properly following a newspaper report that mentioned “five Argyll and Bute councillors in arrears”, he submitted a request for the names but was refused them.

He then submitted a freedom of information request that asked the council to provide him with details of any Argyll and Bute councillor who was in arrears with council tax payments on the dates the council set its budget from 2012 to 2016.

He added in his request: “The details should include the names of any individual councillors who were in arrears with council tax payments and the amount of the arrears for each individual councillor on the dates.”

The initial response was that on February 14 2013, when the council set its budget and council tax rate, “there was one councillor with council tax arrears of £1209.03.”

On February 13, 2014 “there was one councillor with council tax arrears of £1213.51.”

The council then twice refused to name the councillor in arrears, so Freeman took his case, by now approaching two years old, to the Scottish Information Commissioner.

Last week the Commissioner ruled against the council, and a further request for information from Independent Councillor Michael Breslin forced the council to write to him saying: “The Councillor was Robert G MacIntyre.”

The online minutes of council meetings show that McIntyre voted for the administration budget and council tax rate in 2013 and was part of the unanimous council approval of the budget and council tax rate in 2014.

Bizarrely, the councillor who exposed a possible criminal offence has been subjected to criticism for doing so by other councillors including the council leader, Dick Walsh, who wrote to Breslin calling his decision to name McIntyre an “unnecessary, callous and totally unacceptable action”.

Other councillors in the administration supported this view, but one non-administration councillor told The National: “Michael is coming under a lot of attacks again from the administration because has released the FOI information, the wagons are circling and deflection is the name of the game with attempts to shoot the messenger and deflect from the crime committed. “I really don’t believe the emails I am seeing just now … to close ranks and defend a man who has committed a criminal offence and covered it up and is still doing so.

“What a wonderful example of standards in public life – no wonder councillors are held in such contempt by the wider public.”

Breslin said: “I find it very odd that so many people would now want to support someone who had possibly committed a crime, and it makes me wonder if they have known about this for a long time and the comments now are part of cover-up.”

The National sent a list of questions to every senior official and every councillor in Argyll and Bute Council. They included: “Was Cllr McIntyre aware of the arrears before voting in 2013 and approving the council tax rate in 2014?

“Did any officer warn Cllr McIntyre beforehand that he was in arrears? At what point did the council become aware that Cllr McIntyre was in arrears at the time he voted, and did any officer of the council take the appropriate action?

“Has anyone at Argyll and Bute Council consulted or informed Police Scotland and/or the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service about an apparent breach of the law? If so, when? If not, why not?

“Has this matter been discussed formally or informally by the leadership of the council, both elected and serving officers?”

No reply had been received by the time The National went to press, and there was no reply to our call to McIntyre’s home number.