A LEADING local councillor’s “tragic” family circumstances led to him falling into arrears on his council tax payments, the Advertiser can reveal.

Robert G. MacIntyre, who represents the Lomond North ward, was named in a national newspaper report on Wednesday as having taken part in two key meetings at which council tax rates were set while he himself owed the authority money.

Cllr MacIntyre, the vice-chairman of Argyll and Bute Council’s Helensburgh and Lomond area committee, took part in budget and council tax meetings in 2013 and 2014 – despite having council tax arrears of more than £1,200 on each occasion.

Under the Local Government Finance Act 1992, it is a criminal offence for any councillor to vote on council tax levels while he or she is themselves in arrears.

But at the time of his council tax difficulties, Cllr MacIntyre, who lives in Rosneath, was dealing with the aftermath of his daughter’s death and his wife’s severe health difficulties.

Depute council leader and Helensburgh councillor Ellen Morton told the Advertiser: “Robert is one of the hardest-working councillors and one of the nicest and most honest people I know.

“He wouldn’t want to be seen to be begging for forgiveness to the public, but at the time of these events, I know his personal circumstances could only be described as tragic.

“His daughter committed suicide, and his wife – who has suffered from diabetes for more than 60 years – had to have both her legs amputated because of complications with her illness.

“Robert’s wife then suffered a stroke. He became, and remains, her carer.

“I know any reasonable human being would understand that living through all of that might make someone consider paying their council tax to be less of a priority than their personal lives.”

According to details released by the council under freedom of information rules, when Cllr MacIntyre voted in favour of the budget and council tax plans put forward by the council’s ruling administration in February 2013, he had council tax arrears of £1,209.03.

The following year, Cllr MacIntyre was again present at the council’s budget meeting, when the administration’s spending plans were unanimously approved.

On the date of the 2014 meeting, he had council tax arrears of £1,213.51.

The Advertiser was made aware of the story on Tuesday evening and contacted Cllr MacIntyre first thing the next morning, when he said he was on his way to the council’s HQ in Lochgilphead to seek advice from senior officers.

After taking that advice, Councillor MacIntyre said he would not allow the issue to derail his plan to stand again at the next council election in May.

He told the Advertiser: “I’m going to be honest with people and try to tell them what the circumstances were at the time. I hope people will understand that.

“It may have been my fault, but I wasn’t advised at the time that voting on council tax while I was in arrears was an offence.

“My first priority is working for Argyll and Bute Council and for the people that I represent.

“There are important decisions to be made this week that will affect people’s lives, and my focus is on making the right decisions for the people of Argyll and Bute and the residents of Rosneath and the rest of Lomond North.”

The release of the information came as the council prepared to set its spending plans and council tax rate for 2017-18 at a meeting in Lochgilphead on Thursday.

According to the details provided by the council, no elected member was in arrears on the dates of the authority’s 2015 and 2016 budget meetings.

None were barred from making those key decisions at Thursday's meeting.

Cllr MacIntyre, who was first elected to represent Lomond North at the last council election in 2012, currently serves as the authority’s depute policy lead for roads, infrastructure, amenity services and special projects.

In addition to his area committee role, he is also vice-chair of the authority’s environment, development and infrastructure committee and of the Argyll and Bute Harbour Board.

He represents Argyll and Bute Council on several outside bodies, including the Clyde Ferry User Group, the Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership, the Strathclyde Partnership for Transport, the Strathclyde Passenger Transport Authority, the West of Scotland Road Safety Forum and the Argyll and Bute Agriculture Forum.

A council spokesperson said: “It wouldn’t be appropriate to discuss in public an individual’s personal situation. 

“All councillors are eligible to take part in this year's budget meeting.”