Warwickshire village council admits to illegal spending but no action taken
WELESBOURNE parish council has admitted to breaking the law by providing around £100,000 of funds towards a heritage project.
But no action is to be taken against the council - whose contribution towards the Chedham’s Yard restoration site was found to be unlawful.
Following a complaint made about the council’s accounts for the financial year in 2009, the Audit Commission investigated the council’s involvement with the project, which is now being run as a visitor attraction and education centre by the Chedham’s Yard Trust.
A report by Clement Keys chartered accountants, which was commissioned to look into the matter, has now been published and it states that the council spent £111,926 on the project between 2008 and 2010, of which £98,042 was “unlawful expenditure”.
The report goes on to state that after being advised that the expenditure had been illegal, the council set up the trust in October 2010 to enable grants received by the council for the site to be administered by the trust.
Simon Atkins, partner at Clement Atkins, said in the report: “Having considered the matter carefully, we have decided that we should exercise our discretion by not seeking a declaration from the court.
“The council has already implemented the necessary changes required to ensure it now complies with legislative requirements.
“The possibility of recovering any unlawful expenditure is remote due to the nature of the expenditure and the cost of such action would outweigh any potential benefits.”
The report stated that it has been recommended to the council that it should strengthen its governance arrangements and ensure it seeks professional advice when considering “exceptional” use of its funds.
A spokeswoman for the parish council said that the council had obtained legal advice which stated that it would be permitted to run a visitor attraction such as Chedham’s Yard, but as soon as it was contacted by the Audit Commission, it set up the charitable trust.
She said the council is making full use of the advice given by the commission on another ongoing project to redevelop an unused sports club.
Council chairman Cllr David Close said: “Despite the criticism, the council is delighted that the restoration of Chedham’s Yard is complete and that this important part of Wellesbourne’s history is now open to the public.”
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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