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Serious Financial Mismanagement

Berwick Town Council


23/11/15

Berwick Town Council Audit reveals serious financial mismanagement

An independent audit, commissioned by Berwick Town Council, has revealed serious financial mismanagement in the authority. It also describes the Council's system of internal control as "not fit for purpose" and found weaknesses in all areas reviewed, exposing the Council to "significant risk".

The Audit report, produced by Stephen Warren, was instigated by the Council in order to restore public confidence and move on from the problems which have engulfed the Council since September 2013, when it controversially agreed to take over the management of the Berwick Portas Pilot, from the original Town Team, in a closed session of its Finance Committee.

Councillor Georgina Hill, who was heavily critical of the decision, then began a crusade for greater openness and transparency and became an increasingly vocal critic of how the Council was being run and decisions made.

The, well-documented, turmoil led to the resignation, earlier this year of the former Town Clerk, Sue Finch and a number of Councillors including Gavin Jones, John Robertson and Isabel Hunter.  

Cllr Georgina Hill was also critical of the decision made by the, now defunct, staffing sub-committee to not publicise the report produced by Norman Dunn in January 2014, which found that the takeover of management of the Portas pilot "had been mismanaged by the Clerk (Sue Finch), and others, who appeared to be following an agenda of their own not backed up by Council policies and procedures".  Mr Dunn also concluded that this mismanagement had brought the Council in to disrepute.  Another report, which found numerous problems with the Council's policies and procedures, was also covered up.

In this recent report Mr Warren found "very significant weaknesses" in the arrangements for the Portas Management Group, put in place by the Council, and that there is now a risk of decisions on authorisation of expenditure of the Portas funds being open to legal challenge.

The much criticised management of the Portas Pilot had even resulted in a police inquiry, after a complaint from a member of the public, but it is understood that no evidence of actual fraud has been identified..


 
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