Council finances prompt criticism

A SERIES of concerns have been raised about the financial practices of a Scarborough parish council after an internal audit.

The audit, which was carried out in late January, pointed out that Newby and Scalby Parish Council had been in breach of regulations since April 2010, as an internal auditor had not been appointed.

An audit was carried out in January by Ron Carey as an “emergency measure”. Three-quarters of the 2010/11 financial year had passed without one being undertaken.

When the audit was carried out, it showed that duplicate claim forms had been submitted for parish council chairman Cllr Bill Miller, for petrol costs to and from a meeting in Thirsk.

One of the £60 claims was signed by Cllr Miller himself, while the other was signed by the clerk of the parish council at the time.

In a report on the audit, which was handed to parish councillors at a recent meeting, Jools Marley, acting clerk and responsible finance officer, said: “The internal auditor has raised valid queries regarding items of expenditure previously approved by the council.

“The problem of potential duplication has been shown up as a problem inasmuch as it appears that expenses claim forms have sometimes been completed by council staff at the request of members. This is a most unsatisfactory and undesirable practice.”

She also said that the problem was “due to a lack of attention to detail” and “this matter has now been addressed with the councillor concerned and an amended claim is contained within the schedule of accounts payable.”

The audit also uncovered the fact that Cllr Miller and Cllr Brian Watson had attended the same Yorkshire Local Councillors Association meeting, but entered different dates on their expense forms.

When the issue was raised at a meeting of Newby and Scalby Parish Council both councillors said the error had been a genuine mistake.

A separate claim form had not been dated at all by Cllr Watson. Mrs Marley pointed out that the problem could have been avoided had the responsible finance officer at the time “carried out the necessary checks prior to including the claim on the schedule of payments”.

A lack of information in minutes, in which those receiving awards were not named, was also discovered in the audit.

When approached by the Evening News, Cllr Miller said he did not wish to comment on our story about the auditor’s report.

However at last week’s parish council meeting he said: “We’ll take notice of what the auditor says and hopefully do our job better.”

A series of recommendations were approved at the meeting.

The council formally approved the appointment of Mr Carey as internal auditor for the 2011/12 financial year and it was decided that minutes should include sufficient details of any payees.

It was also made clear that expense claim sheets should always be signed by the councillor rather than the clerk or responsible financial officer. The responsible financial officer will also check all claim forms before submitting them for approval from now on.