Whitby harbour cash wrangle to delay Scarborough Council accounts for a fourth year

Whitby harbour.
Whitby harbour.

A legal challenge which has stopped Scarborough Council’s accounts being signed off looks set to enter its fourth year.

The authority’s 2017/18, 2016/17 and 2015/16 accounts have all been held up as the council is locked in a legal challenge with a group of residents over how it classifies income and expenditure from Whitby harbour.

Next week, the council will be told that it will have the same impact on its 2018/19 accounts.

The challenge has come from the Fight4Whitby pressure group which launched a legal challenge in 2016 citing the 1905 Whitby Urban District Council Act, which stated that income from Whitby harbour must be ring-fenced for use within the harbour.

The group has been crowdfunding its legal challenge.

Scarborough Council denies this is the case and says it has “robust” legal advice which backs its stance to include income from the harbour in its general fund.

On Thursday (25th), independent auditors Mazars will present its latest report to Scarborough Council’s Audit Committee. Earlier this year it had stated that a decision could be just weeks away.

Now, its report to councillors states that it will continue to work on the objection through August.

It adds: “In December 2017 we issued a provisional view which we shared both with the council and the objector. In response to further information provided by the objector we deemed further work to be necessary. We met with officers in June 2018 to discuss the potential impact of legislation and progress on identifying income and expenditure attributable to the Whitby Harbour.

“We have reviewed the council’s analysis of income and expenditure for 2015/16, reviewed documentation on Whitby harbour held in the national archive and we are now updating our provisional view.

“We will be in a position to make progress now the council has set out its plans for implementing a Harbour Revision Order that clearly sets out the boundary of the Whitby harbour and council land.

“At the time of writing we are still unable to conclude on the validity of the objection and as a consequence are unable to conclude on this matter.”

A decision had been expected earlier this year until the objector informed the auditor about new evidence that had been uncovered.