Almost �100,000 lost by parish council’s community team

A PARISH council that lost almost �100,00 by running a community development team has admitted there was “insufficient oversight, monitoring and engagement” in its financial processes.

Sutton Parish Council has issued a report into its finances, after two residents - one a former councillor - put in objections to the council’s accounts from 2010/11.

The council – which was at the centre of a storm last year when residents objected to an increased precept of 27 per cent, and had to suspend its business when not enough councillors came forward at the May elections – made all six of its community development staff redundant last year.

The CDT ran youth groups and activities, helped other community groups, and set up a community cafe.

The report into the objections says the council “did not initially introduce adequate controls to track and monitor income and expenditure in relation to the CDT service, and was therefore initially unaware of the extent of losses incurred.”

It also concludes that the council failed to rigorously apply financial regulations, and failed to adequately record all discussions and decisions made in relation to the CDT service, particularly at meetings where the public were excluded.

The council decided to set up the CDT in December 2008, taking over youth services from the county council, and it lost �98,612 over three financial years. A decision to make one member of staff redundant was made back in August 2010, but that decision was later rescinded.

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It was not until March 2011 that the council decided that all six jobs would be made redundant after a consultation period, nine months after the clerk raised concerns about losses being incurred.

The working party report also concludes that the council’s balance in its general fund of �384 in March 2011 was “inadequate.”

It adds: The very low level of reserves, combined with the continuing loss from the community development team service in the first half of the financial year 2011/12 has left the council’s finances in a very difficult situation and at risk of running into a deficit before the end of the current financial year.

The report says the new council formed in August of last year has “already taken a number of important steps to improve financial management and control,” and it has “taken a number of effective steps to more rigorously comply with the council’s financial regulations.”

The report has been forwarded to the council’s external auditors; and the council is awaiting their conclusions.