Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Fraud Inquiry at West Lindsey District Council

Investigators are probing West Lindsey's planning department over suggestions of potential fraud and mismanagement.

In a statement, the council said that potential problems in the management of the planning service had been brought to its attention and an internal investigation was being carried out. A spokesman for the council said:
"We are working with the Audit Commission and further investigations are being carried out."
It is understood that the issue was considered and discussed by district councillors in private session at Monday's meeting of the full council, but not until one key member shed more light and possibly increased the heat in public session.

The council has confirmed that a manager in planning services had been suspended. Which has been described as a neutral act to allow a proper investigation to take place.

Simultaneously the council is looking at a review of its senior management structure, which current leader Bernard Theobald said is:
"an exercise in cutting the council's coat according to the cloth.

"This is simply a review of structure and it may be that we need to make no changes or only small tweaks."
But former leader of the Liberal Democrat group, Cllr. Reg Shore, was more suspicious of the motivations and linked the review to the current crisis.
"I believe there are other things going on that are not apparent at this time."

"This council is going through a crisis with serious charges of potential fraud and mismanagement brought to our door."
Cllr. Shore also cryptically referred to
"other issues that may involve major standards breaches"
which he implied directly focussed on council members that could involve the police.
"I am not allowed to go into detail. That's for others as they go about their investigations and we await their outcomes,"
said Cllr. Shore who saw Cllr. Theobald's move as
"ultimately destroying the council rather than strengthening it."
Cllr. Theobald was
"extremely concerned and disturbed"
by Cllr. Shore's assertions as he did not believe there was any evidence of impropriety by members and challenged Chief Executive Duncan Sharkey if he was aware of any acts by members that could be construed as such.

Mr. Sharkey said he had
"concerns about potential breaches in standards, but they are only concerns, not evidence."

Watch the Council Meeting here.