Lancashire Labour Group are calling for Cllr Alan Schofield, to resign as chair of the Audit, Risk and Governance Committee, following a clear failure of duty to ensure members of the committee kept within the bounds of legal advice from council officers concerning the “Health and Wellbeing Grant Scheme”.
The Audit, Risk and Governance Committee (29th October 2019), which reported to full council (13th December 2018), part of the recommendation to full council stated: “ii) Report this matter to Lancashire Constabulary for investigation to determine if there has been any fraud, misconduct in public office or a criminal breach of electoral law.”
This is despite the fact that the review of the Wellbeing Grant Scheme by “Veritau” stated: “The approval of the project was undertaken in accordance with the County Council’s decision making process and was lawful.”
Cllr Alan Schofield failed to ensure members of the committee kept with the legal limits despite advice from Lancashire County Council Officers stating: “The monitoring officer advised that the report states unambiguously that the decisions taken by the former cabinet members for Health and Wellbeing were lawful in terms of the purpose of the grant scheme and the county council constitution and that based on the contents of the report there has been no criminal conduct.”
The Conservative group were forced to change their recommendation at the full council meeting as the Police had considered the report, concluding: “From the information available to me at this time there is no evidence of Criminality.”
The recommendation was put forward by Cllr Phillippa Williams, the former Chief Executive of the Serious Fraud Office, who was the centre of a National Government damning report that stated. “Taxpayer funded Phillippa Williamson’s hotels and travel costs from 2008-12 so she could live 200 miles away in Cumbria. MPs on the spending watchdog the Public Accounts Committee also blasted the fraud office’s ex-director Richard Alderman for agreeing to boost chief executive Ms Williamson’s pension by £400,000 – without Government approval. The report said the way payments were agreed amounted to “a case study in how not to run a public body.”
Labour have now put forward a Motion to the next full council demanding Cllr Schofield resigns as chair of the Audit Committee due to a serious breach in his duty. They are also demanding that Cllr Williams apologises to the council for ignoring the advice.
Cllr John Fillis, Lancashire Labour Deputy Leader said “We are very concerned that the Conservative Administration is using council committees and public money to attack members of the opposition. This failure to ensure council members kept within the sound legal advice from Veritau, Council Officers and the Police is the latest in a series of actions where this council has gone outside of legal advice.”
“The cost of the report from this private company and the waste of council officer and police time has not yet been disclosed despite constant requests for information. The Conservative are using council tax payers’ money as their own slush fund.”
“We have also sent a report to James Brokenshire MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government and all Lancashire MPs regarding the Actions of this Conservative Administration and asking them to take the necessary steps to prevent public money being wasted and used as a Conservative political slush fund. Undermining the open and honest process within council.”