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Ilkley Parish Council community grants audited
External auditors have highlighted shortcomings in Ilkley Parish Council community awards and projects’ cash handouts following a claim that several payments were “unlawful”.
Law firm Mazars LLP, appointed external auditors by the Audit Commission to audit the accounts of Ilkley Parish Council, says it does not need to take further action and says a failure to comply with the Council’s own grants criteria does not in itself make a payment unlawful.
But the auditors said the Council did not appear to have met its own grants criteria in two cases, and questioned procedure followed in some of the grants decisions.
The scrutiny follows a formal objection to the council’s accounts made by Ilkley Stroke Club organiser, Joan Lawrence.
Mrs Lawrence began to question the council’s accounts after she was told in 2011 the club would not be able to apply for a grant towards running costs.
She formally objected about the parish council’s accounts after the council gave a £1,000 sum to Wharfedale Festival of Performing Arts (WFPA) in September 2011 towards the costs of running the week-long festival.
Mrs Lawrence claimed several payments given to Ilkley Soroptomists, WFPA, and Ilkley Rugby Club were “unlawful”. And she raised general concerns about perceived weaknesses in the council’s governance and accountability arrangements over the award of grants.
Mazars concluded a £1,000 payment to WFPA did not appear to be consistent with the council’s awards criteria.
It also said a £500 grant made to Ilkley Soroptimists in 2011 for a public tennis rebound wall at Ilkley Pool and Lido did not meet the parish council’s awards criteria, as it agreed the group’s website said it was an organisation for professional women.
The council’s criteria says an application must not discriminate on grounds of sex.
Ilkley Parish Council chairman, Councillor Heathcliffe Bowen, said the parish council would make a statement on the matter at its next full meeting.
He revealed the council faced a “large” bill from the audit process involved in the complaint procedure.
It has also been revealed the involvement of the council’s vice-chairman, Councillor Mike Gibbons, in making decisions over parish council funding for the WFPA, was scrutinised by Bradford Council’s Standards Committee last year.
The committee concluded that Coun Gibbons proposing motions and speaking and voting on them represented both a personal and prejudicial interest - but the matter was dealt with by Bradford’s Monitoring Officer, and the external auditors did not propose to comment any further on the issue.
The funding resolutions were agreed by all members present at the relevant meetings.
Coun Gibbons is a member of WFPA and the Parish Council’s representative on the body.
He told the Gazette yesterday: “I’ve nothing to reproach myself for and believe absolutely acted in the best interests of the people of Ilkley and the good organisations we try to support.”
Mazars concluded that overall the actions taken by the Council were “reasonable”. It said Mrs Lawrence had a right to appeal to the courts.