More Financial Irregularities at the Council

It took two hours and four minutes before Cllr Lesley Whybrow  (Green) Cabinet Member for the Environment pointed out that the s151 Officer,  – Charlotte Spendley – the officer responsible for the money at Folkestone & Hythe District Council, had allowed money to be spent before full council had agreed to it being spent. The money was spent unlawfully.

It is not a “pedantic” thing as Cllr Whybrow described it, it goes to the very heart of what The Shepway Vox Team have been saying since May of this year, that being: financial and contract procedures are not being lawfully followed, as set out in the constitution; which is the legal framework for the Council.

The very fact the s151 Officer – Charlotte Spendley “apologised profusely” and said it “was an oversight on her part” is irrelevant. Processes and procedures are there for a reason and they are there to be followed.

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But it is not just the s151 Officer who failed to prevent this unlawful expenditure. The Monitoring Officer – Amandeep Khroud who should be monitoring expenditure, allowed an unlawful financial transaction to happen, she too must take some of the responsibility for allowing the unlawful financial transaction to happen.

One has to ask why the s151 Officer and the Monitoring Officer haven’t been suspended pending an investigation into both of them allowing this unlawful expenditure. Is it one rule for them and another for all other members of staff? From the facts available it would appear so.

So how much are we talking about? According to Report Number A/22/17 the sum spent before being agreed was £164,000 – not including s106 money. This was money spent on play areas. The money came from the Contain Outbreak Management Fund (COMF); which was in the main dispersed to Council’s in Kent, by Kent County Council and ultimately came from Central Government.

In Report Number C/21/63 which went before Cabinet on 17 January 2022, it made it clear the Council had received two tranches of COMF money amounting to £624,820. They had received this prior to Jan 2022 and it needed to be spent before 31 March 2022. The Cabinet member responsible for this money was Cllr Jenny Hollingsbee (Con) (pictured)

In the January report there is no mention that any of the money would be spent on Play Areas.

Now if the Council wish to spend money before they gain approval, they have the power to do so under Urgency Powers, as set out in their constitution. So given the Council had been given the money prior to Jan 2022, the decision to spend £164,000 on play areas could have been dealt with prior to Jan 2022, or in Jan 2022. Alas this did not happen, and they spent the money, then asked for permission to spend the spent money, even though there are powers within the constitution which would have allowed them to spend the money.

Now given Mr. Paul Dossett (pictured), who is the external Auditor for Grant Thornton and audits the Council’s accounts stated in an article recently

Was the failure to obtain permission from the elected members to spend £164,000 an “oversight“, given monies has been spent improperly time and again?

Mr Dossett goes onto say in the article that:

  • controls to ensure public monies are spent carefully were not exercised.

The COMF money for play areas was not spent carefully. The s151 Officer did not exercise proper control over the money, allowing it to be spent before permission was given for it to be spent.

He also states in his article there have been

We, The Shepway Vox Team, have consistently written about failures in procurement, contract management and in one of the Council’s companies. Surely the s151 Officer, Charlotte Spendley cannot claim these were oversights as well, can she?

We, like Mr Dossett, the external auditor believe that local government needs a governance reset to restore confidence and integrity in our politicians and public servants… A culture of transparency needs to be prioritised, where staff are actively encouraged to flag concerns … All councils should strive for an open culture that encourages challenge and criticism. This needs to start with the political leadership and embed itself throughout the organisation.

The £164,000 of COMF money, is public money. It is not pedantic of Cllr Lesley Whybrow (Green) to point out that the process and procedure in spending that money has been done so unlawfully. It is essential that all officers regardless of their status, and all elected members are as keen eyed as Cllr Whybrow, because if they are not, they could end up being suspended and possibly dismissed for breaching the contract standing orders and the financial procedures rules set out in the legal framework of the council known as The Constitution.

The Shepway Vox Team

The Velvet Voices of Voxatiousness

About shepwayvox (1611 Articles)
Our sole motive is to inform the residents of Shepway - and beyond -as to that which is done in their name. email: shepwayvox@riseup.net

3 Comments on More Financial Irregularities at the Council

  1. Council Employee // October 1, 2022 at 16:12 // Reply

    If we on the lower rungs did this we’d be suspended and then dismissed. One rule for them, another for us. Keep up the good work.

  2. Utter Hypocrisy. The four officers who breached Contract Standing Orders and Financial Procedure Rules, all leave the building, while Spendley who is utterly incompetent, gets to hold onto her £100,000 plus salary. Having worked with her in a previous life in local government, she is NOT the brightest cookie in the jar. There were rumours, and I stress rumours, she was aware of financial irregularities at East Kent Housing and did nothing

  3. St Mary in the Marsh Parish Council should be congratulated on not bowing down and taking on the responsibility and maintenance of the Oak Drive Play Park in St Mary’s Bay which was in need of improvement. Improvements the council taxpayers had already paid for. Double taxation needs to stop and proper services be provided. After all, we pay the highest rates of council tax in Kent and for what.

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