Town council damned in audit report
A small town council has been been hit with a damning audit report after it used £100,000 of reserves in three years to cover spending.
The report from the Welsh Audit Office found that Penmaenmawr Town Council had been “spending at an unsustainable level over the last three years” and that there had been “failings” in the running of the council.
It added that the council failed to provide enough scrutiny of its own accounts.
The council was found to be spending more than it had coming in, with its balances having to be increased, standing at £52,196 in June this year.
Members of the 13-strong council also told auditors that there had been bullying and a lack of information in council business.
The small volunteer-led council, which serves the village of 4,353 residents, moved £100,000 from reserves between 2015 and 2018 to cover spending.
A spokesman for the council said: “Penmaenmawr Town Council welcomes the publication of the Welsh Audit Office report and accepts its findings.
“It acknowledges that during the period, its standards fell below those expected of a public body.
“The issues, which were first publicised by the council in the autumn of 2018, have since been rectified, as acknowledged by the Auditor General.
“The council is now on a sound financial footing, with adequate reserves, and is focussed on the challenges and possibilities for Penmaenmawr in the coming years.”
Aberconwy’s AM, Janet Finch-Saunders, said: “I thank the Auditor General for carrying out a robust investigation.
“I appreciate that Penmaenmawr Town Council supports many community projects, but its strikes me as extremely irresponsible that it has been spending at an unsustainable level over the last three years.
“This has come at a time in which residents of Penmaenmawr have faced eye-watering increases in their council tax precepts.
“Penmaenmawr Town Council is now back on a more sustainable financial footing, but I do believe that there has to be some accountability for what the Auditor has described as a ‘financial crisis’.
“More so, I have been saddened to learn of allegations that there is a bullying culture and that councillors have been voting like sheep without relevant information.
“The council is required to consider the report at a full meeting within one month of the date of issue, and decide what action to take in response.
“I call on the remaining councillors to consider accepting and acting upon all the recommendations made by the Auditor General, and issue a statement to that effect.
“I will be asking the Welsh Government to review the support and guidance available to all town and community councils across Wales in the hope that such a financial crisis does not occur again.”
By Shane Brennan – Local Democracy Reporter
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