Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

'Promoted' Officers Face Court Action; Senior Staff Got Pay Rise at End of Council

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

'Promoted' Officers Face Court Action; Senior Staff Got Pay Rise at End of Council

Article excerpt

Byline: Dave Black ? 07884 117069 ? dave.black@ncjmedia.co.uk

FORMAL court proceedings are finally being launched following an exhaustive investigation into the affairs of a former North East council in the period leading up to its abolition.

Two years ago Northumberland County Council revealed it was pursuing a High Court legal action following a damning report by financial watchdogs into the former Wansbeck District Council.

An investigation had concluded that several senior officers at Labour-controlled Wansbeck were awarded pay rises in the run-up to local government reorganisation, in breach of the council's policy. This had the effect of not only boosting their salaries in the final year of the council, but also their pension and redundancy entitlements, by a total of PS350,000.

The investigation also found that some Wansbeck officers were promoted - and a new post of deputy chief executive created - without proper authorisation and in breach of its constitution.

The probe was carried out by the county council's counter-fraud officer into the affairs of Wansbeck Council, which was abolished in April 2009. Its findings were published two years ago in a 40-page audit report by external auditors Deloitte on Wansbeck's final accounts for 2008/09.

Since then, efforts have been made to resolve the issue through mediation, to avoid the need for formal court proceedings, but that has proved impossible.

In a statement to The Journal, the county council said: "The former Wansbeck District Council's accounts were examined in depth by the council's external auditors, who raised a number of irregularities relating to inflated salaries of some chief officers of the former council.

"Despite inquiries with the individuals concerned, we have yet to receive any satisfactory explanation or authority for these pay rises, and we believe it is right to put this matter before the courts. We are unable to comment further while legal action is ongoing. …

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