Prescot Labour Accuse Local Lib Dems of ‘Potential Fraud,’ ‘Incompetence’

By on Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Prescot’s Labour town councillors have accused their Liberal Democrat counterparts of mismanaging Prescot’s finances for the best part of a decade. In the latest edition of local Labour newsletter Prescot Voice, an article headlined “Some Disturbing Facts” made a long list of allegations against the former Prescot Town Council:

Last May the Labour Party gained control of Prescot Town Council. Before that the Liberal Democrats had been in charge for eight years. We were shocked at what we found, and we think you should be made aware of what was going on.

We uncovered evidence of potential fraud and general incompetence throughout the Town Council so it’s fair to ask just what were the Liberal Democrats doing between 2003 and 2011? The sheer scale of what we found means they must either have known what was going on or they were just completely incompetent. What is even worse is that they knew there were massive problems. The Town Council was given an auditor’s report in 2009 which highlighted a number of problems and they promised to take action. But they never implemented the recommendations.

When the Labour Party took over in May 2011, it didn’t take us long to see that things weren’t right. We brought in experts to carry out a financial health check of the Town Council and as a result we were given very clear evidence of how bad things were. In fact things were so bad that the Police recently arrested two former Town Council employees. We found that staff were being paid in cash and that they didn’t have to submit proper timesheets or have proper contracts. Councillors were signing blank cheques; cash from functions and the bar wasn’t being properly accounted for or banked; senior staff didn’t have Criminal Records checks; and expensive equipment was missing. It beggars belief that the Liberal Democrats had allowed this to happen.

When the Labour Party took over, we were told that the Town Council had £10,000 in the bank and had made a loss of £16,000 the year before. Then we found out that outstanding invoices had been hidden away and not been reported. By the time we had some truthful accounts drawn up, we found that there had actually been a loss of £57,000 in the year before and that the Town Council was almost £31,000 overdrawn. So where did the money go? Even though they had been told by the auditors in 2009 that there was a big problem the Liberal Democrats never arranged for any discussions about the financial position. Even worse they have opposed us every step of the way as we have tried to get to the truth. When we proposed bringing in independent auditors to look at the books, they opposed us.

The Liberal Democrats might know what was happening when they were in charge but the people of Prescot didn’t. Prescot Town Council had “gone bust” and it was only by taking swift action that we were able to save it. It is time to move on. We are working on plans to have a new headquarters in the town centre of Prescot and it is absolutely vital that you continue to support us in our cause.

Readers can view or download the entire Prescot Voice for March 2012 here (PDF).

In an email to Prescot Online, Lib Dem councillor Ian Smith responded:

Some very disturbing facts

When Labour took control of Prescot Town Council in May 2011, more specifically Prescot Leisure Centre, they made a loss of nearly £40,000 in May and June 2011. Why, because they ordered the Town Clerk to stop taking bookings and close the Leisure Centre down. Until it finally closed in July 2011 the Council was still incurring all the expenditure without taking any income to speak of. Labour’s so-called independent auditors are Knowsley Council, the same organisation that terminated the Town Council’s lease. They also altered our end of year accounts which had been audited by a Town Clerk from another authority.

I don’t know many people in Prescot that either like or trust Knowsley Council. The Huyton-centric, Labour-controlled Knowsley Council has demolished the Leisure Centre and Scotchbarn Baths, closed Prescot Museum and Prescot Library so they can be sold off. Labour has put Prescot Town Council back 30 years, making 8 employees unemployed in the process. The one surviving member of staff is by coincidence married to a Labour Councillor. Strange? When Knowsley Council terminated the lease the Town Council was immediately entitled £138,000 in compensation as of right. If you add £247,000 plus from the Council precept you have a Town Council with an income of over £385,000 in 2011/12, hardly a Town Council “gone bust,” and another £247,000 in 2012/13 from the people of Prescot.

Many of these Labour Councillors who have so much to say don’t live in Prescot. If they did they would hang their heads in shame. Thoughout all this time the Leader of Labour group on the Town Council was continually informed, involved and updated by the Town Clerk and at regular Council and Commitee meetings, and needless to say he agreed with all the decisions we made regarding the budget and the Leisure Centre. Finally when it comes to the police making arrests, I would say to the local Labour Party, “people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”

He later added:

Unlike Knowsley Council and Whiston Council, who have borrowed money to finance projects and have to make regular repayments year on year, Prescot Town Council has no loans and never needed to take out a loan under Liberal Democrat control between 2000 and 2011.


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