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Council under spotlight for its accounting procedures

An allegation of gross misconduct has been made against an employee at Stansted Parish Council over accounting procedures and the building of the new community hub.

The authority’s handling of the development, the subsequent overspend to get it finished and how the council values its assets has been called into question by two parishioners.

The council employee has not been named and parish council chair Maureen Caton said it could not discuss allegations made against an individual. The audited accounts had been published and any issues of concern raised by the auditors had been addressed.

Stansted Mountfitchet. General Views. New Library building, Crafton Green. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (21459405)
Stansted Mountfitchet. General Views. New Library building, Crafton Green. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (21459405)

But the complainants, who wish to remain anonymous, believe the new community hub is nothing more than a "vanity project" and that the public should be made aware that what should have cost £600,000 to develop, has ended up costing £1.6m.

"But having got their new palace we now want to see them get on with opening it, to knock down the house (the present council offices at Crafton Green) and get the car park enlarged for traders who so desperately need it," they said.

At last week’s full council meeting, a surveyor acting on the couple's behalf, addressed members to make the allegation, claiming that accounting procedures had not been adhered to.

Keith Firn said: “I have been appointed by two parishioners investigating the published accounts of Stansted Parish Council. Since 23 May this year there have been repeated inquiries and Freedom of Information requests for disclosure and justification of your accounts, including the calculation of the values of any assets declared in your accounts.

“What seems incredible is that these issues and concerns with the assets register should not be happening if your own financial regulations were being properly and fairly observed.

“But there is evidence of non-compliance with your own financial regulations. Any employee not complying - it is gross misconduct. It is a legitimate question about public servants not performing their proper duties and this council seems determined not to investigate these and I would like to invite the chairman to give reassurances that these matters of gross misconduct will be independently investigated and that your own policies will be upheld.”

Chair Cllr Maureen Caton responded: “We are unable to discuss matters relating to a council employee at a council meeting, you are advised to follow the complaints procedure for any complaints made.”

Afterwards, Mrs Caton said she was satisfied that the authority had acted properly, but would not be making any further comments.

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