ANDOVER town councillors have voted against approving the councils most recent finances after concern was raised that councillors have “not been given the opportunity to challenge” payments already made.

At a full council meeting on Monday, December 7, members discussed a motion to note payments made up to November 26, and receive and approve the cashbook until September 30.

Cllr Richard Rowles, chairman, explained that “contractual obligations” entered into have to be upheld, and so payments are made by officers without being individually approved at council, but for contracts already agreed.

However, Cllr Rebecca Meyer argued that “They are not all contractual payments.”

Referencing “something outstanding” which she said she could not talk about as she had been asked not to by a council officer, Cllr Meyer said: “I am urging people not to vote for this because there are some irregularities in there that make this council look dodgy. There are so many financial irregularities, we can be sued. Do not vote for this unless you want us to be sued.”

The council clerk responded by saying that there were no financial inregularities, but admitted that the pandemic had meant some decisions were taken through delegated powers, which could now return to consideration by council.

She said: “Because of Covid, there were agreements that certain payments would be made under a Covid emergency fund and I think it would help the council all round if we now try and bring this council back to how it was operating before. Now that we are having monthly meetings, now that we have all staff there, I think members probably prefer that emergency payments aren’t made any more.”

Concern was also raised by Cllr David Coole who said the motion showed a “lack of connection and coordination”

“We are supposed to note expenditure payment up until November 26, however the cashbook we are approving only goes up to September 30 so everything we are doing is retrospective and we are not being given the opportunity to challenge some of the payments that are being proposed,” he said.

Cllr Rowles reiterated that “all of the decisions that have been made have been previously approved.”

The council clerk promised to produce a report indicating the financial decisions taken during the coronavirus period and, at the suggestion of Cllr David Treadwell, this will include the relevant literature which explains how those decision-making powers were given.

The motion to approve the cashbook was rejected, six votes to four with one abstention.