A new auditor has been appointed by the town council following a series of controversies in the past year.

The previous auditor, Lightatouch, chose to step down as Andover Town Council’s internal auditor earlier this year, requiring the council to find a replacement. In the past year, the auditor had accused one councillor of a “breach” of financial rules, as well as advising on how to “salvage” a £10,000 design statement described as ‘not fit for purpose’.

Following debate, councillors voted to appoint a Surrey firm to the role, at a cost of £1,120 for a year.

The decision was considered at a meeting of Andover Town Council held on August 4, where three options were presented to councillors.

Councillor Luigi Gregori proposed the adoption of the second, cheapest option, which was seconded by Cllr Nigel Long. However, Cllr Christopher Ecclestone disagreed.

He said: “While I am a long-term exponent of reducing costs at the town council, unfortunately cheaper is not necessarily always better. As we’ve seen, the internal auditor totally failed to see the time off in lieu for staff, and there was exceptionally poor performance on the design statement.”

A report by the previous auditor had said that Cllr Christopher Ecclestone “provided clear indications” that architects Portus and Whitton could start on thousands of pounds worth of work before approval was granted by the council.

Cllr Ecclestone has previously described this report as “defective”, but other councillors defended its findings.

Cllr Ecclestone continued: “I think if you pay peanuts you get monkeys. I’m shocked for all of these costs, that for services for a year they are charging this amount of money. I don’t think we’re getting good value for money for paying a very low price.”

In response, Cllr Richard Rowles said: “The external auditor has checked the internal auditor’s reports and signed it off so unlike some have suggested this evening it is a good report.”

He added that the council should select a Hampshire firm, which was the most expensive option at £1,890. However, no one seconded his proposition, so it was not voted on.

Cllr David Coole, meanwhile, said that more information was needed to make a decision.

He said: “At the moment, in all honestly, I can’t go for any of them.”

Following debate, the selection of the Surrey firm was put to a vote following a procedural motion form Cllr Nigel Long. Seven councillors voted in favour, with one abstention, while Cllrs Coole and Ecclestone voted against.

As a result, the firm was approved as the council’s new internal auditor.