AN INTERNAL audit into the financial management of Andover Town Council has revealed that there was ‘no breach’ of regulations in the budget setting process for 2022/23.

As previously reported, independent Cllr David Coole reported the town council to financial auditors within both ATC and TVBC following the setting of the budget for the coming year last month.

His complaint was on the grounds that he accused the council of “failing to approve a balanced budget, for false accounting and for serious mismanagement of its financial reserves and its balanced budget setting process”.

An alternative budget had been proposed by Cllr Coole, which he claimed would not only be “balanced”, but also reduce spending, allowing the precept to be reduced by more than £4 for a Band D household.

However, decisions taken over earmarked reserves and staffing costs prior to budget debate rendered the alternative redundant, and the budget as recommended by officers was approved by seven votes to four, with one abstention. It saw the precept remain the same as the previous year.

READ MORE: Andover Town Council reported to auditors for ‘financial mismanagement’

At a meeting of full council on Tuesday, February 22, members discussed the internal auditor’s findings.

The report document states: “In our review, we found no breach of the timescales or regulations as set by the regulations for preparing, setting, and agreeing a budget and precept.

“We are under no doubt that the council and committees were fully informed when they resolved to make their decision and recommendations, and we would go as far as to say that the briefing papers and back up documentation was extremely detailed and thorough and a model of good practice.”

It adds that “the council has robust practices in place and “is under no financial distress”.

Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Nigel Long said that “the time has come for certain councillors to stop challenging the town clerk”.

He added: “The internal auditor has found nothing wrong, and TVBC is not intending to do anything. I think an apology is due to the town clerk and officers from certain councillors.”

SEE ALSO: Precept frozen as town council budget passes

Speaking to the Advertiser after the meeting, Cllr Coole said that auditor’s report “failed miserably” in addressing his concerns and described it as “another waste of taxpayers’ money”.

He continued: “Members cannot keep accepting this scale of incompetence and mismanagement, nor the lie that we have more Financial Reserves than we have.

“The reality is the council does not have sufficient funds in its bank accounts to satisfy all of its approved 2022/23 financial reserves and its committed spend. Noone in authority wants to acknowledge this because if they did, it would undermine the council’s 2022/23 budget and precept demand.

“Put simply, £100 in your bank account is £100 and only a fool could be convinced it is £200 and that they can spend it all.”

Cllr Coole added that the “failure” would be more understandable if the council was paying officer “peanuts”, but argued it does not and in fact recently approved “a backdated payrise” for the town clerk “as recommended by the Mayor and Deputy Mayor."

He added: “One has to wonder who’s scratching whose back.”

Message from the editor

Thank you for reading this story. We really appreciate your support.

Please help us to continue bringing you all the trusted news from Andover by sharing this story or by following our Facebook page.

Kimberley Barber