An independent report into allegations that £15m of cash paid to a council housing contractor was “unaccounted for” have been found to be without basis.
In October 2018 a “whistle-blower” alleged that £15m of housing repairs cash was “unaccounted for” by council contractor Mears.
Now a report, discussed at the council’s Audit Committee on the 5th March, found that “costs charged for responsive repair work conform to the agreed costs”. The main findings were revealed by the Leader of the Council at this month’s Cabinet meeting on the 5th March.
The Labour administration are now calling for an apology from the MK Conservative leader Cllr Alex Walker after he spoke publicly and said that the Labour Cabinet would have “questions to answer.” While he also claimed at the time his group would be “relentless” in looking into the matter, neither Cllr Walker nor any other MK Conservative councillor attended a confidential briefing on the audit report before the audit committee meeting. Labour have also called for an inquiry into how the whistleblowing letter was leaked to the press.
Cllr Peter Marland, Leader of Milton Keynes Council, said: “Obviously an allegation as serious as this required a proper investigation, regardless of how unlikely it was that £15m would have just gone missing. I am happy to say that the audit report has now concluded that the claims of £15m in unaccounted for spending are unfounded. We will be calling for the report to be published publicly and in full because of the reputational issues such claims have created.”
He continued: “The report does highlight that some of the contract management in the past by the old Your:MK was not as good as it should have been. We have already identified those issues and brought the contract management back in house.”
He concluded: “I now think we need an apology for the terrible lack of judgment from the MK Conservative Leader. Commenting in such a party political manner on a leaked allegation from a single source shows a huge lack of acumen. He acted as judge and jury before any investigation had taken place. Not only that, despite claiming his group would be “relentless” on this matter, they could not be bothered to actually send anyone to a briefing on the report findings. It shows that once the headline has passed, they aren’t interested in the facts. I’d also like to know who leaked the original whistleblowing letter, which is fairly serious. It could deter others from coming forward with issues on any subject if they fear it might be given to the press. We need an investigation to show if it was political or not.”