Final report on £1m missing from Luton council's coffers due to be shared 'soon'

The missing cash destined for a school’s redevelopment was paid to ‘persons unknown’

By Euan Duncan, Local Democracy Reporter
Friday, 24th June 2022, 10:43 am
Updated Friday, 24th June 2022, 10:43 am
Luton Council
Luton Council

A final report over an ongoing investigation into more than £1m of regeneration money which went missing in Luton Borough Council’s coffers has been prepared.

Talks are taking place between the local authority and SEMLEP (South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership) to establish what information will be relayed to borough councillors.

The council discovered in April 2020 the £1.2m finance for the redevelopment of Mark Rutherford School in Bedford had vanished mysteriously.

It emerged the funding had been misappropriated and paid to “persons unknown”, so Bedfordshire Police were contacted.

The county police force began its investigation in June 2020 before later revealing the inquiry was being handled by the national investigation service, NATIS.

Money for the school was set aside by SEMLEP, which issues government grants for local projects. The local authority acted as a banker for SEMLEP, receiving the government funding before passing it on to the designated projects.

The school has received money for the project subsequently, having been due to obtain its finance before it disappeared by March 2020.

Read More

Read More
Residents urged to comment on plans to stop traffic offences in Bedfordshire

During a meeting of the council’s scrutiny finance review group, Liberal Democrat Barnfield councillor David Franks asked: “Do we have any idea when we’re going to see the outcome of the investigation into the missing SEMLEP money?”

Director of finance revenues and benefits Dev Gopal replied: “We’ve got the final report. We received it about a week ago. This is currently being discussed.

“That’s a discussion which takes place between SEMLEP and ourselves, with council chief executive Robin Porter as well.

“Yes, there will be a comprehensive report coming, once we agree with SEMLEP and obviously also with (financial services company) Visa. That report will come to the finance review group just to explain more detail.

“So far because of that advice from the legal department we couldn’t go into much detail because that investigation was ongoing. This process hasn’t been completed because it’s still continuing.

“But we’ll reach a point where the national investigation service (NATIS), which has been leading on the inquiry, says its work is substantially complete. It can then share a very comprehensive report around their advice and the advice we receive.

“We can then have a much more detailed discussion and debate about what happened and share some of the elements of that report.”

Councillor Franks, who was chairing the meeting, added: “We don’t want a half-baked report and we don’t want something before the conclusion.

“But we do need a full report of the investigation and its outcome, and whatever solution is finally agreed between SEMLEP and the council.

“We look forward to that date, as soon as you’ve got one.”