Luton councillors await updates on missing £1.2m school funding and sign-off of historic accounts

Council contacted the police in 2020 after discovering the finance for the school had been misappropriated and paid to 'persons unknown'.

Wednesday, 12th January 2022, 5:54 pm
Updated Wednesday, 12th January 2022, 5:56 pm

A joint meeting of a local authority's finance committees later this month is set for an update on an investigation into what happened to £1.2m of regeneration money which went missing in Luton Borough Council' s coffers.

The same meeting is also due to hear whether historic LBC audits for the last three years can finally be signed off.

An extra combined meeting of the council's audit and governance committee and its scrutiny finance review group is scheduled for Thursday January 27th.

Luton Town Hall

Progress over the signing off of the local authority's accounts is expected to be explained then, a review group meeting was told last night. (Tues 11th)

Liberal Democrat Barnfield councillor David Franks said: "The key reason for the joint meeting is the auditor's report on the signing off of three years of accounts.

"It would be nice if by the time we get to the meeting they've actually been signed off. We don't know, of course, whether they will or not.

"The thing that's absent from the group's work programme is some meaningful information on the missing £1.2m SEMLEP (South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership) money.

"I don't want to lose sight of that. It's an important issue. It's more than a year now since it came to light.

"I think it's about time we had some worthwhile information. Any idea when we're likely to get some, please?" he asked.

The council's director finance, revenues and benefits Dev Gopal replied: "At the last meeting, we couldn't go into the detail because that investigation is ongoing.

"What I'll try to get back is some more feedback about when you should get a final report, which will allow us to brief the review group.

"You're quite right to say you have to put it on your forward plan. Leave it with me and I'll come back in a couple of weeks to say when we'll have much more substantive and up-to-date information.

"I'll get back with a more definitive answer when that report will be made available to us because that investigation is still ongoing."

Bedfordshire Police began an investigation in June 2020 after £1.2m funding destined for the redevelopment of Mark Rutherford School in Bedford mysteriously vanished.

LBC contacted the police after discovering the finance for the school had been misappropriated and paid to "persons unknown".

The money was set aside by SEMLEP, which issues government grants for local projects.

The school was due to obtain the payment by March 2020. It has received the appropriate sum for the project now.

An inquiry by the national investigation service (NATIS) is still ongoing.

Conservative Bramingham councillor John Young, who chairs the review group, described two years as a lengthy wait "for something technically so simple" at its last meeting in November.

The other issue concerns the borough council's external audits for 2018/19, 2019/20 and 2020/21 which remain to be concluded.

Neil Harris, from accountants Ernst and Young promised the audit and governance committee, last month, there would "definitely" be progress to report by the meeting on January 27th.