Conwy council accounts queries costs £30,000

Cash Mr Willetts spotted the same £10,000 bill paid twice which the council said it also discovered

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Objections over how Conwy council spent some its money has cost the authority £30,000 to process, it has emerged.

Gary Willetts, 66, from Llandudno Junction used his right as a taxpayer to inspect the finances and object to some of the ways money had been spent. He made 19 objections.

Mr Willetts scrutinised the council's accounts after learning of a £1m overspend on a bridge rebuild project.

The authority told BBC Wales residents are entitled to inspect its accounts.

Mr Willetts played a role in publicising a huge overspend on the project to rebuild Maesdu bridge in Llandudno, discovering the project was overspent by almost £1m.

He told the Sunday Supplement programme on BBC Radio Wales: "I saw a report on the bridge in the local paper, and I started to investigate.

"And the more I investigated, the more I got concerned, because it was clear the thing was heading for a massive overspend.

Bridge project

"And then I discovered that the council had paid a bill for £10,000 twice - for moving a cable."

Conwy council said it had already spotted the bill that had been paid twice.

But Mr Willetts has reported the council's handling of the bridge project to the council's external auditors, asking them to issue what is called a section 22 notice - similar to a yellow card in football.

Colwyn Bay pier Colwyn Bay pier has been closed since 2008

Until the auditors report back, Conwy council's accounts for 2009/10 cannot be closed.

Mr Willetts has also raised objections about Conwy council's spending on Colwyn Bay pier, on office furniture and on council credit cards.

A legal challenge was later brought by another member of the public regarding spending on the pier.

The court ruled in favour of the auditors.

Some of Mr Willetts's objections relate to small sums.

But he said: "It wasn't one big hole that sank the Titanic, it was loads of small ones.

"And some people say, well you've raised an issue of a £1,000, but a thousand pounds is relevant because when you get a thousand times a thousand pounds, it multiplies up."

'Deadlines'

He said he hoped that more people in Conwy county would take an interest in scrutinising the council's accounts.

Start Quote

Local residents are entitled to inspect the council's accounts and related documents. ”

End Quote Spokesperson Conwy council

The council's auditors, KPMG, said it hopes the accounts for 2009/10 will soon be closed.

A spokesman for the Wales Audit Office said: "At all times KPMG have complied with the statutory deadlines for auditing Conwy County Borough Council's accounts.

"The time taken to resolve the objections reflects the unusually high number of questions and objections received from the public and the subsequent legal challenge.

"The council will be required to meet the additional audit costs of the objections subject to the successful recovery of any court costs awarded against the objectors."

A meeting of Conwy council's audit committee recently heard that it has cost £30,000 to deal with Mr Willetts's objections.

A Conwy council spokesperson said: "Local residents are entitled to inspect the council's accounts and related documents.

"Council tax payers also have the right to ask questions about the accounts, and to object to them.

"Conwy council advertises the availability of the accounts for inspection each year in the local press to enable the public to exercise these rights."

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