Manchester

Three police probes into Cheshire East Council

Cheshire East Council headquarters Image copyright Google
Image caption Police are running a number of separate enquiries into Cheshire East Council

Three police investigations have begun into a council after concerns were raised over falsified air quality data, land purchases and a school grant.

Cheshire East Council investigated the matters dating from 2012 and then reported the three issues to police.

Police said there were "sufficient grounds" for a criminal probe.

The deputy leader resigned from his role in the cabinet over one of the investigations. The council said it wanted to "put things right".

Image copyright Google
Image caption A grant to Berkeley Academy in Crewe was awarded without going through the normal contracting procedures

Deputy leader David Brown stood down as the Highways and Infrastructure portfolio holder over the investigation into a £70,000 grant to Berkeley Academy in Wistaston, Crewe, in April 2016.

The money was awarded without going through the normal contracting procedures and the council lawyers found a letter from the authority may have formed a contract, the BBC understands.

'Any wrongdoing exposed'

When grants are awarded they are signed off by senior figures and a formal contract drawn up.

Congleton ward councillor Mr Brown said he was "surprised" the police were investigating, adding: "I am sure personally there was no criminality when I was involved."

Police are also investigating whether a crime took place after the council admitted its air pollution data was falsified from 2012 to 2014 and over concerns about land purchases, but no further details have been released about those.

Cheshire Police said: "There are sufficient grounds to proceed with formal investigation."

Council leader Rachel Bailey said: "It is vital that these serious matters are dealt with fully and that if there has been any wrongdoing it is exposed.

"We will ensure that council services continue to be delivered to the high standards that residents have come to expect."

These investigations are in addition to another police probe launched in 2015 into misconduct in a public office over the way contracts were awarded.

Image copyright Michael Moore
Image caption Cheshire East Council's Chief Executive Mike Suarez has been suspended pending a council investigation into "concerns" over his conduct

In a separate council investigation into "concerns" over conduct, its chief executive Mike Suarez and the most senior legal officer Bill Norman have been suspended.

The authority's most senior financial officer Peter Bates is also being investigated but remains at work on reduced duties.

The BBC understands one issue the council committee is investigating involves the way contracts were awarded.

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