Mid Wales

April Jones murder: Council criticised for cash collection

April Jones and Mark Bridger Image copyright Family photo/Dyfed-Powys Police
Image caption Mark Bridger was jailed for life for the murder of five-year-old April Jones

Money collected by a town council after the murder of April Jones was outside its powers and should not have happened, an audit report has said.

Machynlleth Town Council banked £71,663 of public money before transferring it to April's fund - something it did not have the authority to do.

Auditor BDO said money offered by the public should have been refused.

The council said it was holding a meeting on 24 August to discuss the report's recommendations.

Y Plas, where the council is based in Machynlleth, became a hub for the search for April in October 2012, with people wanting to donate money.

The report said: "The council had no power to collect this money or to establish a bank account for its retention, but ultimately they did not intend to collect the money, they were just given it by the public.

"When people came into the office and gave them money they should not have accepted the money."

Image copyright Wales News Service
Image caption Mark Bridger's house, where he is believed to have killed April, was demolished in November 2014

The disappearance of April in 2012 sparked the biggest search in UK police history.

In May 2013, Mark Bridger was convicted of her murder and was given a whole life sentence.

A judge branded him a "pathological liar" and "a paedophile"..

The report also drew attention to "failures in governance arrangements and inadequacies in financial management and internal control" at the council.

It found the council failed to complete its annual accounting statements and submit its annual return on time for each of the past six years.

It said the former clerk's "failure to maintain proper records" resulted in the loss of £5,073 when VAT was not reclaimed - 2% of the council's total annual budget.

The report said the new clerk had "worked to improve internal controls and bring the accounts up to date".

Image copyright Google

The report recommended the council:

  • Maintain adequate accounting records for all income and expenditure
  • Update accounting records to ensure regular reclaims of VAT are made
  • Ensure its budget is approved before the start of the financial year and monitored regularly
  • Ensure adequate supervision of the clerk
  • Ensure, before any actions are taken, the council has the powers, be it incurring costs or opening bank accounts

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