Leeds & West Yorkshire

Outwood Grange spending concerns in Wakefield Council audit

A school's decision to buy champagne and an Orient Express trip are among expenses questioned in a Wakefield Council report.

The audit examined spending at Outwood Grange, Wakefield, before it became an independently run academy in 2009.

Concerns included the expenses approval process, the "reward culture" for teachers and travel payments made to headteacher, Michael Wilkins.

The school trust has disputed aspects of the findings.

In a statement it said: "The Trust takes the allegations in this report very seriously.

"As an academy trust with independent status, the Trust is mindful of the duties upon it as a charitable company and following conversion to academy status has been reviewing its policies and procedures."

'Serious issues'

The ability of Mr Wilkins to carry out the responsibilities of a headteacher was also questioned in the report, due to the level of his consultancy work.

Auditors had concerns over the appropriateness of using public funds to pay for food and alcohol for staff, an Orient Express trip, flights to Canada and a £14,000 lump sum as a car allowance for Mr Wilkins.

Chief executive of Wakefield Council, Joanne Rooney, said: "This report raises many serious issues about the use of public money, the scale and range of the payments made, and the extent to which some individuals gained.

"As Outwood Grange is an academy, it is now their responsibility to take these matters further and, based on the contents of this report, I would strongly urge them to act on our recommendations."

Information from the financial investigation has been passed onto HM Revenue and Customs, the Audit Commission and the Charities Commission.

Concern over charitable donations prompted the investigation, after it was alleged that donations made between 2004 and 2009 had been paid into the school fund and not distributed to charities.

The Academy has said money identified in the report has now been allocated appropriately.

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