Somerton Town Council 'made unlawful decisions'

Somerton Town Council made "unlawful decisions"' when it was buying and selling some property four years ago, an Audit Commission report has found.

It said there were "significant failings" during the sale of land at Etsome Terrace, the purchase of 8 Cary Court and the conversion of Cary Court.

Four men in their 60s, arrested as part of police investigations, were released last March without charge.

A public meeting to discuss the report will be held at the end of the month.

The Audit Commission would not comment on the report but said it had been approached by a member of the public over proceedings at Somerton Town Council earlier in 2010.

Mass resignation

An Avon and Somserset Police inquiry that followed into allegations of fraud at the council showed no evidence any crime had been committed.

Somerton Town Council has said it will not make a statement until after the public meeting.

Only two people who were on the council at the time are still members now, following a mass resignation and election in late 2009.

The report by Moore Stephens said the council:

  • sold Etsome Terrace without taking the proper steps to ensure the sale price was the best consideration available
  • acquired a community hall without first determining the community hall met the needs of the community in terms of size, specification or location
  • may have paid more than it needed to for the community hall

But the auditor said he was satisfied the council had taken significant steps to improve governance procedures and the transparency of its actions in order to ensure that such failures of internal control do not reoccur.

He said the council had also undertaken a thorough review of all its documentation, revising it where necessary.

Training for the clerk and councillors has commenced and the council has sought to improve the transparency of its actions including setting up a new website, the auditor added.

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