Mid Wales

Council rules 'not broken' over Llanfyllin school funds

Ysgol Llanfyllin

Governors at a Powys school which used almost £500,000 of funds to pay for transport did not break council rules, the ombudsman has said.

Llanfyllin High School subsidised transport to almost 200 pupils from outside the catchment area.

An inquiry by the previous Powys council administration found it had spent £460,000 over five years.

The public service ombudsman said four governors, who were councillors at the time, did not break council rules.

Councillors Peter Lewis, Aled Wyn Davies, Darren Mayor and Gwynfor Thomas had been suspended by the council while it investigated the matter.

The issue of school transport for pupils out of catchment arose when an audit on the council was carried out.

Auditors found the school had not followed proper procedure when it came to school transportation and the school agreed to take steps to rectify the matter.

However school governors at the time said they believed Powys council had been fully aware of what it was doing in terms of its school transport.

They said the reason it was done was due to the curriculum benefits the school could offer pupils as more money was available to a school if more students attended.

But in July 2016, the Powys council's chief executive Jeremy Patterson denied the council had been aware of how the school was managing its school transport and said it was only brought to its attention by the audit.

The four councillors were suspended while the investigation took place.

However the ombudsman found that they acted "in the genuinely held belief that the council either knew that the school was not complying with the scheme, or should have known from information available to it, and was taking no action".

It added: "The ombudsman could understand in those circumstances why [the councillors] reached the view (rightly or wrongly) that the council was endorsing what the school was doing."

The ombudsman concluded that the councillors acted in good faith on the basis of the information available to them.

Mr Lewis said the ombudsman's ruling was "not unexpected" and "vindicated" the councillors.

"It wholly restores integrity of Llanfyllin High School which has been so damaged by this controversy," he said.

"It shows that the previous cabinet decisions were very flawed, made worse by the waste of taxpayers' money on not one but two investigations."

Clive Pinney, Solicitor to Powys County Council said: "The council has received the decision from the Local Government Ombudsman and has noted the ombudsman's comments."

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