Northumberland County Council discovers discrepancies in funding awards

Northumberland County Council recently called a halt to delivery of its community chest fund pending a review

Hexham MP Guy Opperman
Hexham MP Guy Opperman

A council fund for community groups was suspended after discrepancies were discovered in how the money was being used, it has emerged.

Northumberland County Council recently called a halt to delivery of its community chest fund pending a review. The Journal has now learned that the suspension came after the authority discovered discrepancies in a number of funding awards where the money was not being used for the purpose applied for.

The council has brought in auditors to look at around 10% of recent awards following the discovery.

The Labour-run authority has now reinstated the fund and dismissed claims from Conservative opponents that it was suspended in the west of the county but not the north and south east.

The Journal reported last week how the fund had been suspended by the council, sparking fears from Liberal Democrat councillors that vulnerable adults and children who attend events and activities supported by the cash would be socially excluded.

Tory opponents, led by Hexham MP Guy Opperman, claimed the fund had only been suspended in the west.

Now, the council has announced that the scheme is up and running again, although the review is still being carried out.

A source told The Journal that the fund was suspended after discrepancies were discovered in a number of grant awards.

As a result, auditors the authority shares with North Tyneside Council have been called in and are investigating the discrepancies to ensure they are not more widespread.

The council has also confirmed that the fund was suspended across all parts of the county and that it will continue to serve every area.

A spokesman said yesterday: “The Northumberland County Council community chest is up and running again, and we will be holding meetings to discuss bids in the very near future.

“There is no loss of funding for any of the areas in the county.

“The council has made a guarantee to safeguard the community chest fund for the next two years. However, its future after this will depend on national government financial cutback decisions.

“At a cross-party meeting this morning, all parties left satisfied with the results.

“To protect the use of public funds, internal auditors are looking at the use of grant aid to ensure it is being spent in the way that was specified.”

 

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