More trouble with “news management issues” for Ruth Dombey, the LibDem leader of Sutton Council, and Niall Bolger, the borough’s chief executive, after they have been accused of covering up how thousands of pounds donated by residents to the Mayor’s fund was raised for a charity which never existed.
Inside Croydon‘s loyal reader will recall how Dombey and senior council officials had deliberately withheld information from opposition councillors when one of her colleague councillors, Alan Salter, was forced to resign over allegations of financial misappropriation.
Salter was arrested by the police and bailed pending further investigation. His Carshalton Central council seat was subject to a by-election last month, won by the LibDems… who failed to mention in their leaflets why the ward’s residents were being asked to go to the polls. It’s becoming a bit of a habit.
For Dombey and Sutton’s LibDems are being asked to explain why they failed to mention how £15,000 of public donations were held by the council for five years, after being raised through the Mayor’s appeal.
Tory councillors in Sutton have asked the police to investigate how the cash was kept on account by the council until this May, when the latest mayor, Muhummad Sadiq, announced that his chosen charities had just benefited from a five-figure windfall from “a former colleague and friend”.
Sadiq refused to disclose who this generous benefactor might be, but persistent digging by opposition councillors revealed that the money was received during former councillor Gerry Jerome’s year as mayor.
In 2011, Jerome said he was raising funds for a something called Sutton Work Start, aimed at helping young people get in to work. “Over the next 12 months, the Mayor will support ‘Ways to Work,’ a charity he has set up to help young people into work,” Sutton Council’s website trumpeted. The fact that they couldn’t get the name correct ought to have rung alarm bells at the time.
Numerous official council press releases were issued by Sutton and fund-raising dinners and other events staged.
But Sutton Work Start did not have charity status. It never even existed.
A spokesman for Sutton Council said: “When Councillor Jerome was mayor he intended to set up a local charity to support youth employment in the borough. Under the rules of the mayoral office this charity would have had to be formally established and approved by the Charities Commission.
“However, as the charity was never fully realised, the £15,007.06 raised by the mayor was held by the council in the mayoral account.”
That explanation is not good enough for at least one opposition councillor, who told Inside Croydon: “If a person is seen on Sutton High Street asking for money for a charity that does not exist, the public would be rightly angry. They might expect the police to take action.
“Yet that’s what Gerry Jerome did for a year, and Sutton Council and its LibDem councillors covered it up for four years.
“Sutton Work Start had no charity number and was never registered with the Charity Commission.
“The council CEO and the council leader knew this but kept it secret.”
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