Claims that Cambridgeshire County Council’s budget setting process led to a ‘fraudulent’ budget have been refuted by the council’s most senior finance officer.
Councillor Mike Shellens, chairman of the council’s audit and accounts committee, and Liberal Democrat member for Huntingdon North and Hartford, said at a full council meeting on Tuesday: “For a budget to be put out based on figures that we know from past experience will not be forthcoming, is in my view putting in information which is incorrect, and incorrect information in a budget, makes it my view, fraudulent.”
Cllr Shellens told the council he believed the figures used to decide the budget for children’s social services and adult social care were incorrect. He said the council keeps ending up in “a mess”, and overspending every year because the numbers are wrong.
Cllr Shellens was asked by Cllr Ian Bates and council leader Cllr Steve Count to withdraw the claim, noting the suggestion was “extremely serious”. Cllr Shellens, however, declined, saying he had heard the requests, but stood by what he had said.
In an e-mail following the meeting, Chris Malyon, the county council’s chief financial officer and deputy chief executive, told members: “As councillors you all have a statutory responsibility to set a balanced budget. In times of reduced government funding and increased demand for services this is not a straight forward process. However I robustly refute the phrase used that the budget was fraudulent.”
Councillor Steve Count, leader of Cambridgeshire County Council said: “As chairman of the council’s audit and accounts committee, Councillor Shellens has direct access to Gillian Beasley, the chief executive of the council, to Chris Malyon, our chief financial officer, to both internal and external auditors and to me as the leader of the council. He is also ultimately responsible for our whistle blowing policy.
“He has used none of these avenues to make any accusation of fraudulent behaviour, and to my knowledge before [Tuesday’s] meeting, had never raised this issue in any council meeting.
“For such a serious accusation to be made, by Cllr Shellens, without any evidence to substantiate that claim is incredible. I would urge him to put forward evidence to back up his claim, which I do not believe exists. However if anything is submitted, I can assure everyone, it would be examined in full.”
In addition Cllr Count has confirmed he has reported Cllr Shellens for a breach of the councillors’ code of conduct.