Cambridgeshire County Council hits back at claims its budget is ‘fraudulent’

Cllr Steve Count
Cllr Steve Count
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Cambridgeshire County Council has hit back at claims by a senior councillor that its budget is “fraudulent” and based on false figures.

The claim was made by Cllr Mike Shellens, chairman of the council’s Audit and Accounts Committee, during a meeting of the full council on Tuesday (December 11).

Cllr Shellens told the council he believed the figures used to decide the budget for children’s social services and adult social care are incorrect. He claimed the council keeps ending up in “a mess” and overspending every year because the numbers are wrong.

He also said the council’s “track record” would give anyone setting a budget a “strong indication” that there would not be enough money.

Cllr Shellens said: “Putting incorrect information out is, in my view, fraudulent.”

During the meeting, 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.

Now the county council has hit back, “robustly refuting” the claims. Cllr Count has also confirmed he has reported Cllr Mike Shellens for a breach of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct.

Chris Malyon, the council’s chief financial officer and deputy chief executive, who has statutory responsibility for the financial affairs of the council, 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.”

Cllr Count challenged Cllr Shellens to produce evidence for his claims. He said Cllr Shellens had had plenty of opportunities to speak out in the past, and claimed he had never brought up any of his concerns before in a council meeting.

Cllr Count said: “As chair of the council’s Audit and Accounts Committee Cllr 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 whistleblowing policy.

“He has used none of these avenues to make any accusation of fraudulent behaviour, and to my knowledge before the 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.”

Josh Thomas, Local Democracy Reporting Service