Row over bill after council unit scam

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NEWS: News.
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DONCASTER Mayor Peter Davies wants to block payment of the borough’s contribution towards a £15 million bill run up by a fraudster.

He believes it is wrong that Doncaster should have to pay as much as £3 million because of the financial failure of a joint South Yorkshire Trading Standards Unit run alongside Sheffield, Barnsley and Rotherham councils.

The unit was run by Mike Buckley, whose sudden death in 2005 opened up a can of worms which led to three other businessmen being prosecuted for running a fraudulent operation with him.

It emerged that the unit, ostensibly being run at a profit, was making huge losses which Buckley had covered up.

An independent examination of the books showed Sheffield Council auditors should have picked up on the swindle and its staff were criticised.

Negotiations have been going on about how the £15 million bill should be paid but Mr Davies says Sheffield should take responsibility.

He said he could not understand how Buckley had got away with the money but believes the taxpayers of Doncaster should not have to foot the bill.

“It is completely outrageous, this defies logic,” said Mr Davies.

He points out the joint agreement was drawn up by a previous administration before he was elected in 2009.

“It seems to me absolutely ridiculous that we should find ourselves having to pay £3 million because of Sheffield’s inability to control its own employees.

“I have told our officers we shouldn’t be paying anything and they are still negotiating.

“This comes hard on the heels of the Digital Region broadband affair. That is £12 million we have been asked for in the space of a few months, and what it shows is the folly of getting involved in business deals with other authorities.”

It is understood Sheffield has sent invoices for £3 million to Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham councils.