Blundering Sheffield Council staff paid more than £7,000 to the wrong residents’ association – one the authority itself has derecognised, The Star can reveal.
The payment was mistakenly made to Batemoor New Tenants’ and Residents’ Association – which had its city council connection stripped earlier this year amid concerns over its financial affairs.
But it was meant to have been paid to Batemoor Estate Tenants’ and Residents’ Association, which was created in April and has recently had a bank account set up.
A letter seen by The Star says the levy payment went to the wrong group because of a ‘coding error’ and it was not possible to stop the payment as it goes directly into the group’s bank account.
The money has not yet been repaid, the council has confirmed.
Coun Andrew Sangar, Sheffield’s opposition Liberal Democrat spokesman for finance, said: “This case really beggars belief, with some staggering incompetence.
“For the council to allow over £7,000 to fall into the hands of a unregistered organisation demonstrates a real lack of oversight.
“I’m pleased The Star has exposed this case.”
Coun Sangar added: “Once again, it brings into question the ability of Labour politicians to keep control of the city’s finances.”
Earlier this year the council said ‘inclusiveness and discrepancy in accounts’ kept by the New Batemoor TARA had led to the decision to derecognise it as an official group acting on behalf of the community.
But it added that no evidence of inappropriate behaviour had been found after an investigation into allegations of misconduct.
The TARA continues to operate for residents and at the time said it was trying to find out why the council had made the decision to get it recognised again.
The new Batemoor Estate TARA has been paid the levy money due to them.
The letter seen by The Star says staff would meet with legal services to agree a ‘recovery process’ if the money was not recovered.
A Sheffield Council spokesman said: “Batemoor New TARA is no longer recognised by the council as a Tenants and Residents’ Association and a new group, the Batemoor Estate TARA, was formed in April 2014.
“Unfortunately a payment was made to the former group due to an administrative error.
“We immediately took action to resolve this and contacted the group’s committee members to apologise for our error and ask them to return the money.”
The spokesman added: “We have not yet received the money but have sought legal advice to ensure we do so.
“In the meantime, the correct payment has been made to Batemoor Estate TARA.”