MUMBLES Community Council has been criticised in the way it spent thousands of pounds on planning consultancy fees with the same firm.
The Auditor-General for Wales, Adrian Crompton, said he considered the £21,426 expenditure between 2010 and 2018 on Swansea consultancy CDN Planning to be unlawful.
Mr Crompton said this was because the council had not been able to provide evidence supporting the appointment of the company, or the terms and conditions upon which the company was engaged.
He said the absence of a clear contractual arrangement resulted in risks to the council.
The council, he added, had not complied with its own standing orders.
Council chairwoman Carrie Townsend Jones said she acknowledged the report and its findings and accepted that errors had been made by the council.
She said some of the recommendations had already been implemented, and that she would ensure the council’s work “is at the highest possible standard and the best possible value to our community”.
She added that she would respond further after the council discussed the report later this month.
Mr Crompton also said “at least one member” of the council had acted unlawfully in instructing CDN Planning when the council’s clerk was on leave in 2017.
The bill for these two pieces of work came to £6,177, but was subsequently settled at £5,000.
Mr Crompton said CDN Planning told the clerk in an email that the instructions had come from the chairman – who at the time was Ian Scott – and from fellow councillor Will Thomas.
The report only mentioned Mr Thomas by name, but went on to say that he completely refuted any instruction of CDN Planning.
When contacted by the Local Democracy Reporter Service, Mr Thomas said he was “astounded” that the Wales Audit Office “has not contacted me directly regarding this at any stage”.
He added: “I have never authorised any expenditure to CDN Planning outside of a full council decision, and have contacted my solicitor who will be contacting the Wales Audit Office.”
Mr Scott said he preferred not to comment until the auditor general’s report had been discussed by the council.
CDN Planning also declined to comment.
The council is driving forward a number of projects in the seaside community, including the planned creation of a skate park at West Cross.
It levied a £533,590 precept on householders this financial year, which worked out at £55.29 for Band D council taxpayers.
Mrs Townsend Jones said the council had not spent any money with CDN Planning this financial year.
The council must notify the auditor general of any decisions it makes in the light of the report.