Council cleared over Southwold cash

A high level investigation into claims a council illegally spent thousands of pounds in revenue from Southwold, has cleared the authority of any wrongdoing.

A high level investigation into claims that a council illegally spent thousands of pounds in revenue from Southwold has cleared the authority of any wrongdoing.

The Audit Commission spent almost a year examining Waveney District Council's accounts relating to an area around Southwold Harbour, following a complaint from a member of the public.

It was alleged the council collected revenue from the harbour and transferred it into its central accounts, contrary to a 1933 Act of Parliament.

But yesterday the district auditor cleared the council of any malpractice for the financial year 2004/05 and confirmed the commission would not be taking any further action.

It said: "The district auditor has written to both the objector and to the council setting out the reasons for his decision not to issue a report in the public interest or to apply to the court."

Council leader Mark Bee welcomed the move, saying: "We are delighted we have been exonerated and the council can now sign off the accounts."

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Last night the man who lodged the complaint, Steve Macfarlane, vice-chairman of Southwold Harbour and River Users' Association, also welcomed the report saying that although it had not upheld his complaint, it did shed light on the issue of the harbour management.

He said: "It has made it very clear who is responsible for the maintenance of Southwold Harbour.

"This is a significant result for the harbour, which I feel justifies my actions. It very much defines things, it has cleared up a number of ambiguities and set out rules for the way in which Waveney must manage the harbour."

Graham Hay-Davison, chairman of the harbour users' association, now hopes the report could lead to prompt repairs of the harbour.

He said: "I think this is an excellent outcome. The Audit Commission has spelled out how Southwold Harbour should be funded and that there is an obligation on Waveney to maintain the area."

He said the north dock wall, the town's stage and the harbour road desperately needed repairs.

Yesterday the council's portfolio manager for operations and facilities, David Gallagher said: "We are already looking at work in Southwold Harbour. Nothing is going to change from our point of view because of this report. This is work we had planned anyway."