Damning report reveals community transport funding scandal
PUBLISHED: 08:03 24 July 2018
Taxpayers’ cash was given to a community transport provider based on “misleading” information, an investigation has revealed.
Cambridgeshire County Council gave tens of thousands of pounds over several years to the Fenland Association for Community Transport (FACT).
But loans were not repaid, there was no scrutiny of whether funding should be given, its financial statements were incorrect and user numbers were repeatedly exaggerated when FACT applied for funding.
FACT also claimed it was a registered charity but it was not registered with the Charity Commission.
The investigation into FACT, by forensic accountants, reveals how councillors and council officials repeatedly ignored claims by taxi drivers that rules were being broken.
Over the past six years county councillors, MP Steve Barclay, former county council chief executive Mark Lloyd, county council leaders and Fenland District Council have refused to act on claims that the expansion of FACT was destroying the livelihoods of local taxi and coach firm operators.
March taxi driver Dave Humphreys has been the lead campaigner to unravel the errors and misleading information provided by FACT over the years.
But despite repeated pressure the county council only acted in 2016 after new chief executive Gillian Beasley was appointed.
A report by accountants PKF lifts the lid on the scale of misleading statements made in funding bids.
Money was often allocated without being properly authorised and legal agreements covering monitoring were not complied with.
Cambridgeshire County Council said it took the findings “extremely seriously”
Mrs Beasley said: “The report has raised concerns about some decision-making.
“It shows we didn’t follow our own processes and procedures properly, or put in place robust checks around how we awarded grants and loans for community transport or how we bought services from those who operate in this area.
“This isn’t good enough.”
The report has identified around £300,000 which could be owed to Cambridgeshire County Council and other local councils.
Kit Owen, vice chairman of FACT, said: “The majority of the issues are historic – which we have dealt with.
“Nothing has been done for personal gain.
“Where mistakes were made we have accepted them and made changes to ensure they do not occur again.”
“Grant money did not enable the organisation to put in unfair competitive rates to win contracts.”