Learning from the Past and Getting Ready for the Future

Published: 29 November 2019

The Parish Council has had a challenging last year after the resignation of our long-standing previous Clerk and her subsequent conviction in June 2019 for VAT fraud associated with her private business activities. Understandably, parishioners will have been concerned about the impact of this on the Council itself. We have taken this extremely seriously and we have sought extensive advice from both Kirklees Council and the National Association of Local Councils on how best to address the concerns raised.

As a result, we have undertaken a full review of our finances and governance structures to understand whether the Council was defrauded in any way and to establish what changes are needed to make sure we are not exposed to potential risks in the future. As part of this process, we appointed Calderdale Council’s Internal Audit department to undertake an external review of the financial governance of both the Holme Valley Parish Council (HVPC) and the Holme Valley Land Charity (HVLC) over the last two financial years.

The Calderdale review concluded that the majority of financial transactions for both HVPC and HVLC were backed up by evidence of legitimate business activity and any potential discrepancies identified were of low value. The findings of the report were discussed and accepted in full at our Full Council meeting on 18th November when we agreed to implement all six of its recommendations. The review, redacted to remove any individual names, is published here on our website.

We are now working with our new Clerk and Responsible Finance Officer to review all our procedures with a particular focus on our financial checks and processes. We have sought advice from the Yorkshire Local Councils Association who will now be providing specific support to improve our financial governance.

It should be noted that our former Clerk, Ms Barber, resigned for personal reasons in October 2018 and the Council was not aware of the criminal charges she was being investigated for before her conviction in June 2019. In May 2018, Ms Barber had taken out a grievance against some Council members and, following legal advice, this was settled without recourse to an employment tribunal hearing following professional advice from an independent private legal firm.