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Cambridgeshire County Council’s budget is ‘fraudulent’ senior councillor says

By Josh Thomas, Local Democracy Reporter

A senior councillor has claimed the county council’s budget is “fraudulent”, with major decisions being taken on “incorrect” figures.

Council leader Steve Count. (4142072)
Council leader Steve Count. (4142072)

Cambridgeshire County Council has been accused of putting together a “fraudulent” budget based on incorrect figures, despite repeated calls for more funding for children and adult social care.

Councillor Mike Shellens, chairman of the council’s audit and accounts committee made the extraordinary claim during a meeting of the full council yesterday (11).

However, council leader Councillor Steve Count said there has not been any fraudulent activity with the budget.

Coun Shellens told the council he believed the figures used to decide the budget for children’s social services and adult social care are incorrect. He said the council keeps ending up in “a mess”, and overspending every year because the numbers are wrong.

Coun Shellens said: “Putting incorrect information out is, in my view, fraudulent.”

He was asked by Councillor Ian Bates and council leader Councillor Steve Count to withdraw the claim, noting the suggestion was “extremely serious”. Cllr Shellens, however, declined, saying he had heard the requests, but stood by what he had said.

Coun Count said: “I have no option but to send this to the standards board. I am shocked and saddened by this.”

Coun Count said due process now had to be followed in regards to proceeding with the accusations. Coun Count denied any fraudulent activity with the budget, and said it was not always possible to predict how budgets would respond in the face of unforeseen circumstances.

Coun Count said: “I think what [Coun Shellens] was trying to say is we should have somehow had a crystal ball to predict the future.”

According to Coun Count, overspends in the budget could be attributed to a “massive increase in numbers” of people in need of care in the county.

The county council’s guidelines say councillors could complain about Coun Shellens’ remarks formally.

If they did so, the monitoring officer will review it and, in consultation with the independent person, undertake an initial assessment to determine, whether the complaint is admissible.

If the complaint is admissible, the monitoring officer must decide whether it warrants investigation, whether it may be suitable for alternative resolution without investigation, or whether it does not warrant further action.

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