PArish council's finances investigated

By Ted JeoryA PARISH council is being investigated following an allegation of “improper” use of the advertising revenue raised through its award-winning magazine.

By Ted Jeory

A PARISH council is being investigated following an allegation of “improper” use of the advertising revenue raised through its award-winning magazine.

London-based auditors have been called in to probe the financial affairs of Myland Parish Council in Colchester.

They are investigating an official complaint from Mile End resident Louisa White, who claimed the quarterly parish magazine, The Mylander, was not being accounted for properly.

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Mrs White, of Thomas Wakley Close, Mile End, alleged revenue raised through private advertising in the magazine was not being used to offset the public cost of its production.

She claimed the money was instead distributed to a number of non-profit community groups, such as the Girl Guides and Friends of Myland, a group that organises events for pensioners.

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Parish councils are permitted to spend £5 per elector a year on producing newsletters as long as they provide a benefit to the community.

More than 3,200 copies of The Mylander, which cost about £1 per copy to produce, are currently distributed free of charge by parish councillor volunteers.

The 25-page magazine has been in circulation for four years and was highly commended by the Rural Community Council for Essex's village magazine competition in 2003.

The latest issue contains about 13 adverts from companies who paid between £10 and £50 per item included in the magazine.

Advertisers choose from a council-approved list of beneficiaries to whom they wish to make their cheques payable and these are then sent to magazine's editor, Denise Buckley, who logs their receipt before passing them on to the relevant group.

Mrs White claimed the venture was an “improper use of public money” and added: “Many of us feel that all we want is a newsletter telling us what the parish council does.

“But what we have instead is a glossy magazine that is being used by schools and churches as their free voice-piece.

“I object to these groups benefiting from our money when council tax is so high already. Seven other parish councils in the area spend on average around £500 per year on newsletters, which is nowhere near us.”

However, parish clerk Gill Tansley dismissed the allegation, pointing out the magazine told residents where the money was going in each issue.

She added: “This audit could cost the taxpayers of Myland up to £2,000 - that's a waste of public money.

“Nothing wrong has been done. We've checked with the relevant people all along the way, interests have been declared where necessary and the editor accounts for everything properly.

“It's a shame that some residents are wanting to have a go at people who give up their time for the good of others.”

A spokesman for Lubbock Fine confirmed it was conducting an audit, but declined to say when its investigation would be completed.

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