Parish council offices may have been ‘bugged’

HOLBEACH Parish Council is to look into whether it paid almost £1,200 to a firm of private investigators to check if its offices were bugged.

The council’s finance committee will meet on August 6 to discuss the circumstances behind a payment recorded in its 2011-12 accounts of £1,185 to Morcliff Securities of Nottingham.

There have been suggestions that the firm was called in after details of a private council meeting 
last year were made public by someone not present at the meeting.

The finance committee investigation will be led by chairman Paul Brighton and it comes after the payment to Morcliff Securities was questioned at a parish council meeting earlier this month.

Council chairman and finance committee member Peter Savory said legal advice could be taken during the investigation to find out how such a payment could have been authorised and to prevent it happening again.

He said: “We have a new finance committee which is investigating the whole thing and it takes time.

“We have certain suggestions and bits of the jigsaw, but we’ve not been able to put them all together yet.

“There’s a link between a few small things which we’ll have to look into a bit more and we hope to have an idea about which direction to go in by the time of our next council meeting on August 13.

“But it’s got to be fully checked out and we’ll have to take legal advice before we say anything.”

It has been suggested that suspicions about the council offices being bugged led to an attempt to try and find out whether someone had done so, but Coun Savory was unable to confirm or deny whether this was the case.

He said: “It’s very hard to speculate until we have some concrete facts, but I’m very concerned about the situation and I’m not going to let it rest.

“Hopefully, we’ll know soon what happened and see that it never happens again.”

Meanwhile, the council’s internal auditor has confirmed to the Free Press that he raised a question about the payment to Morcliff Securities and that the matter was still open.

Internal auditor Godfrey Parkes said: “When I asked the council clerk what the payment was all about, I got an answer and the background as to why it was done.

“But I wouldn’t say the matter has been put to bed and it’s still being looked at.”