Cheshire East Council has called in the police to probe concerns about the purchase of land for its environmental hub, which includes a waste transfer station and headquarters for the council’s arm-length company Ansa Environmental Services.
A number of investigations are already being conducted by police over serious allegations into the authority’s conduct.
Acting chief executive Kath O’Dwyer said: “As a result of targeted and risk-assessed audit work, undertaken during the past couple of months, I can confirm that I referred two further matters to Cheshire police on 26 February.
“The police are currently undertaking an initial assessment of these matters, in order to determine whether an investigation is required.”
She said one concerned the acquisition of land subsequently used to provide the council’s Cledford environmental hub project, while she had agreed not to disclose details of the other matter until the police had established whether it merited a formal investigation.
O’Dwyer said the referral meant officers could not present the council’s cabinet with a report on the environmental hub project, which the council had resolved in December to do.
“We stated last year that we would endeavour to ensure that any historical matters of concern are fully explored and appropriate action taken on our findings,” she said.
“To this end, we have embarked on a targeted and risk-assessed programme of audit in relation to specific land sales and acquisitions. This has resulted in these two referrals to the police.”
The environment hub is intended to provide a waste transfer station, transport depot, offices and a new headquarters for Ansa, the council’s operating company for recycling and streetscape services.
Police are also investigating allegations that Cheshire East manipulated air quality data, how public funds were allocated to the Berkeley Academy and concerns about land purchases.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government said in October it would monitor Cheshire East but would only intervene were there enough evidence of “widespread, systemic and extremely serious failure”.
Cheshire East’s investigation and disciplinary committee is due to meet tomorrow, although its business has not been disclosed.
It was found in January to have problems with staff feeling bullied, after a Local Government Association review of its internal culture.
In December, monitoring officer Bill Norman resigned after having been removed from his duties last May. Chief executive Mike Suarez was suspended last April and chief operating officer Peter Bates was suspended in December after having his section 151 officer duties removed last May.
- A version of this story first appeared on MRW’s sister title LGC