THE former leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council Mike Jones has been cleared of any wrongdoing over the use of a council credit card.
But an internal review also concluded that a total of £459.64 spent on alcohol was “not in the spirit” of expenses claims and should be paid back.
Cllr Jones, who represents Tattenhall, previously told the Leader he only used the card to wine and dine important clients which ended up raising “an awful lot of money” for the council.
It is understood that he does not intend to repay the cash, maintaining his “conscience is clear”.
Cllr Jones, who was paid £40,000 a year as leader, gave a number of examples where he said that spending money in restaurants and bars in Chester and London brought money back to Cheshire West.
He was the only council member who had a ‘purchase card’ which he used to pay for food and drink, parking, rail travel and hotels when serving as leader.
Mark Wynn, director of corporate services at the council, said in a statement yesterday: “We have completed our internal review of historic purchase card transactions, which has been approved by the external auditor.
“While we accept that Cllr Jones did not breach council policy with the use of his purchase card, we felt that some of the transactions, particularly those relating to alcohol purchases, were not in the spirit of what purchase cards were intended for.
“In light of these findings, we wrote to Cllr Jones to suggest that he voluntarily paid back a sum of £459.64 to reimburse these transactions.
“We have received a response from Cllr Jones who acknowledges and welcomes the findings of the review that found there had been no breach of council policy. He has explained, in his opinion, why he felt these transactions were acceptable and how they were made to further the borough’s priorities on the national stage, and actively seeking and securing external funding to the borough, and has therefore declined to reimburse the sum.
“Since this request was voluntary, we cannot take any further action and, given the resources the council has already utilised on this review, we must accept Cllr Jones’ response as the end of this matter.
“Public trust in how the council spends taxpayers’ money is absolutely critical and it was proper that we investigate these enquiries. The council changed its policy in 2013 to tighten a number of procedures and as a result significantly reduced the number of purchase cards issued. No elected members currently have a purchase card.”
The credit card expenses originally came to light following a request made to the council by Labour councillor Ben Powell.
They included a £224 bill at the Architect Bar, next to Council HQ on Nicholas Street, as well as a £400 bill from the Grosvenor Hotel's Arkle Bar.
See full story in the Chester Leader