Police investigation into unlawful exit payments at Northumberland County Council remains ongoing

Officials at Northumberland County Council have confirmed that a police investigation into unlawful exit payments remains ongoing.
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The six payments, totalling more than £1 million, were made between 2017 and 2022 and were found not to have the correct authorisation from councillors.

In January, following further discoveries, the decision was taken to refer the matter to Northumbria Police.

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A report by the council’s top lawyer Stephen Gerrard claimed that an error in the local authority’s pay policies between 2019 and 2022 could have been the reason for the errors.

Cllr Peter Jackson. Photo: NCJ Media/Iain Buist.Cllr Peter Jackson. Photo: NCJ Media/Iain Buist.
Cllr Peter Jackson. Photo: NCJ Media/Iain Buist.

The matter was raised at a meeting of the council’s audit committee.

Cllr Nick Oliver asked if officers could give there was a timescale as to when the committee would receive an update but Kevin McDonald, the head of internal audit at the council, said he was unable to.

Ex-council leader Coun Peter Jackson said: “My understanding is a referral has been made to the police and the police are still investigating. We as a committee will expect a response back, but I understand that is still ongoing.”

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Council lawyer Neil Masson said: “If and when there is any information to report to this committee, the monitoring officer will do so – but we are not in a position to do so.”

Northumbria Police has confirmed there are currently no updates on the case.

Speaking at another meeting, Mr Gerrard said the issues which could have led to the unlawful payments had now been rectified. At the time, he expressed a hope that his report would “draw a line” under the issue” – bur refused to answer questions on the police referral.