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Allegations of Potential Fraud Involving ‘£Millions’ at GBC – Officers Suspended, Employment Contracts Terminated

Published on: 20 Sep, 2023
Updated on: 20 Sep, 2023

By Martin Giles

Two Guildford Borough Council officers have been suspended and five interim managers have had their contracts suddenly terminated following allegations of potential fraud and budget and contract overspends.

A letter seen by The Guildford Dragon NEWS to one of those whose contract has been terminated states: “… the council is investigating your potential involvement in respect of allegations of contract and other management failures, contractual overspends, lack of financial controls and fraudulent activity”.

The letter is written by Annie Righton, the joint strategic director (Community Wellbeing).

According to one report, all the suspended or terminated employees worked in the engineering and compliance department, part of the Property Services Directorate which oversees maintenance of GBC’s 5,000 council houses.

The precise amount of the claimed overspends has not been admitted but it has been reported they represent millions of pounds.

At least two of the terminated interim managers are vigorously denying the claims, saying that any mismanagement was by those above them at the council.

They have also claimed that their termination means that work to make council houses compliant with fire safety regulations has stopped, leaving tenants at risk, and there are also reports of other upgrades being delayed or cancelled.

It is understood that the two managers who have spoken to The Dragon have sought legal advice and are preparing a claim against the council for loss of earnings and defamation.

A spokesperson for GBC confirmed that an investigation was under way but did not confirm other details as requested. She said: “We’ve identified an issue within housing maintenance. Due to this, and in accordance with proper procedures, we are conducting an investigation.

“It’s essential to uphold the integrity of the investigation process. Therefore, at this time, we’re unable to provide any specific details or comments related to our ongoing enquiries.

“We remain committed to transparency and may release further information if it is appropriate and permissible to do so.

“We plan to operate as normal during this time and we’re working hard to continue providing our housing maintenance services with limited disruption. Our priority continues to be the safety and wellbeing of our tenants, and the compliance of our properties.

“We will continue to engage regularly with our Tenant Engagement Group.”

News of the investigation follows reports of an ongoing issue with council budgeting including the difficulty in making the books balance for this and future financial years as the council is legally required to do.

Earlier this year it was announced that a £10 million accounting error due to the misallocation of a Covid grant had been discovered. The error gave the impression that GBC’s finances were in better shape than they, in fact, were.

See: Guildford Officers Find £10m Accounting Error

Since that announcement, there has been another change of finance director at GBC and another interim officer appointed, the third since a permanent officer filled the post.

But the budgets associated with housing maintenance come from the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) and are not thought to affect the budget deficit issue.


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Responses to Allegations of Potential Fraud Involving ‘£Millions’ at GBC – Officers Suspended, Employment Contracts Terminated

  1. Peta Malthouse Reply

    September 20, 2023 at 8:36 pm

    If the allegations prove to be true it is shocking and if funds have been misappropriated then the full force of the law should be engaged. The borough council’s audit department must first track these transactions down and I hope once properly supported conclusions have been reached the police will be involved, if appropriate.

    Dreadful situation for all staff. This is our money, public money, and I look forward to subsequent reports.

  2. Martin Elliott Reply

    September 20, 2023 at 8:58 pm

    Are we to assume lead councillors and other councillors have no responsibility of oversight, this is all an internal council officers issue.

    I think not.

  3. Keith Parkins Reply

    September 20, 2023 at 9:11 pm

    Why am I not surprised?

    The finance department either incompetence or corrupt.

    Council tax payers are taken to court for non-payment of council tax but show the court that they have paid.

    Businesses are taken to court for non-payment of BID Levy. The council then withdraws when it is shown the demand for BID Levy has not been correctly served, has failed to comply with BID regulations. A blame game then follows, the council blames Experience Guildford for not supplying correct information to comply with the BID regulations.

    Does the council not exercise due diligence when issuing BID Levy demands, when issuing summons, to ensure that they are compliant with the BID regulations?

    A few days later, the council sends out an email noting the information they are requesting and citing the relevant BID regulations. An implicit admission that have failed to serve BID Levy demand correctly.

    Three weeks later, GBC is back in court, different case for alleged non-payment of BID Levy. Nothing has changed since the council withdrew the previous case. A debt of just £170 against the expense of a finance department team’s attendance. How much did that cost?

  4. Greg Hall Reply

    September 21, 2023 at 7:57 am

    I worked for The Borough Architects Department back in the 1990’s, and corruption was not rife but, we knew it went on. And I can prove it. But at the time staff were told to keep quiet or loose your job. I moved on, as a lot of the Architects did.

    Such a shame that this goes on in “posh Guildford ” but I can assure you that London Borough Councils are ten times worse!!!!

    Greg Hall, LR MRICS MCIOB MASI MICE and Architect.
    Hall and Company Surveyors Ltd.

  5. Guildford Dragon NEWS Reply

    September 22, 2023 at 4:35 pm

    […] See: Allegations of Potential Fraud Involving ‘£Millions’ at GBC – Officers Suspended, Employment … […]

  6. David Horne Reply

    September 24, 2023 at 1:49 pm

    Excellent. Good news for the words “tip” and “iceberg” which will be enjoying much employment for the foreseeable future!

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