TAXPAYERS face being burdened with an estimated £73,000 bill for the audit of Keighley Town Council’s accounts.

The shocking figure was quoted by Councillor Samuel Fletcher, who represents Bracken Bank and Ingrow ward.

An exact sum for the cost has yet to be confirmed by the town council, but it could rise further if police deem there are grounds for a potential criminal investigation into the issue.

Keighley MP Kris Hopkins, responding to the bill, said: “It’s now three weeks since the auditors’ public interest report was made public, and since then all we’ve had is a series of self-indulgent, self-serving rants from councillors.

“Keighley Town Council has responsibility for several hundred thousand pounds of local taxpayers’ money, and we need a detailed response on what it intends to do to address the catastrophic failures identified in the report.

“Local residents are quite rightly demanding answers.”

Mr Hopkins has called for a police investigation into the council, and West Yorkshire Police has confirmed it is looking into whether criminal offences have been committed.

The auditors’ findings identified a number of failings and weaknesses within the town council’s governance, many of which relate to how councillors handled public money.

The Keighley News has also seen a more detailed, 63-page document.

Among other issues, this reveals the full cost of the council’s controversial civic centre building during 2013/14. But the town council is refusing to officially release the figure, threatening the paper with possible legal action if it, or any other information, is published from the longer report.

The KN has now submitted a formal request under the Freedom of Information Act to print this information.

The public interest report highlights a long list of weaknesses, including:

l town councillors voting in favour of the council's annual return, despite not being provided with a set of accounts in advance of the vote

l not complying with its own financial regulations

l not maintaining adequate documents to support cash receipts

l not ensuring payments were properly authorised

l the budget presented to councillors calculating the precept required for 2013/14 contained mathematical errors, which could have influenced decisions made relating to funding required for the year ahead

l the council may have acted unlawfully by failing to consider which powers it would rely on to trade via its museum shop within Keighley Civic Centre

l the council could not demonstrate it had delegated responsibility for part of its budget to its management and staffing committee, so expenditure by that committee may have been ‘contrary to law’

l councillors acted outside of their powers in making payments on behalf of their Police Experience attraction, based within Keighley Civic Centre; and

l the council entered into the expensive civic centre project without an adequate business plan.

lWhat do you think? We welcome letters on this or any other subject. E-mail or write to The Editor, Keighley News, 80-86 North Street, Keighley, West Yorkshire BD21 3AG. Please include your name, address and daytime telephone number.