Mansfield District Council project which failed to collect cash ‘was not robust enough’

A HOUSING regeneration scheme which failed to collect hundreds of thousands of pounds it was owed did not undergo the proper checks, another council probe has shown.

Chad first reported in August how Mansfield District Council had failed to bill households for their agreed shares of work done under group repair schemes.

A briefing note to councillors showed invoices were never sent for improvements done to more than 170 properties from 2001 to this year.

Council bosses were forced to defend the authority’s financial competence after the failure came to light just four weeks after the loss of the Atkin Lane section 106 money was revealed.

The resulting internal investigation led to a disciplinary hearing at the council and identified nine issues which will lead to procedural changes and new guidance.

A report to the council’s audit committee shows investigators found internal auditors were not told of the project, which meant it was not properly financially tested.

There was also a “concentration on spending grant funding” at the expense of collecting the money owed by householders for their share of the works.

Under group repair schemes, residents agree to contribute up to 25 per cent of the cost of improvements to their homes with the rest funded by a grant.

The council is chasing around £187,000 of un-billed contributuions from 64 homes technically not legally enforceable because the money has been owed for so long. The council is chasing a further 107 homes which still owe a total of £227,058 which is enforceble.

Coun Derek Evans, the council’s portfolio holder for housing strategy and regeneration, said: “The system was developed 10 years ago and was not robust enough.

“The council has now taken steps to see systems are put in place which are robust enough. This investigation has been going on for some months and I’m now confident that in future there can be no repeat of what happened.”

A council spokesman said 56 per cent of households eligible to pay had agreed to do so, so far, either in full, in installments or with a property charge.

The council will also be in touch with households which fall outside the six-year rule.

He added invoices had been sent to households which owed money, saying there was “no reason” why money still collectable should not be paid. The other households are also being invoiced.