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Complaint against Powys senior councillor lodged

Cllr Elwyn Vaughan, Plaid Cymru group leader on Powys County Council

A COMPLAINT has been lodged with the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales against a senior councillor, Powys County Council has confirmed.

The authority made the complaint against Plaid Cymru group leader, Cllr Elwyn Vaughan.

Cllr Vaughan is also the Plaid Cymru candidate for Montgomeryshire and Glyndwr seat at the next General Election.

The complaint follows criticism over how the council handled a whistleblower allegation of wrongdoing at the North Powys Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) in Newtown.

In December, media outlet Nation Cymru reported that the council has been accused of seeking to cover up irregular purchases made by a former headteacher at the PRU back in 2021.

A whistleblower had reported the unusual purchases to the council.

It had been alleged that the former headteacher, had used a council credit card to buy an assortment of work tools.

On being told in September 2022 that no evidence of fraud could be found the whistleblower then took their concerns to Audit Wales.

The problem then became known to Plaid Cymru group leader, Cllr Elwyn Vaughan, who raised concerns about the handling of the complaint with the council’s chief executive Emma Palmer.

Emma Palmer – Powys County Council Chief Executive

Under the council’s process of asking questions at anytime Cllr Vaughan has posed a series of questions about the problems at the PRU with the Liberal Democrat cabinet member for education, Cllr Pete Roberts.

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The allegation is that Cllr Vaughan brought the authority into disrepute by disclosing confidential information.

Cllr Vaughan said: “All I have done is support a whistleblower and raise concerns about the misuse of public funds.

“It’s very sad but nothing more than an attempt to silence those that scrutinise and seek transparency for Powys ratepayers.”

A spokesperson for Powys County Council said: “We can confirm that the Ombudsman is investigating a complaint.”

The council has also been asked several times why the allegations against the former headteacher were not reported to Dyfed-Powys Police at the time.

A council spokesman explained: “An internal investigation into the allegations was carried out by the council’s anti-fraud team which found no evidence to support claims that theft or fraud had taken place.

“Under the terms of a memorandum of understanding between the council and Dyfed-Powys Police, the council’s own fraud investigators must secure evidence of criminal activities having taken place prior to referring a case to the police force’s economic crime team.”

The issues at the Newtown PRU were brought up at a meeting of the council’s Governance and Audit committee in January.

At that meeting several committee members had wanted to use the whistleblowing affair at the PRU as a case study with “lessons learned” presented back to the committee.

However, this was shut down by Ms Palmer who wanted to make it “very clear” that they could have their say on whistleblowing strategy and policy but not individual cases.

A review of the council’s whistleblowing policy is underway.

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