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Cheshire chief constable Simon Byrne receives complaint about Cllr Mike Jones

Police are reviewing allegations concerning former council leader's use of local authority credit card
Former council leader Mike Jones speaking to Cheshire chief constable Simon Byrne(Image: David Holmes)

Cheshire Police are reviewing allegations concerning the use of a council credit card by Cllr Mike Jones when he was Tory leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council .

Former Labour councillor Ben Powell wrote to Cheshire chief constable Simon Byrne asking for an investigation ‘to determine whether a criminal offence has been committed’.

As leader, Cllr Jones was the only council member with a ‘purchase card’ which was used to pay for food and drink, rail travel, parking and hotels during the course of his council business.

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Mr Powell – ex-chair of CWaC’s public accounts scrutiny panel – had concerns with some of the purchases after checking details provided under Freedom of Information, including:

■ Four transactions at Conservative Party fund-raising events

■ Card used to pay off £35 NCP Ltd parking fine

■ High value expenditure at restaurants and pubs

Mr Powell is also asking police to look into whether CWaC committed a criminal offence by failing to publish the credit card transactions under its obligations as a publicly-funded and accountable organisation.

Cheshire chief constable Simon Byrne(Image: Cheshire Constabulary)

Police spokeswoman Donna Hesketh said: “ Cheshire Constabulary can confirm that the chief constable Simon Byrne has received a complaint from a former Cheshire West and Chester councillor. The allegation is currently being reviewed, in order to establish whether any offences may have been committed.”

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Cllr Jones has not responded to The Chronicle’s request for a comment.

However, Cllr Jones has provided explanations to CWaC for some of the expenditure which was included in a statement issued by Mark Wynn, director of corporate services, who confirmed the council would be holding an internal review.

The statement includes Cllr Jones’s recollection that he had previously asked for £35, the amount of the parking fine, to be deducted from his councillor’s allowance.

Cllr Mike Jones(Image: David Sejrup)

And the Tattenhall councillor, who was leader of CWaC until Labour took control in May 2015, says he was lobbying ministers on behalf of the authority when he used the card at the United and Cecil Club (U&C) – a members-only dining club, run by Tim Lord, which raises substantial funds for the Conservative Party.

Mr Wynn also pointed out that Cllr Jones, in his role as leader, regularly met with potential external investors with a view to attracting regeneration and development to the borough, using the card on these occasions.

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Speaking to another local newspaper, Cllr Jones offered a strong defence of his credit card expenditure, insisting his conscience was ‘clear’ and that his actions had helped attract significant investment and funding into the borough.

Former Labour councillor Ben Powell

Cheshire West and Chester Council today responded to news that Mr Powell has asked Cheshire Police to investigate whether the authority acted illegally by not making the credit card transactions available on its website as a matter of routine.

Mark Wynn, director of corporate services, said: “The council is conducting an internal review into this matter. Should the police contact us we will of course provide any information that is requested.

“The Local Government Transparency Code requires items over £500 to be published and the council complies with this requirement.

“The council annually publishes members’ allowances, travel and accommodation and subsistence figures as open data on its website.”

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