BEESTON Parish Council has defended itself after being accused of failing to meet its responsibilities to taxpayers by not reporting how it has used and protected their money.

The Audit Commission published a public interest report last week saying the council has ‘failed in an important statutory duty’ by not producing an annual return for the financial year ending March 31, 2011.

District auditor Jackie Bellard said: “The people of Beeston have the right to know how their local taxes have been used by the council.

“Despite my repeated requests, the council has failed to submit its annual return. This should not happen again.”

Parish council chairman Brian Jenkins responded: “I have explained to the Audit Commission on several occasions that it was not possible to let them have the forms in the time laid down without prior consultation.

“The members of the parish council are all unpaid volunteers, as is the responsible financial officer and the internal auditor.

“The internal auditor is a local professional accountant who does the work on a pro bono basis so we are reluctant to press him to do his work within tight deadlines set down by the Audit commission.

“The commission were advised on March 23 that the return would be provided by September 30. I wrote to them again on September 15 saying that the return would be with them by September 30.

“This was acknowledged by an automatic email response saying it would be ‘dealt with shortly’. I wrote again on October 5 and received another automatic reply saying that ‘they were all out of the office until October 10’.

“They have been provided with an unaudited copy of the annual return. We await the signature of the internal auditor who has been beset with staff problems due to illness.”