Oakham mayor resigns over financial audit criticism

Mayor Alf Dewis and his wife Della
Mayor Alf Dewis and his wife Della

The mayor of Oakham has stepped down with immediate effect after an external audit highlighted irregularities in the town council’s financial accounts.

Councillor Alf Dewis took the decision after it was revealed he had incurred £329 of legal costs without the consent of the council.

The audit, published by Grant Thornton UK LLP, also revealed the council had failed to carry out a review of its internal financial controls for the year ending March 2015 due to staff absence.

Mr Dewis, who was also chairman of the town council, was elected to the Oakham South West ward in 2009. He decided to step down on Monday morning saying he had made an honest mistake, but had let the public down.

Back in 2014, Oakham Town Council agreed to commission legal advice for a fixed fee of £500. Mr Dewis later contacted the law firm to ask for some additional work to be carried out, believing it would fall within the scope of the fixed fee.

However, the council was billed an additional £329 for the extra work.

The report states: “It is unlawful for a council to delegate decision making to any individual councillor and varying the instructions and incurring additional costs had the effect of making a decision on behalf of the council. In our view the £329 is unlawful as it had not been authorised.”

Mr Dewis, who has personally repaid the money, said he felt he had no option but to resign.

He said: “I was expecting the extra work to be done within the £500 fee, but clearly that wasn’t the case.

“I felt I’d let people down and decided I should do the honourable thing.”

Mr Dewis said the review of financial controls had been delayed when the council clerk was off sick.

Deputy council chairman councillor Adam Lowe will chair the next town council meeting on April 13. A new mayor and leader will be selected in May.