Money handed over to a councillor for a tree planting project will be paid back in full after it emerged it never took place, Staffordshire County Council has confirmed.

Cllr Thomas Loughbrough-Rudd
Cllr Thomas Loughbrough-Rudd

Cllr Thomas Loughbrough-Rudd was suspended by the controlling Conservative group last month after concerns were raised over £924 he had received prior to his election in May this year.

The money was awarded to his Nature Nuturing company for “tree planting”.

Mystery has surrounded how the funding was used, but Cllr Simon Tagg, cabinet member with responsibility for climate change at Staffordshire County Council, has now confirmed the trees were never planted.

“Cllr Loughborough-Rudd received funding for a project before he became a county councillor.

“Unfortunately the project has not proceeded and measures have been put in place for this funding to be returned to the council in full.”

Cllr Simon Tagg, Staffordshire County Council

Cllr Loughbrough-Rudd has regularly been approached for comment by Lichfield Live over the funding since the concerns first emerged.

However, despite insisting on 23rd November that he would provide answers “in the next few days”, he has failed to offer up any public explanation over why the funding was not used and why the money had not been returned sooner.

How the story unfolded…

A Conservative spokesperson confirmed to Lichfield Live on 18th November that Cllr Loughbrough-Rudd had been suspended amid concerns over the money allocated to him prior to his election to the county council.

“The ambition with the climate change fund was to make it easy and accessible so the governance around it was light touch – however, we have discovered it was perhaps a little too light touch.

“We are now undertaking steps to rectify this.

“Some concerns were raised about money Cllr Loughbrough-Rudd applied for before he became a councillor.

“Pending those enquiries and discussions with the monitoring officer, Cllr Loughbrough-Rudd is suspended from the Conservative group at Staffordshire County Council.”

Staffordshire County Council Conservative group spokesperson

Records obtained via a Freedom of Information request subsequently showed that Cllr Lougbrough-Rudd’s Nature Nuturing – although on the county council paperwork it is spelt as Nature Nurture – was awarded £924 under the scheme via former Conservative councillor Helen Fisher.

No date on when the application was made or funding was handed over was included in a spreadsheet of information relating to the fund:

Screenshot of Climate Change listing

The Climate Change Fund is administered by Staffordshire County Council with three categories:

  • Reducing carbon impact
  • Improving air quality
  • Adaptation to climate change

The details of who was awarded what was not made publicly available on the county council website, with the Freedom of Information request used to access details over where the funding went.

It showed that a total of £76,074.60 was handed out to 121 organisations across Staffordshire.

Among the recipients was Nature Nuturing Community Interest Company, which lists Cllr Loughbrough-Rudd as a sole director. Records show it was incorporated on 27th July 2020.

But Companies House records now reveal that despite setting up the company, Cllr Loughbrough-Rudd did not submit the required confirmation statement within the first 12 months as necessary.

With the statement still not submitted, an active proposal to strike off the business has now been put forward.

The registration of Nature Nuturing as a Community Interest Company means that it must be run for the benefit of the community.

“Community Interest Companies are limited companies which operate to provide a benefit to the community they serve.”

Ceri Witchard, Regulator of Community Interest Companies

It would also mean any remaining assets would be subject to an ‘asset lock’ – meaning funds would be redistributed to another, pre-determined community organisation should the company cease to exist.

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21 Comments

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  1. Is it just me or are there still loads of questions about the way this funding is allocated and scrutinised still left unanswered?

    At least he should be able to give the money straight back. After all, it has not been spent on the trees, so it must still be available. Right?

  2. Surely the measures for repayment are simple – BACS transfer.

    One assumes that as the money was not spent on trees and there is no record of any activity for this CIC then the funding from SCC will still be in the bank account?

    I’m afraid no-one is coming out well in this story. Not Cllr Loughbrough-Rudd, his Conservative colleagues, or the council itself.

    The only ones in credit are Lichfield Live for once more shining a light on such stories and Cllr Woodward for fighting for greater transparency of such grant schemes.

    Seems a pity Cllr Woodward lost her seat to Cllr Loughbrough-Rudd. Whereas she continually fights for Burntwood, he just seems motivated by self-interest.

  3. Well according to the County Council’s website he is still a Conservative member. His company is registered at the address where he was living (?) in St John Street in Lichfield, as a CIC not a CIO – something quite different.

    I fear the Conservative Leadership at SCC are trying to explain away the situation by saying that there should have had better controls over the public monies being given out and that it is being paid back anyway. Sorry, they can’t dismiss this so easily.

    Why didn’t the project go ahead? When was the money paid to a potential – if not already selected – candidate in the County elections where extra, extra caution should be applied? Why has it not been paid back already as presumably it has only been sitting in the CIC account unused? It is a Community Interest Company despite his declaration at the County Council meeting on the 20th May this year that he was a “Director of a Charitable Incorporated Organisation in receipt of funding from the County Council”.

    I don’t know if Lichfield Live was more successful than me as I asked an FOI on the 19th August about grants generally awarded to anyone organisation in Lichfield District between the 1/08/2020 and the 1/08/2021 but strangely the Climate Change Fund was not included in the answer. I finally got the answer – after another request 8 days ago!

  4. Hmmm. The best bit about this report is the information it doesn’t contain meaning we, the reader, are free to read between the lines and make our own assessment. Thank you Lichfield Live for bringing this matter to our attention. On another note, I am looking forward to seeing Lichfield Live report on resignations from the council in the very near future.

  5. “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.”

    It would be good to know if this is an isolated incident, or if there are more secrets to be revealed. A very good friend from Burntwood usually shows such wisdom when it is needed. Perhaps the wisest thing now is to simply tell the truth.

  6. He should be sacked immediately, another election take place & hopefully Darren Ennis to take over. He should have been elected before if people took more interest in local councils. He attempts to do so much for the area but I’m not aware of this other chap ever showing his face!

  7. Where’s good old Micky Fabricant’s comments on this?! If this were a labour councillor he’d be all over this like a rash. Such double standards from the conservatives all the time.

  8. The only organisation qualified to investigate these events are the police, can someone from the council explain why they haven’t been informed?

  9. I guess this (hopefully) ex councillor is only sorry because he got found out with his dishonesty. I would imagine the next step here is for a police investigation into this grubby incident.

  10. I think Cllr Loughbrough-Rudd is realising that money doesn’t grow on trees and that he might need to branch out from politics. I think he was barking up the wrong tree.
    The tories themselves need to get to the root of the problem.

  11. So what would have happened if Labour councillors had not pursued the truth and made repeated FOI requests? Would we ever have known about this very dubious episode?

  12. I hope that the horrible feeling I have that the consequences of this valiant and honest journalism will be a tragedy which I hope no one here commenting wants are misplaced. It seems to me that the tories have thrown this young man out to dry like a stray dog and that events in Westminster have contributed to a “who can Diss the councilor the best” competition. It’s time for the young man to grow some balls and comment on this without delay.

  13. You could have stuck a blue rosette on anything and it would have had the Burntwood Tories out voting for it , so it’s no Suprise we got a Poundland Boris, with an abundance of kids with various women, and claiming public money for a ” charity “, If money is so short at the council how come no checking has been done and if nothing got bought or planted then if that money has been spent on something else that is fraud or theft and should be reported to police, surely there are enough ex police in the Burntwood conservative party to have spotted what was happening. total incompetence not just for putting this person forward to stand, but not keeping a check on him , his fellow Torie councillors are at fault for allowing this to happen. makes all their crocodile tears over 3p increase in Burntwood’s part of council tax look like a smoke screen. As for blaming his autism well that’s just an insult to all autistic people.

  14. Is there not some responsibility on the (then) County Councillor who gave the funds?

    Where’s she now?

  15. @Burntwood Person – that would be the new Deputy Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Staffordshire, appointed in June

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