A councillor says taxpayers deserve to know the full story after controversy surrounding funding for a tree planting project in Burntwood.
Staffordshire County Council confirmed that “measures have been put in place” for money given to Cllr Thomas Loughbrough-Rudd to be returned after it emerged the scheme did not take place.
The cash was awarded to the Conservative representative for Burntwood North prior to his election in May from the Climate Change Fund, with an authority representative confirming to Lichfield Live that his successful application for funding was confirmed in March.
Cllr Simon Tagg, cabinet member for climate change at the authority, said “unfortunately the project has not proceeded” and that the steps had been taken to ensure the money was returned.
But Cllr Sue Woodward, leader of Burntwood Town Council and a former county councillor, branded the response as “a fudge” – and insisted questions still needed answering.
“The response from Cllr Simon Tagg, cabinet member for climate change, is completely unsatisfactory – whether or not the individual concerned was a county councillor at the time of the grant application is irrelevant.
“He was, and still is a Conservative member of Burntwood Town Council and a member of Hammerwich Parish Council, after all, and so is subject to the code of conduct for councillors. This includes the principles of honesty, openness and accountability – the Nolan Principles for Standards in Public Life.
“It’s about time that the Conservatives in Staffordshire reflected on these principles and behaved appropriately, both locally and nationally.
“The leadership are trying to fudge this issue by saying that the grant is going to be paid back but give no information of when or how. It seems like this grant award is now being treated almost as a free loan.
“That surely can’t be right and only serves to further undermine confidence.”Cllr Sue Woodward, Burntwood Town Council
Cllr Loughbrough-Rudd’s Nature Nuturing CIC was awarded £924 for the county council’s climate action fund following a successful application via former councillor Helen Fisher, who has since gone on to become deputy Staffordshire Commissioner.
The business – of which he is the only director – has since had a notice to strike off after failing to complete the confirmation statement by the July 2021 deadline.
The Conservatives at Staffordshire County Council confirmed to Lichfield Live last month that Cllr Loughbrough-Rudd had been suspended from the group after “concerns” were raised about the money.
That move led to an investigation which has resulted in the confirmation the funding would be returned, although no details were given about how and when it would come back to the public purse.
The Conservatives have yet to confirm whether or not the suspension of Cllr Loughbrough-Rudd has now been lifted.
Cllr Woodward said residents deserved to know how the money had come to be issued and then not used – as well as when it was being paid back.
“The more the Conservative leadership at the county council dance around this issue, the more questions there are to be answered.
“The people of Burntwood North, at least, along with the rest of Staffordshire’s Council Tax payers deserve to be told the full story.”Cllr Sue Woodward, Burntwood Town Council
Cllr Loughbrough-Rudd has regularly been approached for comment by Lichfield Liveover 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.