Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Pottery classes for ex-quango staff

An inquiry found that staff at the now defunct Thurrock Thames Gateway Development Corporation were also given unnecessary payments

Former staff of a development quango were sent for patchwork, pottery and jewellery making lessons at the taxpayers' expense, a government investigation has found.

Staff at the now defunct Thurrock Thames Gateway Development Corporation, set up to drive through housing and infrastructure projects, were also given unnecessary payments, according to the Department for Communities and Local Government inquiry.

Communities Minister Brandon Lewis said there had been "irregular payments" in lieu of notice because redundancy documents were not issued "in good time" when the organisation in Essex was given six months to shut down last year.

The Government is now backing a legal action against former c hief executive Niall Lindsay and d irector of resources Sean O'Donnell for payments in lieu of notice to them amounting to £117,073.

Mr Lewis said DCLG is taking steps " to protect taxpayers' interests and ensure probity in the spending of public money" following he investigation.

In a written ministerial statement, he said: "I t has come to the department's attention that correct procedures were not followed by the Corporation, resulting in irregular payments being made during the closure process.

" A departmental investigation has identified spending on items including: training for former staff in patchwork, pottery and jewellery making, the purchase of software and associated training for personal use by a senior executive of the closing body, and payment in lieu of notice when this could have been avoided through timely issuing of notice periods to staff."

He added: " The department is now supporting Thurrock Borough Council in legal action to recover funds from the former chief executive and director of resources to protect taxpayers' interests. I hope this sends out a strong signal about our zero tolerance towards wasting public money."

The Corporation has been closed and its functions transferred to the local council.

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