NEW details of City of York Council’s controversial payments to a £400-a-day consultant have emerged, after the findings of an internal report were leaked to The Press.

As The Press revealed yesterday, council bosses have been criticised for paying tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money without proper monitoring, and told to take “robust action” to avoid a repeat of serious failings.

The council refused to publish one of two auditors’ reports, but a copy has now been seen by The Press and adds more detail to the published report.

It alleges that another £150,000 was paid out, and a catalogue of other failures including the council official responsible not getting proper tenders, quotes or contracts for work commissioned, and not drawing up business cases or monitoring the work that was paid for.

According to the report, there was a series of policy breaches, but auditors have made clear there is no evidence of fraud or criminality.

It states:

  • Stewart Halliday, who held senior roles with the council, authorised a raft of payments to communications consultant Stuart Goulden without obtaining quotes
  • Mr Halliday sent council information to his own personal email address, and the personal email addresses of one serving and one former councillor
  • Contracts were awarded to other companies Mr Goulden was involved with, as well as to him personally
  • There was a “lack-of-recognition” in the council that Mr Goulden was being paid so much
  • Procurement staff and a former chief executive tried to challenge the troublesome contracts, but failed “possibly due to the culture within the area at the time”.

The auditors’ investigation included checking Mr Halliday’s email account after he had left the council, trying to check historic entry logs at the council headquarters, and exploring potential personal links between Mr Halliday and Mr Goulden. None were found.

The auditors said they could see Mr Goulden had carried out the work, but they could not find any evidence Mr Halliday had followed procurement rules by looking for other quotes, drawing up contracts and putting them on the council register, or monitoring the work.

Instead, the report lists ten alleged breaches including no paperwork being retained; no quotes or contracts for the work; one payment in advance of work being carried out; and a lack of contract monitoring.

On top of that, the investigators say they found another £150,000 worth of work had gone to companies connected with Mr Goulden, and although some were for very small amounts others should have had three quotes obtained before the work was agreed.

York Press:

Furthermore, auditors say they found emails containing council information which had been sent from Mr Halliday’s work account to non-council email addresses, including some information marked “confidential”.

The auditors raised concerns about the potential data protection implications of that.

The external auditors’ reports into the procurement of expensive communications consultants were published by the council earlier this week.

They show concerns over the way Mr Goulden was taken on and paid £174,000 for work at the council over three years.

The auditors are due to present their findings to a committee of councillors next week.

Mr Halliday was the council’s assistant director for transformation and change in 2014, and had also held the title of head of strategy, partnerships and communications.

Mr Goulden and his company Like No Other worked for the council between 2013 and 2016.

The reports will be considered by the council’s audit and governance committee next Wednesday.

Mr Goulden said last night: “I haven’t been sent or asked to contribute to any of the reports you’re referring to, meaning it would be inappropriate for me to comment.

“That said, all work packages were quoted for in the format requested - as you would expect when entering a competitive process.

“Any questions about City of York Council’s record keeping and IT processes are best answered by them.”

A spokeswoman for City of York Council said: “The report was exempt from publication and our employees identities kept private because it identified individuals by name and this information related specifically to their financial or business affairs.

“As a responsible employer we have a fundamental duty to protect the privacy of our employees and former employees.

“We are taking this matter very seriously.

“An investigation into how this confidential report was released is being conducted and this will involve North Yorkshire Police.”

The Press has made efforts to contact Mr Halliday, without success.