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Resignation call as council slammed

PUBLISHED: 17:09 17 January 2008 | UPDATED: 10:18 03 July 2010

THE leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council was asked to resign after the authority's financial practices were described as a failure by a local government watchdog.

THE leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council was asked to resign after the authority's financial practices were described as a failure by a local government watchdog.

Barry Coleman was forced to defend the council's handling of its accounts after Labour opposition demanded he step down because of a critical report from the Audit Commission.

The commission says the Conservative- controlled council failed to prepare and approve its 2006/7 statements of accounts in time for submission and as a result they could have been issued with a stern public interest warning.

In 2006, the borough council was also criticised by the Audit Commission for its poor book-keeping practices, which have now been improved in time for the next set of figures.

At a meeting of the full council last Thursday, Labour councillor Brian Walker called for Mr Coleman and fellow cabinet member for finance Tony Smith to “fall on their swords” and resign.

Mr Walker said: “To say that you fiddled while Rome burned is a little bit of an understatement.”

Fellow Labour councillor Pat Hacon said he was shocked by the Audit Commission report, which said that seven out of 12 of the council's accounting criteria were inadequate.

Although the council submitted its accounts six weeks past the deadline date, the commission has signed them off, but has instructed the authority to make sure it properly submits future financial reports.

Labour's spokesman for resources Derek Barker branded the report a “sad indictment of the ruling group.”

Mr Coleman, who laughed off calls to resign, said the council had implemented new financial measures and updated its previous “steam-powered” computers with a new system.

During the heated debate, Mr Coleman also read out a long list of his administration's achievements in the last year, including improved recycling rates, increased costumer satisfaction, securing major funding for the borough and enhanced street scenes.

He said: “None of this was handed to us eight years ago on a silver plate. I take full responsibility for managing the council during that time. There are issues that have been raised quite rightly that are not satisfactory. We have been working on this for some time and it is a top priority for us.”

Labour councillor Mick Castle said it was the “last chance saloon” for the council to get control of its finances.

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