Seven thousand pounds of public money spent on a private operation for Newmarket’s town clerk, Isabelle Barrett, has been paid back, the Journal can reveal.
Newmarket town councillor, Warwick Hirst, who defended the actions of the council in paying for surgery to alleviate a painful neck condition at the town’s public meeting in May, confirmed yesterday the money had “been repaid from a private source.” But he insisted that the council still believed it had made the right decision to fund the operation.
“In a sense this does not change anything,” he said. “We are convinced with the legal advice we had, that we did everything right.”
Town mayor, Cllr Geoffrey Jaggard, who had not been told about the repayment when contacted by the Journal, said; “We used a power we believe we had when we agreed to fund the operation. People have challenged that and the Audit Commission is still investigating whether the council had the power to do it or not. If the commission decides the council used its power incorrectly, then we will have to decide what action to take.”
The investigation into the controversial decision to pay for the surgery is being done by external auditors appointed by the Audit Commission and follows a complaint by Newmarket resident Ian Bedford.
“An elector has informed us of the medical costs incurred by the council and we have followed this up with the council. We hope to conclude the audit in the next three weeks,” said auditor Emma Prince.
“Without wanting to sound triumphant, I’m delighted by the news,” said Mr Bedford. “Ever since the Journal broke the story, I have been determined to see this obvious misspend of public funds overturned and the money repaid.”