District auditor to investigate claims of financial irregularities

Merseytravel chairman Mark Dowd was last week forced to resign after 20 years in the post, saying that his position had become “untenable” after half of his 16 fellow Labour members on the Integrated Transport Authority called for him to resign.

With opposition Liberal Democrat and Conservative members also calling for him to go, Dowd faced the very real prospect of losing the vote to elect Merseytravel’s chairman.

In their letter calling on Dowd to stand down, the eight Labour councillors said that the Merseytravel chair had failed to address a “number of significant concerns about how power has been exercised and public money allocated and spent”.

“When we have previously attempted to discuss our concerns with you, you have chosen either to cancel requested meetings or truncate them to such an extent that any in-depth discussion of these serious matters has been prevented,” they said.

They added that Merseytravel faces a number of challenges over the next few years, including the procurement of new rolling stock for Merseyrail, constrained public finances and the devolution of funding to the city region.

They continued: “Unfortunately at no time have you articulated a clear, strategic and deliverable vision for transport across the city region.”

One of the Labour councillors, Joe Hanson, has written a highly critical report that questions governance arrangements in place at Merseytravel under the leadership of Dowd and Neil Scales, the former chief executive, who left Merseytravel for a new job in Queensland, Australia at the end of last year.

The report has been reviewed by Julian Farmer, the district auditor, who, according to local press reports, is believed to have raised concerns about £2m spent with law firms Bircham Dyson Bell and DLA Piper. Farmer also believes that EU procurement rules could have been broken and that standing orders have not been followed.

 

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