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Accounting error wrecks Cumbria administration

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Cumbria CC’s administration has collapsed after its leader stripped the deputy of her responsibilities when errors were discovered in its accounts for the second year running.

The errors did not involve impropriety but will prevent the council improving its comprehensive performance assessment score.

Once they came to light, leader Tim Stoddard (Con) removed deputy Joan Stocker’s (Lib Dem) responsibilities for finance and performance. She then quit as deputy, ending a seven-year-old coalition pact.

Jim Buchanan, Conservative group leader, said members had been given an assurance that the council’s accounting system had improved after the previous year, only to see a worse error made in this year’s accounts. “Throughout this period Mrs Stocker held the political responsibility for the council’s budget,” he said.

Announcing the two Lib Dem members’ resignations, Cllr Stocker said: “It’s not just about portfolios or apologies. It’s simply that the events of the last two weeks have led to a breakdown in trust between the two groups.”

The error arose when income from grants was mistakenly shown as ‘fees and charges’ and income from internal trading was wrongly shown as arriving from outside the council.

Deputy chief executive Bob Mather said the errors would likely result in a low CPA score for financial reporting, making it impossible for the council to improve on its two-star rating.

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