A TOP director at Milton Keynes Council has been suspended as part of an audit investigation into alleged improper use of fleet cars.
Brian Sandom’s suspension comes days after the Citizen questioned the council about the amount of money it was spending on hiring cars.
We can reveal one car was hired from a private company on a weekly rate for almost two years. Another was hired for 14 months. During 2011, 45 cars were hired by the council for various periods of time. This included two vehicles which exceeded the 12 month period (622 days and 424 days). The vehicles were hired to support service delivery at a cost of £38,090 (this figure includes the whole-period costs of the two which ran over the 12 month period).
The investigation by the council’s internal audit team will examine alleged personal use of council vehicles by Mr Sandom, who lives in Nottinghamshire.
Now just weeks away from retirement, he spent six years as Corporate Director for Environment, one of the council’s most influential positions.
Fifteen months ago his job was one of several posts scrapped during crisis budget cuts. But instead of being made redundant, Mr Sandom remained on the payroll. He was made Corporate Director of the Operation Transformation Programme, ironically a scheme set up to identify more cash savings for the council. So far the scheme has resulted in more than 200 job losses.
One source said: “I think they gave Brian Sandom the OTP job because it was cheaper and easier than paying him redundancy, particularly if he didn’t want to go.”
Part of Mr Sandom’s directorate with the OTP was the costs of the council’s 250-strong fleet of lease-hired or owned cars.
Last week the Citizen received information that two cars, an estate and a hatchback, had been hired privately for inordinately long periods of time.
One was allocated to the OTP department, but it is not known if Mr Sandom was the user.
“The council could have bought both cars almost twice over with the amount it’s spent on hire charges,” claimed our source.
On Wednesday last week a council spokesman insisted to the Citizen there was nothing amiss in its car department. Hiring cars could work out cheaper than buying them, he said.
However, within hours executives held a special meeting – and Mr Sandom was suspended with immediate effect.
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It is understood only a few officials know about the suspension and even Mr Sandom’s colleagues have been told he is “working on other things outside of the council.” said a source.
A council spokesman said this week; “The council’s internal audit team is investigating aspects of the operation of the council’s fleet vehicle service, including alleged personal use of council vehicles. This investigation is ongoing.
“Urgent steps are being taken to regularise the arrangements and ensure that the service operates on a sound footing for the future.”