Could this be the end of the Whitby accounts saga?

Could this be the end of the Whitby accounts saga?
Could this be the end of the Whitby accounts saga?

A four-year-long legal challenge which has stopped Scarborough Council’s accounts from being signed off could finally be reaching its conclusion.

The authority’s 2017/18 accounts are being held up as the council is locked in a legal challenge with a group of residents over how it classifies income and expenditure from Whitby harbour.

Accounts going back to 2015/16 and 2016/17 also remained unsigned as the dispute raged on.

If this issue is not concluded it would have the same impact on the 2018/19 accounts.

The Fight4Whitby pressure group launched a legal challenge in 2016 citing the 1905 Whitby Urban District Council Act, which states that income from Whitby harbour must be ring-fenced for use within the harbour.

The group has been crowdfunding its legal challenge.

Scarborough Council denies this is the case and says it has “robust” legal advice which backs its stance to include income from the harbour in its general fund.

Next week, independent auditors Mazars will present its latest report to Scarborough Council’s Audit Committee stating that a decision could be just weeks away.

Its report to councillors states: “We received additional information from the objector in early 2019, including references to documents held by the National Archives.

“We requested copies of the information and had to wait up to 28 days for it to be provided.

“We have now received this information and have considered it and its impact on the objection. Having done this we are in a position to update our provisional view.

“Before we can finalise the provisional view there are some areas where we will need to seek our own legal advice. We will be looking to do this in the coming weeks.”

A decision had been expected earlier this year until the objector informed the auditor about its new evidence.