Council accounts not signed off fourth year in a row due to legal dispute regarding Whitby Harbour

Whitby harbour. PIC: Tony Johnson
Whitby harbour. PIC: Tony Johnson

A Scarborough borough councillor has moved to assure the public that the authority’s accounts are “in order” despite not being signed off for a fourth year running due to a legal challenge.

Cllr Helen Mallory (Con) told yesterday’s Audit Committee meeting that the challenge to the authority was just one part of the council’s overall accounts and that everything else is as it should be.

LATEST NEWS: Scarborough's new observation wheel takes shape at former Futurist site

The council’s 2017/18, 2016/17 and 2015/16 accounts have all been 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.

Now, the 2018/19 accounts have also been caught up in the row.

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

Scarborough Council denies this is the case and is now in the process of making a Harbour Revision Order to clearly set out the boundary of the Whitby Harbour and council land.

The order would not affect the historic position relating to the accounts but could help to resolve the issue.

Cllr Mallory told the audit committee that she hoped to clear up the situation to keep the public informed.

LATEST NEWS: Scarborough Council call in police to investigate after sensitive documents leaked

She added: “I just want to emphasise that the accounts are in order and have been for the last three years and there isn’t any challenge to the actual accounts per se, it is just about the definition of the harbour land and where it sits in the accounts.”

Auditors Mazars said it was not in a position to make a determination on the objection.

Whitby councillor David Chance (Con) said he hoped the situation could be resolved quickly.

He said: “From personal knowledge, I know that some of the land that is being quoted as Whitby Harbour land was actually a public car park when I was child, there’s a huge chunk of it that was railway land also.”

A decision on the challenge had been expected earlier this year until the objector informed the auditor about new evidence that had been uncovered.