FAILINGS at a community council in Monmouthshire resulted in “unlawful expenditure” of more than £85,000, a watchdog has found.

A damning Audit Wales report has identified significant failures in decision making, inadequacies in financial management and internal control and a breakdown in relations at Magor with Undy Community Council.

The report into the council’s accounts for 2018/19 says these failings meant the authority did not have proper arrangements in place to secure economy, efficiency and effectiveness in its use of resources.

The Audit General’s report says that during 2018 relationships within the council had “broken down”, affecting how it conducted business.

Minutes of council meetings were not fully documented and decision items were not always taken separately, according to the report.

The council failed to adhere to its own internal rules for procuring services and consequently incurred “unlawful expenditure” of £62,973, Audit Wales said.

This included £36,780 on three contracts which did not comply with standing orders, making the council incur unlawful expenditure.

The contracts related to services for collecting dog waste bins, landscaping and stationary over several years.

The report also found the council failed to follow proper process when recruiting staff, resulting in unlawful expenditure of £22,595.

The creation of an administrative assistant post without council approval exceeded the remit of a committee, while the Audit General also said the council did not comply with its own requirements to consider a recruitment business case to support the appointment of staff.

An unlawful payment of £500 was also made to a community councillor.

The councillor was paid two responsibility payments of £500, when rules set by the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales allow for only one payment.

The report says the community council has taken a number of actions since recommendations made by Audit Wales.

These include reviewing its scheme of delegation, issuing all employees with employment contracts and ensuring The Independent Renumeration Panel guidelines for allowances are adhered to.

Failings were also highlighted at St Harmon, Llanmpumsaint and Sully Lavernock Community Councils in Wales in separate reports.

Adrian Crompton, Auditor General, called on all town and community councils “to take heed and learn from the important lessons within these reports so that communities in Wales get the services and the assurance they rightly deserve”.

He said: “Significant deficiencies in governance, financial management, audit transparency and inadequate arrangements to secure value for money are just some of the matters at four community councils that I’ve found.

“These issues highlight serious weaknesses in the community councils, undermines public trust and has led to a waste of public money.”

A spokeswoman for Magor with Undy Community Council said: “The community council has today received a copy of the Audit Wales Report for the Audit Year 2018-2019 issued under section 22 of the Public Audit (Wales) Act 2004.

“This report will be forwarded to each councillor today, and a meeting will be called to deal with the report in line with Sections 25 to 27 of the Act.”