Hull City Council mistake sees crime-fighting money spent on festive lights
AN INVESTIGATION has revealed public money earmarked for crime-fighting projects was spent on Christmas lights instead.
Steps are now being taken at Hull City Council to rectify the mistake.
An inquiry by council auditors has confirmed that £13,540 spent on upgrading the festive illuminations in Newland Avenue, west Hull, was meant to fund community safety initiatives, such as gating schemes.
The money for the lights was wrongly taken from the council's Newland ward committee community safety fund budget in 2007.
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The inquiry was triggered after Labour Councillor John Shipley started examining old ward budget sheets.
He said it was not clear how spending on Christmas lights could have been justified as a community safety project.
Councillor John Fareham, the current Wyke area committee chairman, ordered the inquiry after the matter was raised by Cllr Shipley.
He said: "I am grateful that Cllr Shipley's continual probing has uncovered the truth of the matter.
"It would appear that an officer who no longer works for the Wyke team misread the balance of funds that were available and it would appear that members were misadvised about what funds were available.
"The original application for funding for the lights was misfiled and that led to members being misadvised on the balance of funds available.
"I am happy to say there was no cover up but I still hold that I can't see any need for the use of crime prevention funding for Christmas lights."
Cllr Fareham said measures were now being taken to rectify the mistake by transferring equivalent funds from the ward's current community safety budget to a general fund for neighbourhood initiatives.
The Christmas lights in Newland Avenue were the idea of traders on the street.
They were first switched on in 2001 and the annual switch-on ceremony now attracts thousands of spectators.
However, much of the funding to support the lights has come from the council over the years.