Posted: 10.06.21 at 11:46 by The Editor
A shadow of mystery has been cast over Conwy Town Council after cryptic comments were made at a meeting this week.
Councillors were considering adding members as authorised cheque signatories for its three bank accounts.
But former mayor Cllr Emma Leighton-Jones said she had ‘suddenly discovered’ her permission to sign for payments as mayor had been ‘removed’.
At the same Zoom meeting, Cllr Leighton-Jones later said she might have discovered she could no longer sign when a member of staff was leaving.
The town council currently makes payments from its bank accounts via direct debit and cheque and has been in the process of switching to online banking for some time – but it is taking longer than expected.
The town council has a current account, a ‘notice account’ and a rolling mayoral donation account used by the mayor.
When councillors considered which members would be signatories for the next year, the acting town clerk revealed the former mayor had been ‘left off the mandate’ to sign cheques in her mayoral year.
Cllr Emma Leighton-Jones said: “So thank you, acting town clerk (name omitted), for raising the fact that I was removed from that mandate.
“I was signing cheques part way in the year and suddenly discovered I was unable to. With regards to the online banking, is it correct then that actually we’ve been in the position to be able to online bank; however, that wasn’t moved forward… by anybody? Is that right, or is that wrong then?”
The acting clerk commented: “No, that’s right.”
Cllr Gary Willetts had earlier asked why switching to online banking had taken so long and said the former town clerk had confirmed this would happen in January 2021. He interjected: “The town council agreed that was what we were going to do, and we’ve done it (agreed to move to online banking).”
Cllr Emma Leighton-Jones said: “Yes, that’s what I’m asking, Cllr Gary. We are in a position to be able to do it, but it hasn’t been done. That’s my point.”
Current mayor Cllr Collette Ryan asked the acting town clerk: “Can you clarify that point? Is that the case?”
“Yes, the bank said it is ready to go (for online banking). It’s just the previous town clerk didn’t do it,” said the acting clerk.
The previous town clerk resigned in March.
Cllr Janette Hughes added: “I’m confused. Why did we take the previous mayor off the mandate (to sign cheques)? I don’t understand why we did that?”
Cllr Collette Ryan commented: “I can say as the (ex) deputy mayor and a councillor, I wasn’t aware that that was the case. Were you aware, Emma (Cllr Leighton-Jones)? Or was it just something you found out later on?”
Cllr Emma Leighton-Jones said: “I found out at a later date that I suddenly was unable to sign the cheques as mayor.”
Cllr Janette Hughes commented: “OK, but we haven’t voted or that hadn’t been a council decision, had it?”
She was told it had not.
Cllr Collette Ryan asked: “Can I just clarify, Cllr Emma. When you did find out, was it recent enough that you were able to report it to the town… chair of staffing or did you pass on your concern, just to round this one off?”
Cllr Emma Leighton-Jones said: “Thinking very carefully how I respond to this question, I discovered very last minute at a point when a member of staff might have been leaving.”
It was then proposed that Cllr Leighton-Jones and Cllr Ryan were added to the notice account and current account as signatories, and Cllr Ryan was also added to the mayoral donation account.
Cllr Joan Vaughan made this proposal, and Cllr Clare Parry seconded it.
Online banking will begin once a new town clerk is appointed. The acting town clerk said the town council would still need cheques, despite online banking, as not all organisations could deal with electronic payments.