A FORMER Chard Mayor has branded the town council “incompetent, corrupt and crooked to the core.”

The comments came as part of a dramatic statement by Cllr Tony Prior at an extraordinary meeting of the council last Tuesday, which was held following a report by an external auditor into the council’s 2010-11 accounts.

The meeting heard that auditors Moore Stephens received an anonymous letter last summer claiming the council’s accounts were being paid without proper authorisation.

One of the matters in question was a meeting on January 24, 2011, in which decisions were made in relation to the retirement of town clerk John Furze.

On Tuesday, councillors were told that auditors found the meeting was not called in the proper manner, no official notes or minutes were taken, and no decisions were recorded as being approved by the council.

Specific information regarding Mr Furze’s departure was withheld under the Data Protection Act at the meeting.

Cllr Prior said: “Firstly, and above all, I’d like to apologise to the people of Chard if I took part in a meeting on January 24, 2011, which is now ruled improper.

“In my view this council is incompetent, corrupt and crooked to the core.

“These are words I’ve frequently used since I returned to it in 2010.”

He went on to criticise the ‘wrongful exlcuision of press and public’ from meetings, cited the correct proceedure for cheque signing, and said that more openness was needed on the way council grants were paid.

His statement was condemned by other serving councillors who pointed out that the council’s make-up had changed since the time of the accounts.

Deputy Mayor Cllr Jenny Kenton said: “I object strongly to the description of this council as corrupt and crooked to the core.

“You can’t blame these members for the past – looking around the table there are eight people who couldn’t have been there at the January 24 meeting.”