A SENIOR councillor has said lessons will be learned after a damning report into Kirklees’ handling of the lease of a Muslim burial site.
On Wednesday a council committee accepted recommendations made by the report, which looked at the council’s contract with the Muslim Mosque Burial Committee.
The council’s chief internal auditor found that the council had failed to increase rents for 25 years, leaving it shortchanged by at least £25,000.
It also said that the burial committee had not stuck to some conditions of the rental agreement for a plot of land next to Dewsbury Cemetery.
Presenting his report to Kirklees Council’s Corporate Governance and Audit Committee, Martin Dearnley said: “A very large number of requirements detailed within the lease have not been enforced or followed.”
However, most of these matters were not of huge significance to the council, he said.
He added: “There is some anecdotal evidence that senior managers within the council who no longer work for the council were aware of some issues in relation to the lease but for various reasons chose not to pursue those matters.”
The investigation into the burial committee was prompted by allegations made by former councillor Khizar Iqbal.
This week Conservative candidate Mark Eastwood asked whether Coun Abdul Patel (Lab, Dews South), who defeated Mr Iqbal in this year’s election and is a member of the burial committee, would be reported to the police as a result of the investigation.
Mr Dearnley said that if anyone felt there was any reason to report a person to the police, they should do so.
In response to a question by Coun David Sheard (Lab, Heckmondwike), Mr Dearnley said only two people had ever complained to the council about the burial committee.
Councillors agreed to refer the burial group to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs for clarification on the organisation’s tax status, which was described as ‘unclear’ in Mr Dearnley’s report. Coun Ken Smith (Lab, Ashbrow), who is not a member of the audit committee, raised questions about a report on the lease which was prepared for the council’s cabinet in 2008.
The report was abandoned, even though it said the council had not increased the rent it charged for the burial site since the original lease in 1987.
The committee agreed that the council should find out why that Cabinet report was not published.
Chairwoman Coun Hilary Richards said: “We have found out that we need to learn from what we have done in the past and potentially make good use of that learning in the future.”
Councillors voted in favour of accepting the eight recommendations made in Mr Dearnley’s report.
The council will be able to recoup some of the money it has lost through failing to increase rents and may be able to claim back unpaid business rates.
It was added to the recommendations on Wednesday that the council should seek to recover as much additional money as it could from the Burial Committee.