Friday, 8 March 2013

Police Now Focus on Credit Card Kids

CREDIT card use by the bosses of the charity Link4Life that runs the Touchstones Museum on the Town Centre Esplanade, and Rochdale Leisure Centre, are set to be investigated by the police. Three bosses of the charity have been shown to have used their company credit cards for personal purchases and thus transgressing the rules of the Link4Life charity which receives the support of council taxpayers.

Chief Superintendent Annette Anderson who has begun inquires into Link4Life told the journalist Chris Jones in a story in tomorrow's Rochdale Observer that 'we are aware of concerns raised by Simon Danczuk MP into the use of company credit cards at Link4Life.' She added: 'We will be carrying out further enquiries with Link4Life to establish whether or not any criminal offences have been committed.'

This probe was triggered following an independent audit found Link4Life's managing director, Craig McAteer, his deputy, Peter Kilkenny, and the business manager, David Weldon, had all broken the company rules on use of the group's credit cards. They had been issued with company credit cards to pay for lawful business costs. It was shown this week that Mr. McAteer had used his card to pay for £10,455 for personal items, including a £2,071 holiday trip. Of the other two, Peter Kilkenny paid £1,480 for 'non-business' items, and David Weldon had used his card to pay for flights costing £991. All three defended their use of the cards: Mr. McAteer asked the auditors to consider that any financial benefit was countered by other business expenses; Mr. Kilkenny said the difference between business and personal was not always clear and that he always paid the money back promptly; Mr. Weldon said that he did not have a personal credit card at the time of his purchase, and that he paid it back promptly.  Though all three paid the money back the auditors found that they had already broken the company rules by using the cards for personal items in the first place.

The independent investigation and audit had come about as a result of a request by the Rochdale Council, which itself was provoked by a whistle-blower coming forward with information about the use of company credit cards earlier last Summer. Members of the Touchstones Challenge protest group who were present to make their views felt before last Wednesday's Cabinet meeting at Rochdale Town Hall began, had asked for the issue of the credit card use by the Link4Life bosses be referred to the police and the Charity Commission. Judging from some of the questions from the Touchstones Challenge group, they would welcome a broader inquiry into the management of Link4Life over the last few years, including 'the treatment of staff' and the overall management, particularly of heritage and the arts in Rochdale.

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