A Lancashire solicitor is to report the ‘secret’ £300,000 council grant handed to Bolton-based Asons Solicitors to public spending watchdogs.
Shaun Bowden, of Bolton Solicitors in Farnworth, said: ‘Both nationally and locally there are cuts to expenditure being made. When there is money spent without the public being aware, it obviously causes great concern.’
Bowden intends to raise the issue with the National Audit Office to see if further action is required and he may also file a freedom of information request with Bolton council.
‘The local health services are under pressure and the council itself has announced redundancies, so you have to ask how it can afford to do this,’ Bowden said.
Labour councillor Cliff Morris, the leader of Bolton council, signed off the grant under the council’s emergency powers procedure, saying it was intended to help the firm renovate new offices. He has this week faced calls for his resignation.
Earlier this week, the Gazette revealed that the personal injury firm’s 2015 accounts show that it has been locked in a £300,000 dispute with the taxman – though there is no evidence of any connection between that dispute and the grant. The accounts also showed that the firm lost more than £1m in the year to May last year.
Craig Morris, a partner at Bolton firm Fieldings Porter, told the Gazette questions need to be answered regarding the timeline of events as they ‘did not add up’.
He alluded to a report in August by the Manchester Evening News that said the firm had already moved into new premises complete with new facilities.
According to the report, Asons’ new accommodation boasts a pool table, newly fitted kitchens with all modern conveniences, a football table, a Samsung Smart TV in every room and rooftop lounge garden for barbecues.
He said: ‘Did Asons contact the council and if so when was the approach and how was the £300,000 figure arrived at?’
Asons is preparing a statement. The Gazette has yet to receive answers to a number of questions put to the council.
Council chiefs under fire over ‘emergency’ grant to solicitors firm
- Currently reading
Solicitors demand answers over Bolton firm’s ‘secret’ grant