The leader of Bolton Council will be pressed again tonight over a £300,000 grant handed to personal injury firm Asons Solicitors and about revelations that the firm was told to pay insurance company AXA more than £100,000.
The Gazette has seen three questions that Conservative councillor David Greenhalgh will ask council leader Cliff Morris.
As well as being asked about the payment to AXA, reported in the Gazette last week, the leader will also be asked to deny that there any links between Asons and the Labour party.
Asons has been in the news over the past few months after details of the grant, handed out under the council's emergency powers procedure, were revealed at the end of last year.
Under the emergency powers procedure, the executive member — in this case Cllr Morris — is authorised to take a decision.
The grant was intended to be used for Asons to refurbish its offices in the city’s Churchgate area.
However, the firm’s latest published accounts revealed it also facing a £300,000 bill from HM Revenue & Customs. There is no evidence linking that bill with the grant.
The questions being asked tonight are:
1) State aid rules allow grants to be 20% of the value of the total expenditure incurred. This local authority gave a grant of £300,000. It was stated at corporate scrutiny that Asons had spent £1.5m on the overall refurbishment and occupation of their offices justifying the level of this council’s grant.
It was previously stated that invoices of approximately £500,000 had been received by the council, yet at the most recent corporate scrutiny it was implied that invoices of the full amount of £1.5m were now in the council’s possession. Can the leader confirm that he has seen these invoices? Given the public’s reaction to this grant, have checks been done on these invoices to confirm they are a correct representation of work done?
2: Given the revelation that Asons has agreed to re-pay AXA the sum of £70,000 (plus costs) after admitting to falsely inflating its legal costs, does the leader believe there is a case for looking again at the information Asons submitted to the council in order to apply for the grant?
Does the leader have faith in the information submitted by Asons, and does he agree this information should be scrutinised? Will the leader allow members of this council to see the information submitted?
3: Given the news that a national newspaper has now had confirmation from Ivan Lewis MP that Asons Solicitors offered him space in its offices on Bark Street, for him to run his campaign for his candidacy for the Labour Party nomination to be Greater Manchester Mayor does the leader still deny, any knowledge of any links between Asons and the Labour Party?
The Gazette has approached Asons for comment.