MORE than £1million of "potentially unlawful payments" were given to senior council officers over a ten-year period, it has been revealed as calls grow for the full audit report about the “scandal” to be made public.

Castle Point council’s audit committee met last week to discuss a report from an external auditor stating that “potentially unlawful transactions” totalling “around £1.1million” were made between 2012/13 and 2021/22.

External auditor EY has been investigating the council’s finances since 2022 and so far been unable sign off the audit for 2021/22 due to “sensitive and complex” issues.

However, more detail has been released in council documents after the Echo revealed that £142,733 was paid to the estate of long-standing council chief executive David Marchant’s estate following his death into 2021.

According to the “audit update” payments were “in part due to management’s failure to implement adequate control and general lack of guidance”.

At the meeting, a councillor’s calls for all details of the redacted audit report to be published as part of a “public interest report” were not supported.

A motion put forward by Tory councillor Andrew Thornton was not seconded.

Speaking at the meeting, Mr Thornton said: “Issuing a report will enhance transparency and accountability within the council, it will provide key stake holders with a comprehensive understanding of issues found in the audit.

“A public report will demonstrate the commitment of the council to address any significant concerns that may impact public trust and help rebuild confidence.”

Andrew Sheldon, Essex County councillor for South Benfleet, branded the situation an “utter scandal”, adding: “The administration has pledged to be completely transparent and yet not a single independent councillor was willing to back the motion for a public interest report.

“They are pledging transparency, but all the taxpayer is receiving is secrecy, it is an utter scandal, and we need a public interest report now.

“This is taxpayer money and residents deserve to know the full truth.”

Independent councillor, Allan Edwards, questioned the need for the report to be published immediately because elements have already been made public and issues “addressed in the transformation programme”.

A council spokesman said: “The final audit results report and auditors’ annual report, is due to be presented to a future meeting.”

External auditors are still looking into the situation and a Public Interest Report is still an option.

Clarification: This story has been updated. An earlier version stated the motion was voted down when this was not the case. The motion was not supported and, therefore, it was not seconded and no vote took place. We apologise for the confusion and are happy to set the record straight.