MIDDLEWICH Town Council chairman says 'eyewatering' sums have been spent making the council fit for purpose since May.

Labour councillors took over at this year's local elections, going onto spend upwards of £7,000 on the administration according to Cllr Russell Watkinson.

Cllr Watkinson said: “As a team of predominantly fresh councillors, we were collectively shocked by what we have found.

"We’ve had HR disputes to resolve, unpaid bills, legal fees, to name a few immediate issues.

"The amount we have spent so far is, frankly, eyewatering and will, I suspect, continue to rise.

“We had our suspicions that things would be bad, which is why in our very first council meeting we commissioned an independent financial auditor, JD Henry, to do a ‘deep dive’ on our situation.

"Some of what that audit has unearthed is quite concerning.

"Much of it I can’t yet go into detail about, due to confidentiality concerns, but it’s not a pretty sight.

"I have advised caution to all councillors in terms of future spending, until we know what future bills are coming in.

"Of particular concern is that we have been advised to seek a VAT specialist to look over accounts going back a number of years."

Cllr Watkinson said problems had arisen from prior 'mismanagement', pointing to the council's IT contract which expires at the end of the year.

Despite being budgeted for the past two years, it remains unsolved and has had to be prioritised.

Cllr Watkinson added: “We have a long list of plans and aspirations, many of which were in the Middlewich Labour manifesto – plans that the residents of Middlewich bought into and voted for in their droves.

"But we’ve been hamstrung from the start, due to having to get the council functioning once more.

"It’s been very frustrating, and I speak for all councillors in that respect.

“All I can say is: thank goodness we took over when we did.”

Among the changes made by Labour are reduced committee meetings to free up council officers' time, improving office safety and initiating a community mayor project.