Sandown Mayor fails to declare partnership ‘allowance’

Sandown Community Partnership secretary resigns after denying tax payer’s money was used to fund an “unusable” project.

The partnership’s now ex-secretary and Sandown Town Council (STC) Mayor Jacquie Mereweather has also admitted to not declaring financial interests in her role as mayor.

Concerns were raised over the waste of tax payer’s money by Sandown Community Partnership (SCP) who purchased and installed a new junior skate park to their own specifications – it will now be removed due to “manufacturing issues”.

Mayor Mereweather has admitted she did not declare an allowance paid to her by the partnership during her role as councillor and Mayor.

She wrote in her resignation letter to the partnership on Wednesday (August 22), that she has been put in “a very precarious position” as mayor.

Jacquie Mereweather

Therefore, she has decided to resign as secretary to “protect my integrity”, and the town council’s.

She said she was “not prepared to take responsibility for any mistakes” made in the commissioning of the junior skatepark.

The mayor suggested that partnership chairman Cllr Gary Young and Cllr Ronnie Teasdale “stepped up to take some of the flack” as she “had no input into dealings with The Forge”, who manufactured the junior skate park.

Cllr Teasdale is minuted as taking responsibility for the design of the skatepark and liaising with The Forge.

“There comes a time when the nastiness has to stop and I can’t take any more,” finished ex-secretary Mereweather.

Tax payer’s money

Junior skate park Sandown – by J.Sheath

Minutes from an SCP meeting seen by IW Observer say tax payer’s money was used to pay for the junior skate park.

The minutes show a £1250 grant from STC was paid into the partnership’s games account, “but not transferred to the main account, as it is to be used for the junior skatepark”.

Mayor Mereweather denies this is true and says cash from car boot sales and concerts were used to pay for the failed project.

IW Observer asked the mayor if the tax payer money was used for the junior skate park and therefore wasted on the unusable project.

She said: “Although the town council grant was mistakenly paid into this account by the previous town clerk, none of this was used for the junior skatepark as there was enough funding from car boot sales, concerts and other fund raising activities held previously.”

IW Observer asked the council’s town clerk and mayor where the £1250 STC grant has gone and what it is intended for now.

They have not responded to this question.

Failure to declare interest

Sandown Community Partnership Terms of Reference documents from May, show that Mayor Mereweather was paid a yearly allowance for “routine administration” by the partnership as its secretary.

Further investigation has shown an amount of £1500 a year was set aside for administration in the partnership’s 2017 budget.

This allowance is not listed on the Mayor’s register of interests for Sandown Town Council.

Failing to register or disclose a disclosable pecuniary interest (DPI), can result in a fine of £5000 and disqualification for five years from local council and from other local authorities.

Mayor Mereweather said: “Although I am secretary to the partnership I have not received any payment for 2017.

“The routine administration fee given to them by the town council included payment to our insurance company, hire of rooms, licences, printing costs, etc. Not specifically to the secretary.

“I admit an error in not including membership of the partnership in my register of interests, this shall be rectified.”

Sandown North representative Cllr Debbie Andre said: “The resignation of the secretary of the Sandown Community Partnership, Jacquie Mereweather, and recent revelations about how it operates, calls the value of the partnership into question.

“It is maybe time for residents and representatives of local businesses to instead form a publicly accountable group, which could take over from the partnership, to raise and source funds for Sandown – including a “state of the art” facility for our younger children where the junior skate park would have been.”

Sandown Town Council and the partnership have been contacted for comment.