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Conduct breach report on Shropshire Council leader Keith Barrow concludes he applied 'no pressure' over auditor appointment

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The full report into a code of conduct breach by leader of Shropshire Council Keith Barrow concluded he applied "no pressure" over the appointment of auditors to council firm ip&e.

The report, carried out by solicitors Bevan Brittan, has also shed light on the details behind the complaint, which was submitted by Councillor David Tremellan.

The complaint was based on the premise that the auditors appointed to ip&e in 2012 were a company with which Councillor Barrow - at the time chairman of ip&e - had a personal relationship with, via one of the partners.

In the conclusions of the report it details that Councillor Barrow and Tony Matthew, of the company Dre & Co, which was appointed as auditors for ip&e, were both directors of another company, Peakfast.

Peakfast is an inactive company, although it is not dormant and does have a duty to file accounts.

It also states that Dre & Co were Councillor Barrow's accountants.

The report states that a relationship did exist between Councillor Barrow and Mr Matthew at the time of the decision, although it is unequivocal in concluding that the appointment was carried out properly.

Report author Olwen Dutton said: "I have no evidence to suggest that in considering Dre & Co for the appointment of auditors of ip&e there was any suggestion on Keith Barrow's part that he was not acting in the public interest and that the award of the appointment of these auditors at the meeting he chaired was not made on merit and according to the recommendation from Tom Roehricht (former managing director of ip&e).

"After interviewing all concerned and reading the relevant documents I believe that this was the case and the award was made on merit following the recommendation."

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Mr Roehricht also gave evidence to the investigation and Mrs Dutton said: "He was quite clear that it was he who invited the shortlisted firms for interview and to present to him and that it was he who reported back to the board recommending that Dre & Co be appointed as auditors as it seemed to him they could best provide what the company needed. He told me that of the two firms he felt would do the job required, his recommendation was to go with Dre & Co because one of his remits was to build business in Shropshire and they were a Shropshire based firm.

"Tom had no recollection as to whether or not Councillor Barrow said that Dre & Co were his accountants but was clear that there was no pressure on him at any time by anyone to recommend the company choose Dre & Co as their auditors."

After being judged to have broken the code of conduct by failing to declare his interest, Councillor Barrow was ordered to undergo code of conduct training, and to apologise.

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