Ricoh row deepens amid allegations of EU funding fraud

Coventry City Council is facing a fraud investigation after Midland MEP Nikki Sinclaire announced she was reporting the authority to the EU anti-fraud unit. The council has denied any wrongdoing.

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Coventry council blames FOI mix-up for 'fraud' claims

Coventry City Council has denied any wrongdoing in its use of European Development Fund cash - blaming "confusion" over a Freedom of Information Act request.

MEP Nikki Sinclaire has referred the authority to OLAF, the European Unions anti-fraud department, claiming there are "discrepancies" in what the council has used £4.75million of EU cash for.

But a spokesman for the council today said there had been a mix-up between two similar grants awarded by two different bodies.

He apologised for the incorrect information given at first - and said the authority was "surprised" by Ms Sinclaire's announcement.

There are two separate figures – a grant of £4.75million given to the Council in 2003 by Advantage West Midlands. This was used to fund the purchase of the Arena site. From 2006 onwards the Council received a series of European Regional Development Fund payments that finally amounted to £4.6million. These related to site acquisition and building costs on the overall site, but not for the Arena itself.

Both of these sums relate to the overall Arena project, which of course also included the delivery of the highly successful Arena Shopping Park.

The project has created hundreds of jobs for local people and provided a much needed boost to the local economy.

All of the transactions referred to by Ms Sinclaire have, of course, been subject to audit, both by the council’s auditors and by auditors for the European Commission, and received a clean bill of health.

We’re sorry we gave the wrong information initially - we mistakenly provided Ms Sinclaire with the AWM grant funding amount rather than the ERDF funding - in our original response to the FOI.

However, when Ms Sinclaire queried this information we did fully clarify the information and figures with her.

We’re therefore surprised that Ms Sinclaire has chosen to make such an issue of this as we’ve always been transparent and open about the funding used to redevelop the site.

– Coventry City Council spokesman

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