COUNCIL chiefs are demanding that funds allocated to academy trust Bright Tribe should be repaid and used to improve Haydon Bridge High School, following revelations in a damning documentary.

The trust walked away from its proposals to convert Haydon Bridge High School and the first and middle schools at Haltwhistle Campus to academies at the end of last year.

Its departure left Haydon Bridge in an uncertain position once again, after it had been placed in special measures in December 2014, and following reports of dwindling pupil numbers and financial losses.

But a shocking BBC Panorama programme on Monday night highlighted a series of failings at the academy trust in relation to the misuse of government funds.

The documentary revealed that the government gave the trust a £1m grant in 2015 which was used to set up a northern hub for academies in the North-East.

But despite Bright Tribe pulling out of the project, the investigation revealed the £1m had not been repaid. Bright Tribe said the vast majority of the grant had already been spent on salaries, and provided a list of staff who it said had worked on the project.

But Panorama said it had obtained the list, and claimed several people named said they had never worked on the northern project.

Councillor Wayne Daley, cabinet member for children’s services at Northumberland County Council said the council was writing a “strongly worded” letter to the Department for Education following the revelations.

“We are urging them to take action to recover the money paid to Bright Tribe and to reallocate it to the council so that we can invest it in improving education in Haydon Bridge,” he said.

Along with the issues at the northern hub, the documentary also claimed the trust had made false claims for grants for the Whitehaven Academy in Cumbria.

Cumbria Constabulary said it was conducting preliminary inquiries to inform whether it was necessary to begin a formal police investigation.

In response to the claims, the Department for Education said it took the issue of public money very seriously, and would not tolerate people exploiting the system for personal gain.

A spokesman for Bright Tribe said the trust’s new leadership has been looking into the issues raised “as matters of utmost urgency” since its appointment.

“The independent investigations the new leaders have commissioned, including those referred to in the BBC report, cover every area of the trusts’ operational work over the past few years,” he said.