OFFICIALS at Northumberland County Council have confirmed that a police investigation into unlawful exit payments remains ongoing.

The six payments, totalling more than £1 million, were made between 2017 and 2022 and were found not to have the correct authorisation from councillors.

In January, following further discoveries, the decision was taken to refer the matter to Northumbria Police. Earlier this month, a report by the council’s top lawyer Stephen Gerrard claimed that an error in the local authority’s pay policies between 2019 and 2022 could have been the reason for the errors.

READ MORE: Council's top lawyer refuses to answer questions in exit payment investigation

The matter was raised at Wednesday’s meeting (March 27) of the council’s audit committee. Cllr Nick Oliver asked if officers could give there was a timescale as to when the committee would receive an update.

Kevin McDonald, the head of internal audit at the council, said: “Not that I’m able to provide today. In terms of when there is an update to provide, the committee will be provided with one but I am not in a position to give a timescale.”

Ex-council leader Cllr Peter Jackson also raised the issue.

He said: “My understanding is a referral has been made to the police and the police are still investigating. We as a committee will expect a response back, but I understand that is still ongoing.”

Council lawyer Neil Masson said: “If and when there is any information to report to this committee, the monitoring officer will do so – but we are not in a position to do so.”

Northumbria Police has confirmed there are currently no updates on the case. The force received correspondence from the council around the issue on January 25.

Speaking at last week’s meeting of the county council, Mr Gerrard said the issues which could have led to the unlawful payments had now been rectified. At the time, he expressed a hope that his report would “draw a line” under the issue” – but refused to answer questions on the police referral.