Ex-chairman of Derbyshire County Council Robin Baldry fiddled £2,463 in expenses
A FORMER chairman of Derbyshire County Council has admitted stealing thousands of pounds from the authority.
Councillor Robin Baldry yesterday entered guilty pleas to two charges of theft and will be sentenced next week.
The 70-year-old admitted theft of £863 subsistence allowances, as well as up to £1,600 in false mileage claims. The offences were committed between May 1, 2005, and October 30, 2010.
Baldry was on crutches as he appeared at Derby Crown Court for the 15-minute hearing. Peter Pimm, for him, told the court: "He is 70 and in poor health."
He suggested the sentence could be "dealt with by a financial penalty".
Justin Wigoder, prosecuting, said there would be an application from the council for compensation as well as costs in bringing the case to court.
Judge John Burgess told Baldry, who was elected to the council in May 2005 as a Conservative, to see a probation officer, who will compile a report for when he is sentenced next week.
The judge revealed he would consider all the sentencing options.
He said: "I would like to know a bit more about him, most of which Mr Pimm, I suspect, will be able to tell me.
"I would like to know an alternative to a custodial sentence.
"I suspect unpaid work is not realistic given his health and age. It may well be there is some other course like a curfew which may be an appropriate part of a suspended sentence, for example."
Baldry, of Terrace Road, Buxton, was given bail to return to court to be sentenced on Tuesday.
The prosecution decided not to continue proceedings against Baldry in relation to a third charge.
After the hearing, a spokesman for Derbyshire County Council confirmed the authority was seeking a "suitable level of compensation in respect of the offences".
He said: "We expect the highest levels of integrity from all our employees and elected members.
"Where we do suspect wrong-doing we will investigate and take appropriate action. This case followed an internal audit investigation, the results of which we handed to the police."
Whether or not Baldry loses his seat at Derbyshire County Council depends on what sentence he receives.
Under the terms of section 80 of the Local Government Act 1972, he could be disqualified from the authority if he is given a jail term exceeding three months, without the option of a fine. It would have no relevance if the jail term were to be suspended.
Baldry, who represents Buxton West division, was the authority's public face from June 2009 to April 2011.
Shortly after his tenure as council chairman came to an end, Derbyshire police began an investigation into his expenses claims after a routine review by the council's internal auditors found "irregularities".
In February, Baldry was formally charged with three charges of theft. He was immediately suspended from the Conservative group in Derbyshire .
It led to a new Independent political group being set up at the council by Baldry and Councillor David Stone, who quit the Liberal Democrats to become an independent.
It was expected Baldry would enter a plea at a Derby Crown Court hearing in April, though lawyers then asked for more time to continue their "complex" investigations.
Baldry made further court appearances in May, July and October – but on each occasion lawyers said they needed more time to put together their case.