MIDDLESBROUGH Mayor Andy Preston has filed a report to the police following the online publication of a letter containing a series of allegations against him by fellow councillors.

Mr Preston took to social media yesterday to refute specific allegations made on Tuesday by five independent councillors, who have resigned from Middlesbrough’s executive.

The letter, which was published on social media yesterday morning, made a series of serious claims relating to Mr Preston’s behaviour.

It was signed by deputy mayor Cllr Antony High and councillors Ashley Waters, Dorothy Davison, Chris Hobson and Dennis McCabe. The five executive members resigned yesterday and asked for an extraordinary meeting to be called so a vote of no confidence could be called.

Yesterday, Mr Preston confirmed he had made a report to Cleveland Police.

He spent part of the day responding to each of the allegations, which he said he was “shocked and hurt by”.

He said: “It’s completely wrong that I have to respond to allegations put forward without evidence – but I am responding because I’ve got nothing to hide and I’m shocked and hurt by these slurs.”

The signed letters included accusations of financial mismanagement and attempts to disrupt the democratic process. Mr Preston labelled them “completely untrue”.

One of the allegations was that the mayor had inappropriately appointed and paid a friend with council finances without following the required processes and procedures.

On Wednesday, Mr Preston said he had publicly discussed the matter in the past – adding it “wasn’t true”.

The mayor said: “The council retained the services of a freelance part time marketer/communications professional to help me to promote the town, communicating with businesses and others.

“This part time approach produced cost savings of about £1,500 per month for the council.

“Middlesbrough Council retained this freelancer and paid them monthly on invoice.

“This was all done with explicit approval of the two most senior relevant people.”

He also said a claim that he had made gains to his personal business interests through public funds was “the most hurtful” of the allegations.

He said: “Although very vague this accusation is perhaps the most serious - it’s also nonsense.

“I have never directed or influenced the direction of public funds towards me or my family.”

He went on to respond to the claim he had “incurred costs to the public purse exceeding £600k without executive or senior officer approval or formal decision making processes”.

He said: “I didn’t incur any costs. This is an old story originally put out by Andy McDonald. Any money spent was committed by senior council officers on the early stage architectural work of a £30m project.

“Two very senior officers and I attended regular meetings with the architect about the £30m scheme. I completely agreed with the council staff’s expenditure decisions.

“Antony High and all of the executive team explicitly and happily approved expenditure of up to £30m at a minuted meeting on 17th March 2020.”

Yesterday, Middlesbrough Council was unable to provide information about what the next steps would be.

Remaining executive member Cllr Mieka Smiles said: “As it stands gaping holes have been left at political level in the most crucial parts of our council - health, children’s services, social care and finances to name just a few. Downing tools and walking away from very serious responsibilities on what are currently unproven allegations, without due process being allowed to take place, is not something I am prepared to do.

“Andy Preston was chosen to be mayor by Middlesbrough people and I feel that there now needs to be more detail of the allegations provided, any evidence shared and the proper processes followed. I would ask all those involved to cooperate in this to bring the situation to a swift conclusion.If this situation changes then I will of course reconsider my position at that point. Until such time I will continue to fulfill my role as exec member for communities and education to the very best of my ability to ensure smooth running of the council where now possible.”

A spokesperson for Cleveland Police confirmed a report had been made.

MP Simon Clarke called on both sides to sort out the dispute.

He added: “As things stand, Middlesbrough Council is in a state of paralysis.

“The resignation of the five independent Executive members leaves hugely important services, and the people of Middlesbrough who rely on them, effectively without leadership.

“My message to both sides in this dispute is this: Sort this out and sort it out now.