The new man in charge of taxpayers' cash at Southend Council was suspended from his previous role while police and the council investigated alleged financial irregularities.

Peter Bates is the new interim head of corporate finance, on £750 per day, after resigning as chief operating officer at Cheshire East Council following a 16 month suspension.

Mr Bates was never arrested, charged or convicted of any offence.

The investigation was launched, by police and the council, after concerns were raised about how contracts were awarded.

The council investigation closed when he, and others, resigned but a police investigation continues.

Mr Bates and Southend Council defended the appointment.

Mr Bates said: "I have cooperated fully with all the necessary processes and proceedings from an employment and contractual perspective.

"I also gave a voluntary interview to the police in December 2017 and I have not been contacted by them since.

“I have never been charged, and I have not been made aware of any ongoing investigations regarding this.

“I have done nothing wrong and I have always co-operated fully with everything that has been asked of me since 2015.

"After four years, I just want to resume my career and do all I can to be successful for Southend Council and its residents.”

He took the job, advertised at £750 per day, starting on September 23.

A spokesman for Southend Council said: "Peter Bates has been appointed as our new interim Head of Corporate Finance.

"This is a temporary six-month contract following a robust application process which included a public job advertisement and interview.

“We look forward to him working with us whilst we seek a permanent replacement for this role.

“Peter Bates has over 30 years public sector experience and was previously employed by Cheshire East Council as their Chief Operating Officer.

“Peter was suspended as a neutral act by Cheshire East Council in December 2017 and cooperated fully with all the necessary processes and proceedings. No independent investigation was ever commenced or even an indicative timeline for a resolution established by them.

“Given these circumstances Peter decided to leave Cheshire East on April 8, 2019.”

Cheshire Police have confirmed they have an ongoing investigation into Cheshire East Council but have not named anyone involved.

Their investigation links to seven separate probes that the council handed over to the police and centre on a variety of allegations, including the awarding of contracts, manipulation of air quality data, a land purchase agreement and grant funding.

A Cheshire Police spokesman said: “Cheshire Constabulary continues its investigation concerning Cheshire East Council. To date there have been a total of seven matters referred to the constabulary.

“They relate to a variety of allegations, including the awarding of contracts, manipulation of air quality data, a land purchase agreement in Middlewich, and grant funding to improve car parking arrangements at a primary school in Wistaston. Two further matters were brought to our attention in March and they are currently being reviewed.

“We can confirm that a further referral has been received from Cheshire East Council in respect of concerns over a historical land transaction in Crewe. The matter will be reviewed in due course.”