A PENSIONER has been given a police caution for stealing thousands of pounds of public money.
Keen churchgoer Sylvia Robinson, 68, accepted the police caution - an admission of guilt - after auditors found almost £5,000 missing from the Clayton-le-Moors Estate Management Board, set up in 1995 to help run the town's council estates.
She served on the board for a number of years and became chairman in October 2002, giving her access to its funds.
Mr Ken Bury, director of Hyndburn Homes, said Mrs Robinson, of Gloucester Avenue, Clayton, would have to repay the money once auditors had settled on the exact figure.
He said: "We will be billing her for a figure under £5,000. I can't specify the exact sum but it's a substantial amount of money."
"Nothing has been swept under the carpet. We took swift and appropriate action and referred the matter to the police. We rely on community groups and there has to be trust between us. But there are always people who abuse positions of trust and steal from the council."
Sergeant Paul Murphy, of Accrington CID, said: "This matter has been investigated and a person cautioned as a result."
He said Mrs Robinson came within the criteria for a caution and it was issued some time in mid-January.
When confronted at her home this week, Mrs Robinson declined to discuss the matter and said: "This is muckraking pure and simple. I'm going to call my solicitor and the police."
After the theft came to light Mrs Robinson - who is secretary of St Mary's RC Church's social committee - was ordered to resign her post as press officer for the Mayoral Charity Committee.
The Mayor, Councillor Win Frankland, said: "I personally asked her to stand down because of what had happened. I didn't like doing it because she's a great character but I had to take the bull by the horns."
Mrs Robinson was also sacked from the Tenants' Participation Committee - set up to represent tenants over the proposed council housing transfer.
Altham councillor David Myles, who served on the EMB with Mrs Robinson, sprang to her defence.
He said: "The lady has made one mistake, although it's a bad one. She has done a lot of good work in the community and we should find it within us to forgive her. None of us are perfect and we all fall on hard and troubled times. She is very sorry and embarrassed about what she did."
And Ian Leaver, a colleague from St Mary's social committee, said: "She rolls her sleeves up and gets on with her job. It's a pleasure to have her on board and she's a valued member of the community."
The EMB was wound up last September.
- Last December Paul Dunn, 43, of Great Harwood, was given a nine-month Community Rehabilation Order and ordered to repay £235 he had stolen from the Greenhill Residents' Association in the town. And last month Stephen Birtwell, chairman and then treasurer of the Haslingden Estate Management Board, was jailed for nine months for stealing more than £5,000.