MARKET WEIGHTON Pre-School is fighting back after being brought to the brink of collapse by its former treasurer who stole £11,000.
Louise Precious was given a suspended prison sentence for siphoning money from the pre-school’s accounts over an 18-month period and current chairwoman Rachel Howdle has spoken of her anger and feelings of betrayal.
She told the Pocklington Post: “She had been with the pre-school for five years and I saw her as a friend.
“In fact, it was Louise who talked me into becoming chairwoman when she was deputy supervisor, so it makes what she has done even harder to take.”
Rachel explained that Louise had only been standing in as treasurer while they looked for someone else to take the position, but the committee’s suspicions were raised when they began receiving letters for bills that should have been paid.
Rachel said: “The one that really flagged it up was when our insurance wasn’t paid
“We were getting lots of red letters all at once totalling about £5,000 worth of debt.
“At that point I was asked to go down to the bank.
“I asked to look at our accounts and discovered that between the two accounts we only had £7 left.
“I went to Louise and asked if this was normal and she said ‘yes, it happens a lot’.”
Rachel and the pre-school committee were unaware that Louise was stealing up to £500 a time from the accounts to pay a credit card bill and had also deposited over £5,000 of the school’s money into her husband Robert’s bank account.
She was suspended from the school last July and the police were brought in to investigate.
“That’s when we realised the full extent of it all,” said Rachel.
“To say it was a shock is an understatement.”
Staff at the pre-school, which has charitable status and relies heavily on fund-raising, rallied round to keep the facility open.
They worked without pay and Rachel paid the insurance bill from her own money.
She said: “If it wasn’t for the dedication of the staff, the pre-school would not have stayed open.
“Members of staff agreed to work unpaid for the foreseeable future and we have used our own personal finances to keep it going.”
Louise was ordered to complete 300 hours of unpaid work and given a 12-month suspended prison sentence when she appeared at Hull Crown Court last week and admitted the offence.
Her husband Robert was given a six-month suspended sentence and 100-hours of unpaid work after he admitted allowing the stolen money to be paid into his account.
The Pre-School is now taking civil action in an attempt to recoup its losses.