A RESPECTED council manager who robbed taxpayers by stealing £173,526 from his employers has been jailed for two-and-a-half years.

Accountant Arthur Mullett, 62, was commercial manager of Barnsley Council's transport services department at its Smithies Lane depot.

But instead of banking income received for services such as testing taxis and issuing MOTs and vehicle licences he siphoned off the money into his own bank accounts over a five-year period.

Mullett, of Churchside, West Halton, near Scunthorpe has never revealed what he spent the money on, prosecutor Ian Goldsack told Sheffield Crown Court.

Mr Goldsack said Mullett was caught when his line manager became suspicious and an internal audit was carried out.

"Unfortunately for the local taxpayers it seems the degree of trust and autonomy invested in him was such that he was subjected to limited scrutiny," said the prosecutor.

Mullett was supposed to record the cheques and cash received, he banked the cheques but pocketed some of the cash, covering up the amounts deposited.

He was suspended in June, 2010 and the matter reported to the police. He failed to attend a disciplinary meeting and was sacked two months later.

He was arrested in February, 2011 and his home searched. Police found regular deposits had been made to his personal bank accounts.

"A substantial portion of the stolen money was used as cash to avoid the need to draw on other funds," said Mr Goldsack.

When charged Mullett made no comment and he has never given a defence statement or answered questions from his former employers.

Mullett, who had no previous convictions, admitted theft from Barnsley Council.

Anil Murray, defending, said of the defendant: "He couldn't remember how much he had stolen, he didn't note it.

"His wife needed an operation and he wanted to assist her and he had mounting credit card debts.

"He has lost his good name, his job and his pension and he is effectively a broken man."

When the extent of Mullett's crime was revealed, the council clawed back £88,990 from his pension entitlement.

He still owes more than £84,000 and confiscation proceedings are expected to take place to recover that cash.

He will serve half of his 30-month prison sentence and the rest on licence.