BRIERLEY'S mayor is calling for a public meeting so the council can explain themselves after its clerk swindled them out £700,000.

Brierley Town Council has been saddled with debts of more than £1million after Jan Cooper admitted fraudulently claiming £695,500 in loans, before being given an eight-year jail term.

Mayor Pat Doyle says he wants a meeting with parishioners to explain what happened.

Cooper, branded 'pathologically dishonest' by Judge Peter Kelson QC, started taking money within weeks of taking up the post in November 2006, Sheffield Crown Court was told.

It was also revealed that Cooper had previously been jailed for three years in 2003 for stealing £800,000 from a previous employer.

Mr Doyle said Cooper's sentence was warranted by the effect her actions have had on the community and will continue to do for the next 20 to 30 years.

Cooper wasn't asked about previous convictions because it was only policy to do so for staff working with children.

Ian Goldsack, prosecuting, said Cooper had forged council minutes and councillors' signatures for the loans. Funds were then moved into hers and her husband's bank account.

She also told councillors a grant was available to fund the 'Brierley Buzzer' scheme - a bus service for elderly people in the area - but instead signed them up to a lease agreement, which the council must pay £130,000 to end, Mr Goldsack said.

The council has had to take out a loan of £480,000 from Barnsley Council to help with the debt, services have had to be cut and 5,000 residents have been left with a hike in their council tax.