EVERY council tax payer across the borough could end up footing the bill for the dishonesty of a town clerk who helped herself to hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Jan Cooper, 52, was jailed for eight years earlier this month after she admitted stealing almost £300,000 and fraudulently taking out loans of £700,000 in the name of Brierley Town Council.

Her actions left Brierley Town Council more than £1million in debt - and it could now end up being abolished, a packed meeting heard last week.

If that happened, the debts could end up being passed to Barnsley Council to settle, although it would inherit some assets which could be sold to help offset the losses.

The cabinet are meeting next month to discuss whether Brierley Town Council is still needed.

A petition calling for its abolition was collected in 2011 with about 1,400 people saying they no longer wanted it.  

Cooper, who had a history of false accounting and theft from employers, had already served three years behind bars before she even got the job as clerk to Brierley Town Council.

At last Wednesday's meeting, organised by Mayor Pat Doyle, a number of residents asked how the council was unaware of Cooper's criminal past.

One said proper records should have been kept, checks should have been made and there should have been an audit trail.

"If this was a hospital or a school it would be in special measures," he added.

Mr Doyle said the council was pursuing the bank that had allowed Cooper to withdraw money, as she should have only been allowed to take up to £500 without councillors' permission.

"There has been failings all round," he added.