A former parish council clerk scammed more than £161k from two Oxfordshire parish councils.

Joanne Wills, 47, also transferred more than £20,600 from Chinnor to Towersey parish councils’ accounts in order to cover up a huge shortfall in the second organisation’s account.

That transfer, made in late 2020, followed Towersey’s chairman Cllr Mark Davis authorising a payment relating to the council’s neighbourhood plan. Unbeknown to him, there was no money in the account to cover the payment.

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Prosecutor Alastair Yapp told Oxford Magistrates’ Court this afternoon that mum-of-two Wills stole £161,864 between 2009 and 2021.

She was employed as the parish clerk at Towersey council from 2009 until 2021, when the fraud was discovered.

Wills also served as the clerk of Chinnor parish council for 13 months from December 2019 until January 2021.

As clerk she was responsible for managing the organisations’ finances, the justices were told.

She created a number of fraudulent invoices containing her own bank details. Council bosses also discovered various blank template invoices saved on her computer containing the names of reputable companies.

Mr Yapp said Towersey Parish Council found there was a discrepancy between the minutes Wills had sent to councillors and those she posted to the parish council’s website.

Appearing before the magistrates’ court, wearing a trouser suit and blue and white spotted scarf, Wills, of Crowell Hill, Chinnor, pleaded guilty to four counts of fraud by false representation. She spoke only to confirm her personal details and her guilty pleas.

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She had no previous convictions, although the magistrates were told she had accepted a police caution in 2011 for shoplifting.

Scott Primmer, defending, asked the justices to adjourn the case for a pre-sentence report.

He also asked for sentencing at the crown court to go beyond the usual four week adjournment. Her son was currently doing his GCSE exams, which he would complete in the penultimate week of June.

The magistrates granted the longer adjournment, bailing Wills to attend Oxford Crown Court for sentence on June 30.

Chairman of the bench Anne Pappenheim said: “From what we’ve heard today this case is clearly way beyond our sentencing powers and so it is going to be sent to the crown court for sentence.

“We’ve been asked to order a pre-sentence report to give the judge more information about you to guide his sentence and we are going to do that.

“So, you are committed to the crown court sitting at Oxford for sentence.

“These offences are so serious you need greater punishment than we can give.”

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