AN independent investigation into controversial sales of council buildings has uncovered no evidence of 'back-handers' or criminal activity.

External and internal auditors identified some issues about the processes involved in the sales of council assets, including Acklam Hall, the TAD Centre and the Craft Centre, after a whistleblower raised concerns at Middlesbrough Council.

Yesterday, the authority's Corporate Affairs and Audit Committee heard that despite weaknesses being identified in the overall control of asset sales, there no evidence of any criminal behaviour.

Conservative councillor Chris Hobson the internal auditors had reported there were 'significant' concern about weakness in governance at the time of the sales.

She said: "There is just so much in this report that is not good for the council and I think this should be looked into independently and assess how these things have been able to go on for so long. It is beyond believe that it has gotten as bad as it has.

"This is a really damning report for Middlesbrough Council."

Helen Fowler, the council's audit and assurance manager, told members that no evidence of criminality had been uncovered during the investigation.

She said: "There was evidence of weak management processes at the time, we found no evidence of back-handers or anything like that otherwise we would have passed it over to the police."

However, Middlesbrough Independent Councillors Association member Cllr Brian Hubbard remained unconvinced and called for a police investigation to be launched into the council's handling of asset sales.

He said: "I would recommend that an external police force, not Cleveland Police, is brought in to carry out an investigation."

Committee chairman Cllr Denise Rooney reminded members that they did not have the power to call for a police investigation.

She said: "Without any evidence of criminality we can't refer this to the police – this is not in the remit of this committee."