A senior councillor accused a managing director of "failing in his role" as councillors discussed a report into “weaknesses” in governance at a council-owned film studio.

Hertsmere Borough Council’s executive met on Wednesday to discuss recommendations from an audit report into the governance of council-owned Elstree Film Studios.

A Freedom of Information (FoI) request submitted last year revealed leader of the council Cllr Morris Bright, who is chairman of the studios, and his Tory party had to repay thousands of pounds in expenses.

Read findings of the FoI here

Some of these related to Cllr Bright’s trips to the Cannes Film Festival, and others to a reception after he was made an MBE and the Conservative group’s use of studios rooms.

An internal audit report, officially published on July 22, concluded there were “weaknesses” in controls and two of several recommendations included a new expenses policy and a ban on party-political use of council-owned buildings.

At the meeting last night, Cllr Bright spoke publicly about the audit report for the first time.

He also spoke on behalf of Cllr Paul Morris, a studio board member, who had been mentioned over his alleged failure to declare an interest when the board reviewed leasing rates at the studios.

Cllr Bright described the audit report as “inaccurate” in places and said Cllr Morris has instructed lawyers to challenge it at a “significant cost”. He said the report raises “more questions than answers”.

The FoI revealed that Hertsmere Conservative Association had to repay the studios £1,200 for use of the hall.

Cllr Bright disputed that use of the studios for political purposes was “improper” when attendees paid £30 a head for a party dinner in 2015.

Cllr Bright himself repaid the studios £1,836.50 for the MBE reception.

He told the meeting he always believed an MBE reception held in March 2018 was put on by the studios, and stressed that he had invited councillors from opposing parties.

Read more: Leaked audit reveals "weaknesses" in controls at studios

And he said logistics and hotels in Cannes were always arranged by studio staff and said film studios managing director Roger Morris encouraged him and other board members to attend industry events to promote the studios.

Cllr Bright added: “Why was Roger’s email to me about how Cannes was a success not in the report? Where is the mention of £16 million which has been brought into the council by the studios?

“It is crucial that lessons are learnt and that where the studios do not have the proper internal controls or financial frameworks in place they must be appropriately strengthened to ensure there is no repeat of these errors and mistakes in the future. I support such moves 100 per cent.”

Councillors who are not members of the Executive were invited to comment on the report.

Labour group leader Cllr Jeremy Newmark said in the meeting: “Enough is enough. Prestige hotel rooms on basis of emails written by Cllr Bright expressing his dissatisfaction with the ordinary luxury rooms that he had the previous year. Personal BAFTA memberships being paid for, falsely registering his wife as an employee of the studios, and bullying studios staff to pay your expenses, bypassing the managing director. A matter of fact and matter of record.

“Enough is enough. Not a word of contrition from Cllr Bright or Cllr Morris this evening. These studios are a public asset. Local people deserve better.”

Tory councillor Anthony Spencer asked why studios managing director Roger Morris was not present to answer questions.

And executive member Cllr Harvey Cohen accused Labour of using council-owned property for events but Cllr Newmark claimed his party paid for it. Cllr Cohen replied saying his Tory party did the same at the studios, adding the “paper says it very clearly”.

Cllr Newmark angrily disputed this, adding “a member of this Executive must not mislead this council”.

The FoI revealed that the Tory party had to pay back the studios £9,360 for LGA training between 2013 and 2018.

But Cllr Cohen accused studios managing director Roger Morris of “failing in his role”.

He said: “The report in my opinion highlights the failures of management and the managing director especially. The studios has problems with its internal control.”

Executive member Cllr Jean Heywood said: “I have been an elected member for 24 years and in that 24 years, I’ve never been so ashamed to admit that I am a Hertsmere borough councillor because of the antics and the dirty tricks. It is a disgrace.”

She added: “Cllr Bright has been an elected member since 1999. Cllr Newmark has been an elected member since October 2017. We used to have proper council meetings and we used to work for the people out there. All we are getting now is a load of monkeys making stupid comments.”

Referring to the report, Cllr Heywood called it “a load of rubbish” and “one-sided”.

Studios managing director Roger Morris said: "I consider the matter to be an issue for discussion by Hertsmere Borough Council and the recommendations of the audit report. They will consider recommendations and act as appropriate. Transparency is extremely important."

The Executive agreed to all recommendations but added a further one which read: “Hertsmere’s acting chief executive Sajida Bilje instructs SIAS (auditors) to carry out an audit into the expenses of the whole board at Elstree Film Studios and staff.

The matter will be discussed again at an extraordinary full council meeting on September 4, which has been called by members of the opposition.

To watch a recording of last night's Executive meeting, visit https://hertsmere.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/424375