Why did I blow the whistle to Merseytravel?

Why did I blow the whistle to Merseytravel?                                                              Below is an email I’ve just written about what happened today. I look forward to reading your comments on it. If I had faith in the whistleblowing procedures at Merseytravel I would not see the need to publish it, however these remarks do not inspire me … Continue reading “Why did I blow the whistle to Merseytravel?”

Why did I blow the whistle to Merseytravel?

                                                            

Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Audit Committee 26th January 2016
Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Audit Committee 26th January 2016

Below is an email I’ve just written about what happened today. I look forward to reading your comments on it. If I had faith in the whistleblowing procedures at Merseytravel I would not see the need to publish it, however these remarks do not inspire me with confidence. I realise I tend to get a bit verbose

I wonder what the response will be?

 

CC:
“Louise Outram (Monitoring Officer, Merseytravel)” <louise.outram@merseytravel.gov.uk>,
“Stephanie Donaldson (Head of Internal Audit, Merseytravel)” <stephanie.donaldson@merseytravel.gov.uk>,
“Liz Carridge (Press Office, Merseytravel)” <liz.carridge@merseytravel.gov.uk>,

Angela Sanderson (Monitoring Officer, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority)” <angelasanderson@sthelens.gov.uk>,
“Cllr Anthony Carr (Chair, LCRCA Audit Committee)” <anthony.carr@merseytravel.gov.uk
>,
“Cllr Pam Thomas (LCRCA Audit Committee)” <pamela.thomas@liverpool.gov.uk
>,
“Cllr Nina Killen (LCRCA Audit Committee/Scrutiny Panel)” <nina.killen@councillors.sefton.gov.uk
>,
“Cllr Andy Moorhead (LCRCA Audit Committee/LCRCA)” <andy.moorhead@knowsley.gov.uk
>,
“Cllr Rob Polhill (LCRCA Audit Committee/LCRCA)” <rob.polhill@halton.gov.uk
>,
“Cllr Mike Sullivan (LCRCA Audit Committee/Scrutiny Panel)” <mikesullivan@wirral.gov.uk
>,
“Cllr Kevin Wainwright (LCRCA Scrutiny Panel)” <kevan.wainwright@halton.gov.uk
>,
“Cllr David Baines (LCRCA Scrutiny Panel)” St Helens c/o <cllraburns@sthelens.gov.uk
>,
“Cllr Lawrence Brown (LCRCA Scrutiny Panel)” <Lawrence.Brown@liverpool.gov.uk
>,
“Cllr Anthony Burns (LCRCA Scrutiny Panel)” <cllraburns@sthelens.gov.uk
>,
“Cllr Eddie Connor (LCRCA Scrutiny Panel)” <
eddie.connor@knowsley.gov.uk>,
“Cllr Patrick Hurley (LCRCA Scrutiny Panel)” <
patrick.hurley@liverpool.gov.uk>,
“Cllr Allan Jones (LCRCA Scrutiny Panel)” <cllrajones@sthelens.gov.uk
>,

Cllr Anita Leech (LCRCA Scrutiny Panel)” <anitaleech@wirral.gov.uk>,
“Cllr Sue McGuire (LCRCA Scrutiny Panel)” <
sue.mcguire@councillors.sefton.gov.uk>,
“Cllr Michael O’Brien (LCRCA Scrutiny Panel)” <
michael.o’brien@councillors.sefton.gov.uk>,
“Cllr Marie Stuart (LCRCA Scrutiny Panel)” <marie.stuart@knowsley.gov.uk
>,
“Cllr Bill Woolfall (LCRCA Scrutiny Panel)” <Bill.Woolfall2@halton.gov.uk
>,
“Frank Rogers (Interim Chief Executive/Interim Head of Paid Service, Merseytravel)” <frank.rogers@merseytravel.gov.uk
>,
“Mayor Joe Anderson OBE” <mayor@liverpool.gov.uk
>,
“Councillor Phil Davies” <phildavies@wirral.gov.uk
>,

Councillor Barrie Grunewald” <CllrBGrunewald-Leader@sthelens.gov.uk>,
“Robert Hough CBE” <
info@liverpoollep.org>,
“Councillor Ian Maher” <ian.maher@councillors.sefton.gov.uk
>,

Ian Warwick (KPMG)” <ian.warwick@kpmg.co.uk>,
“Richard Tyler (KPMG)” <Richard.tyler@kpmg.co.uk>,
“Karen Christie (Knowsley press office)” <Karen.Chritie@knowsley.gov.uk>,
“Liam Robinson (Chair, Merseytravel)” <liam.robinson@liverpool.gov.uk>,
“Cllr Steve Foulkes (Merseytravel)” <stevefoulkes@wirral.gov.uk>,
“Cllr Jerry Williams (Merseytravel)” <jerrywilliams@wirral.gov.uk>,

Cllr Ron Abbey (Merseytravel)” <ronabbey@wirral.gov.uk>,
“Cllr Les Rowlands (Merseytravel)” <lesrowlands@wirral.gov.uk
>

Subject: protected disclosure (Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998)ED 18th February 2016: Although I originally thought I fell within the definition of worker in this legislation it seems I do not.

Dear all,

I am making this protected disclosure to Merseytravel, the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council and KPMG.

Basically I am blowing the whistle and as I have little confidence in these matters being taken seriously by the public sector or addressed in a satisfactory manner I am also taking the step of publishing these concerns.

Obviously there are other routes I can go down other than this, but I hope this will resolve matters.

From this part onwards I will number the sections for ease of reference in replies to this communication.

1.
Introduction

I am a member of the press called Mr. John Brace. Part of my job is covering public meetings of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority. For clarity I am both a member of the broadcast media (as I film such meetings) and new media as I write online about these meetings. I write online at https://johnbrace.com/ , which last month (December 2015) had an audience of around 3,345 readers. I publish the video I record on the Youtube channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/level80 which in December 2015 was viewed for a total of ~87 hours.

2.
Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014

On the 6th August 2014 a piece of legislation called the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014 came into effect. These can be read at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2014/2095/contents/made and I will briefly summarise some of the main changes it made relevant to this protected disclosure:

a) it changed the existing legislation to place a positive duty on certain public bodies that now had to allow filming at their public meetings (regulation 4(5)),

b) it changed the existing legislation to make it clear that such recordings of public meetings could be published (explicitly mentioning the internet) (regulation 4(5)),

and

c) Please note in order to allay any confusion in what I am about to quote, I will point out that s.100J of the Local Government Act 1972 (which defines various terms used in Part VA means that “principal council” includes a combined authority.

This is a quote from regulation 4(5) which modifies the Local Government Act 1972.

“A person attending a meeting of a principal council in England for the purpose of reporting on the meeting must, so far as practicable, be afforded reasonable facilities for doing so.”

3. 26th January 2016
On the morning of the 26th January 2016 I attended the Merseytravel Offices which are at No 1 Mann Island, Liverpool, L3 1BP. For the purposes of brevity I will refer to this location as Merseytravel HQ.

This was to attend and report on a public meeting of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Audit Committee which was scheduled to start at 10.30am. I was there with my wife and colleague Leonora Brace.

There was also at least one other member of the public present during the meeting called Ian Warwick, who works for the external auditors KPMG to the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority.

4. What happened

We arrived at the ground floor of Merseytravel at approximately 10 am.

The meeting was to be held on the first floor of Merseytravel HQ (in a room called the Authority Room).

We were told by the receptionist (I have a recording of this conversation on tape which can be supplied) that we would not be permitted to go through the barrier to this meeting (which started at 10.30am), until 10.45am.

Obviously had we taken her assertion at face value (and it causes a certain degree of work place stress to have to continually fact check what a public sector employee states to us) this would have been a breach of our rights to attend the public meeting and report on the public meeting.

There have been times in the past at Merseytravel HQ when we have arrived in plenty of time before a meeting has been to start.

However to give an example of what happened once, we had been kept waiting and not permitted to go to the room where the meeting is held until well after the meeting had started (by the time we were allowed to attend it was from memory had started thirty minutes before). It then causes us embarrassment to arrive late to a meeting when we had indeed on that occasion arrived in plenty of time. It made it impossible then for example to report on agenda items that had already happened.

Public meetings start at different times. For example these are the start times of public meetings held at Merseytravel HQ this month (I include the cancelled Combined Authority meeting scheduled for the 22nd January 2016 too):

11.00am, 11.15am, 10.30am, 2.00pm, 2.00pm, 2.00pm.

There are other public meetings held in Merseytravel HQ too such as the Merseyside Waste Disposal Authority (also known as the Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority) which start at 1.00pm.

Invariably due to the confusion caused by the receptionist stating that we wouldn’t be able to go into the meeting until 10.45, I had to double-check the time of the meeting using the guest wi-fi.

I found out that the meeting was supposed to start at 10.30am. The receptionist was therefore wrong in her assertion that we should not be allowed in until 10.45am.

I also took the opportunity to read the Combined Authority’s policy on filming.

The Monitoring Officer for the Combined Authority is Angela Sanderson. She does not work for Merseytravel, but for St Helens Borough Council.

The agreed filming policy for the Combined Authority meetings (which presumably covers meetings of its Audit Committee) is based on that originally adopted by Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council. It was agreed on the 22nd September 2014.

It can be viewed here http://councillors.knowsley.gov.uk/documents/s30342/140919%20delegated%20report%20filming.pdf?StyleType=standard&StyleSize=none .

In that policy the phone number of 0151 443 3536 (the press office of Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council) is given for enquiries.

However Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council have (as far as I know) no part in the public meeting of the Liverpool City Combined Authority Audit Committee of the 26th January 2016.

The papers for the meeting are published on Merseytravel’s website, see http://moderngov.merseytravel.uk.net/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=336&MId=1343 and the minutes are taken by a Merseytravel employee.

Here is a transcript of part of my conversation I had with the receptionist (who seems a textbook example of the doctrine of “superior orders”) to the extent below:

John Brace: This is the filming policy they use here, it’s the Knowsley Council one they use because they’re the ones that administer the Combined Authority and it says,

“Anyone wishing to do so is asked to inform them in advance to ensure any necessary arrangements can be made.”

So does that mean you need to ring the press office here or Knowsley?

Denise (who has a phone on her desk) (Merseytravel employee): No, they’ve given me instructions not to let any members of the public in there.

John Brace: No what I’m saying is your filming policy …

Denise (who has a phone on her desk) (Merseytravel employee): up until 15 minutes before until someone else is in that room.

John Brace: Sorry this is something different. Your filming policy says you request to be informed in advance of the meeting, so that’s what I’m doing.

Denise (who has a phone on her desk) (Merseytravel employee): Yeah, yeah.

John Brace: So what I’m saying is, it says media enquiries to be conducted to the Communications Team, does that mean

Denise (who has a phone on her desk) (Merseytravel employee): There you go, there’s Louise.

5. The conversation with Louise Outram

Before the public meeting started, myself and Leonora Brace had a conversation with Louise Outram (who as far as I know is the Monitoring Officer for Merseytravel) about these matters.

I will point out at this stage that this is not the first conversation I have had with Louise Outram about these issues.

Louise Outram: OK, Mr & Mrs Brace, can I take over here please?

Louise Outram: What’s the problem this morning?

John Brace: Well, the filming policy does say you require advance notice, so I was just asking whether that goes, because the policy was Knowsley’s policy so I’m not sure whether that phone number is Knowsley’s press office or your press office?

Louise Outram: Err, that looks like Knowsley’s number.

John Brace: Ahh, OK.

Louise Outram: Well I think it’s been accepted that you will film. We don’t have a problem with that. We can’t gain access to the building until there’s a committee officer within that room.

Leonora Brace: Yeah, but surely we can go upstairs and sit outside?

Louise Outram: No, you can’t. It’s a public, this is the public area and the meeting is a public meeting and we will afford you the reasonable facility to film.

Fifteen minutes before the meeting gives you sufficient time to set up your camera and at fifteen minutes before the meeting there’ll be a democratic services officer in that room.

We cannot allow the public unrestricted access to this building. We’ve got private tenants and public offices.

John Brace: Well we’ve seen plenty of members of the public go through when we’ve just been here in this short period for instance there’s one of your auditors from KPMG that doesn’t actually work for Merseytravel has gone through. You know other people have gone through into what you term as a non-public area. So,

Louise Outram: They, those officers have a legitimate meeting in this building. You have a right to the public meeting. The public meeting doesn’t start until 10.30, it’s only 10 o’clock now.

John Brace: You said 10.30, is that

Louise Outram: Yes.

John Brace: correct? I’ll just check on that, because I thought the time was different on the website,
Louise Outram and Leonora Brace: No, it’s 10.30.

John Brace: If you look here I’ll just show you, oh yes it says 10.30. Sorry I’m thinking of another one that starts at 11.15,

Louise Outram: They’re all different times unfortunately, so it is important to check the time.

(a number of people speak at once)
Louise Outram:
Yes, as soon as a Committee Officer, a Democratic Services Officer is in that room, they’ll advise Denise and Denise will allow you access up to that room to set up your camera, in the place that you normally set it up.

John Brace: The only other thing is that Leonora was saying is she’s a ********. The problem with sitting here opening and closing a lot it does get quite cold and draughty down here.

Louise Outram: Well I’m afraid we can’t do anything about that. The door has to open and close. I mean all I would suggest is that you arrive at 10.15 or fifteen minutes before whatever meeting time is scheduled and in doing that you will then be afforded the facility to come through.

John Brace: Well today for instance, as you know there’s bad weather and disruption to the transport network so it’s only advisable to leave a bit of extra time.

Louise Outram: Well I can’t allow you into the room until there’s a democratic services officer. Denise will advise you when that is. So if you’d like to sit, you’re more than welcome to sit here.

If you’d like to walk around the block, you’re more than welcome to do, but they’ll allow you in fifteen minutes before the meeting starts. OK, alright? I’ll notify Democratic Services that you’re filming again today. We do generally take it as read that you are afforded facilities to do that, so, we’ll, that’s not a problem, ok?

John Brace: Well another question I want to ask is, it states err “reasonable facilities” in the regulations, but it doesn’t actually state what they are so, is there some kind of understanding between us as to what they are or what?

Louise Outram: You come in, you are there are seats available, you generally set your tripod up, you generally move it around as in the camera around, so

John Brace: Sorry receipts?

Louise Outram: There are seats available for the public and you generally.

John Brace: Sorry I thought you said receipts.

Louise Outram: No,

(laughter)

John Brace: It’s the echoes in here isn’t it?

Louise Outram: No, you generally sit yourself in a particular position which affords you a good view of the, I mean I’ve seen your films, you know it affords you a good view of the Chamber and people are reminded to use their microphones, so we do try and ensure you get a good video of the meeting.

So I think we afford you reasonable if not very good facilities!

(laughter)

Louise Outram: The legislation unfortunately doesn’t describe anything formal but, and it doesn’t give any guidance as well, so I would say we (unclear)

I think so, I think you’re getting yourself a good spec.

Leonora Brace: It’s nearly ten past now!

Louise Outram: Well the Democratic Services officer will notify Denise and she’ll allow you access through.

John Brace: But it’s not Denise’s decision?

Louise Outram: She’s acting on instructions from ourselves.

John Brace: Oh I was trying to explain to Leonora, that she was getting instructions from above, it’s not her decision to make.

Louise Outram: It’s not Denise! (laughter)

John Brace: Does that help at all or not?

Leonora Brace: No.

6. Conclusion

There are many issues this raises.

For example the public sector equality duty (which was ironically raised by Cllr Pam Thomas at the meeting we were at). .

For example the area Louise Outram insists we wait in has no access to water or toilets.

This discriminates against two people with protected characteristics as Merseytravel is fully aware why we would require greater access to these than others.

To give one example, the pollution found in Liverpool City Centre, where Merseytravel HQ is based makes me thirsty because I’m an asthmatic.

Merseytravel is fully aware of the disability I have and the nature and extent of those disabilites as a District Judge at Birkenhead County Court found in the past that Merseytravel had discriminated against me three times (but accepted Merseytravel’s defence that on each occasion it was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim).

One could regard denying me access to water in such circumstances as degrading treatment contrary to Article 3.

Are we expected to bring our own water to such meetings?

Article 2 deals with freedom of movement which is again restricted.

It is unlawful for a public authority to act in a way this is incompatible with a Convention Right (s. 6(1) of the Human Rights Act 1998).

Merseytravel states that it prides itself on good industrial relations with its workforce. We both work in Merseytravel HQ, yet not for Merseytravel. Yet Merseytravel management unilaterally imposed this new policy upon us without formally consulting us first.

I hope I will receive a satisfactory response to the issues raised. Not just for my benefit, but for that of Leonora, other members of the media who attend public meetings at Merseytravel HQ and indeed the wider public who may wish to do so.

Long drawn out legal cases are neither beneficial to either Merseytravel or myself, adverse press criticism is about the only tool I have to bring about change.

Merseytravel is part of the public sector and should be able to resolve this issues well before they get to this stage.

I would hope that after having read the above that matters will change.

However realising how difficult cultural attitudes are to change in an organisation, I am not hopeful of a quick resolution to these matters.

I can be contacted in the following ways:

Address: Jenmaleo, 134 Boundary Road, Birkenhead, CH43 7PH
Email: john@johnbrace.com
Tel: 0151 512 2500 (but please not that due to the nature of my work you are highly likely to just get the answering machine)

P.S. Last year I heard Mayor Anderson (now Chair of the Combined Authority) state at a public meeting how hurt he was when decisions affecting his employment with Chesterfield School were made without prior consultation and about his political beliefs as a trade unionist.

If Merseytravel have behaved in the way I describe above (which I have the tape to prove), then management is not acting in accordance with the political belief of the Chair of the Combined Authority who is answerable to the public for its functioning.

I would also like it confirmed (as three senior managers at Merseytravel, Stephanie Donaldson, Liz Carridge and Louise Outram) were involved in trying to persuade me to alter the article here:

Merseytravel’s Head of Internal Audit brands some whistleblowing as “Mickey Mouse” & “complete nonsense”
https://johnbrace.com/2014/11/25/merseytravels-head-of-internal-audit-brands-whistleblowing-as-mickey-mouse-complete-nonsense/


that these actions described above haven’t been implemented by Merseytravel management in response to that matter.

Yours sincerely,

John Brace


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Unilever starts construction on North West Innovation Centre aided by £4 million of Regional Growth Fund money

Unilever starts construction on North West Innovation Centre
aided by £4 million of Regional Growth Fund money

                                                   

Construction starts on Unilever's North West Innovation Centre L: Cameron Jones (Port Sunlight site leader) Unilever R: Dave Penrith (Vice President Technology & Engineering) Unilever
Construction starts on Unilever’s North West Innovation Centre L: Cameron Jones (Port Sunlight site leader) Unilever R: Dave Penrith (Vice President Technology & Engineering) Unilever

I rarely write stories based on press releases as churnalism isn’t the purpose of this blog, but this story about Unilever and the £4 million of taxpayers’ money it received for a new Advanced Manufacturing Centre in Port Sunlight is one of those rare exceptions.

Unilever (for those who don’t know) is a major employer on the Wirral and employ at Port Sunlight nearly as many employees as Wirral Council including Wirral Council’s own Cllr Steve Foulkes.

Wirral Council’ Planning Committee met on the 20th August 2015 earlier this year and approved plans for the Advanced Manufacturing Centre and you can view the plans on Wirral Council’s website and video of that meeting below.

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Wirral Council Planning Committee meeting of 20th August 2015 which starts at item 15 (planning application APP/15/00829) Unilever Plc, QUARRY ROAD EAST, BEBINGTON – Proposed combined research and development building with ground & first floor offices, conference facilities, warehousing and pilot plant chamber for R & D projects. Constructed within the existing Unilever campus/site to the south-west of the Port Sunlight conservation area. All associated highway access/egress to remain as existing. The proposed development retains the quantity of vehicle parking facilities, cycle parking and also pedestrian access arrangements on site on completion of this development.

Since the planning application was approved in August, work has recently started (as you can see from the first photo in this article). Unilever has received £4 million of Regional Growth Fund money (which they are matching with their own resources). Both Wirral Council and the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority have a role in the organisations that Regional Growth Fund monies are allocated to.

I recently brought up with the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority’s Audit Committee, that as the LCRCA now has a website that the Local Government Transparency Code 2015 means the LCRCA is required to publish information on its websites about grants over £500 such as Regional Growth Fund money (in fact this is a legal requirement). This was referred to Merseytravel’s Head of Internal Audit, yes the person who referred to some whistleblowing as "Mickey Mouse" and "complete nonsense" so I’m not holding my breath for a quick response!

I also raised it with the LCRCA Monitoring Officer Angela Sanderson. However the same Code apply to Wirral Council too.

Earlier this year, I exercised a right and request to inspect some information during the period over the summer about some of the payments Wirral Council make to businesses relating to the Regional Growth Fund. The regulations required Wirral Council to provide this within the three-week inspection period.

I barely got to see 10% of what I’d requested, not one page of the councillors’ expenses (perhaps a sore topic since publishing these last year) and despite pointing this out to the Monitoring Officer Surjit Tour via email, so far I have just received stony silence.

So that’s why I’m writing about the £4 million Unilever received of Regional Growth Fund based on a press release, because the mandatory openness and transparency that should be there at Wirral Council and the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority over how millions of pounds is spent doesn’t seem to be happening!

I will point out that the LCRCA state that they publish this information on Merseytravel’s website instead, however considering how many payments Merseytravel make over £500, however finding this sort of information is like finding a needle in a haystack!

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KPMG (external auditors) advise councillors that report nearly finished on objection to Merseytravel’s 2014/15 accounts

KPMG (external auditors) advise councillors that report nearly finished on objection to Merseytravel’s 2014/15 accounts

KPMG (external auditors) advise councillors that report nearly finished on objection to Merseytravel’s 2014/15 accounts

                                                   

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Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Audit Committee 3rd November 2015

John Fogarty speaking at the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Audit Committee 3rd November 2015 about risk management
John Fogarty speaking at the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Audit Committee 3rd November 2015 about risk management

Risk management was a subject John Fogarty tried very hard to be interesting about by making topical references to Thomas Cook, TalkTalk and Volkswagen, however he was completely unaware that he was being upstaged by a couple in the background flirting while waiting for the lift (as pictured above).

That is the most interesting introduction I can make to a write-up of yesterday’s Audit Committee meeting. You can read the reports for the public meeting on Merseytravel’s website.

The one Wirral Council councillor on the Audit Committee (Cllr Mike Sullivan) wasn’t present and didn’t send his apologies. The other five councillors on the Committee were there (the Chair Cllr Anthony Carr (Sefton Council), Deputy Chair Cllr Nina Killen (Sefton Council), Cllr Andy Moorhead (Knowsley Council), Cllr Rob Polhill (Halton Borough Council) and Cllr Pam Thomas (Liverpool City Council)).

On the agenda were three main items a presentation by John Fogarty (Treasurer to the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority) on risk management, a quarterly update on internal audit work and the final item was a report from the Treasurer on the final accounts for 2014/15 (which had two appendices the draft report to those charged with governance from the external auditors KPMG and the Annual Audit Letter 2014/15.

Although one of those reports only mentions one formal objection (I referred to the objection I made here), there is still another formal objection to the accounts.

As Merseytravel and the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority are audited separately (although this Audit Committee covers both bodies), I would guess that this relates to the matter discussed at Merseytravel’s meeting on the 1st October 2015 and minuted in this way (Members means councillors)Finally the Director advised of an objection raised by a member of the public in relation to a historical item from the accounts relating to the internal transfer of funds between two Merseytravel services. The outcome of this matter could be reported to Members once resolved. Councillor Abbey asked that it be placed on record that such complaints did result in a cost to council taxpayers as they required investigation by external auditors.

The external auditors (KPMG) confirmed at yesterday’s meeting that they are in the process of writing a report on that matter and hope to report back soon, however did confirm that the matter the objection related to doesn’t pass the threshold of materiality.

Due to the unresolved objection, the accounts haven’t been closed by the statutory deadline of the 30th September 2015.

There is not much else interesting I could write about the Audit Committee meeting (although video of the meeting can be watched below).

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Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Audit Committee 3rd November 2015

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Why did 2 missing words from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority 2014/15 accounts end up costing YOU £4,755?

Why did 2 missing words from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority 2014/15 accounts end up costing YOU £4,755?

Why did 2 missing words from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority 2014/15 accounts end up costing YOU £4,755?

                                                  

Councillor Phil Davies (Chair) at a meeting earlier this year of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority

In the interests of openness and transparency here is an email I’ve just written. We’ll see what happens tomorrow morning. You can read the objection that led to the KPMG (the external auditors for the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority) increasing their bill by £4,755 here.


To
Councillor Anthony Carr (Chair) anthony.carr@councillors.sefton.gov.uk
Councillor Nina Killen (Deputy Chair) nina.killen@councillors.sefton.gov.uk
Councillor Andy Moorhead andy.moorhead@knowsley.gov.uk
Councillor Rob Polhill rob.polhill@halton.gov.uk
Councillor Mike Sullivan mikesullivan@wirral.gov.uk
Councillor Pam Thomas pamela.thomas@liverpool.gov.uk

Subject: Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Audit Committee meeting (3rd November 2015) item 6 LCRCA Final Accounts 2014/15

Dear all,

I have read the reports for tomorrow’s meeting and as you are the people on the Audit Committee there to represent the people of Merseyside I wish to make the following points to you.

If you wish me to explain at the public meeting itself why I made the objection I am happy to do so, but as you will understand in this email what I stated in the objection is the tip of a larger iceberg.

Firstly, the same error was also made in the Merseytravel accounts (I think since Merseytravel’s Audit and Governance Sub-Committee was disbanded you are also responsible for Merseytravel’s accounts too). I know someone else made an objection to the Merseytravel accounts (I didn’t), but had I made the same objection to the Merseytravel accounts too as this would’ve added an extra ~£5k to your audit costs.

As it’s never been made clear to me if the same error in Merseytravel’s accounts was also corrected, I would appreciate an answer to that point.

There are other points about the accounts that I did not raise in my objection, that you as the Audit Committee should be made aware of.

The accounts for 2014/15 and accompanying reports refer to the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015. However the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015 only apply to financial years from 2015/16 onwards, therefore this is another error.

Finally, I am concerned that the system of internal controls at the LCRCA, the external auditor or the councillors approving the accounts did not spot this or the matters relating to my objection.

I hope at the meeting tomorrow you will exercise some scrutiny as to what happened and why and put into place controls to prevent it happening in the future.

Yours sincerely,

John Brace

P.S. I will clarify what it stated on page 11 of the auditor’s report.

The accounts in their original form didn’t comply with legal requirements. It’s been acknowledged by the auditors and officers they were wrong. The point about the external auditors applying to the court for a declaration that the accounts are unlawful is therefore moot as they’ve been changed.

However it is important that councillors consider the reasons behind the objection in a public interest report, otherwise the people tasked with corporate governance will be in the dark as to what was wrong, why it had to be changed and be aware to check for this next year. I hope I have made this clear.

P.P.S On another audit related note, as the LCRCA now has a website, the Local Government (Transparency Requirements) (England) Regulations 2015 make it a legal requirement that certain information is published on its website (such as payments over £500 for example the payment to the auditors).

Currently this is being done on Merseytravel’s website, which makes it very hard to find the LCRCA payments amongst the Merseytravel ones. I would like the Audit Committee to please find out why this information isn’t published on the LCRCA website as it would aid with better openness and transparency about what the LCRCA is doing.

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Who was paid a £150,707 salary by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority?

Who was paid a £150,707 salary by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority?

Who was paid a £150,707 salary by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority?

                                          

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Monty Python’s famous sketch about chartered accountancy (as it’s very hard to make jokes about this subject)

Councillor Phil Davies shows off the LGC award Wirral Council received for being most improved Council 12th March 2015
Councillor Phil Davies (Chair of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority) shows off the LGC award Wirral Council received for being most improved Council 12th March 2015

As it states in the video above, accountancy can be dull. However I wrote this email below (sent the day before the meeting) about a disclosure mistake in the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority accounts for 2014/15. The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority meets this morning to approve the accounts for 2014/15.

It’s quite simple really, about six years ago the law changed so that public sector employees that are paid a salary of £150,000 or more had to be named in the accounts.

For example on page 160 of the accounts for the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority approved last week Dan Stephens, the Chief Fire Officer (on a salary of £170,000) is named. In fact Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority also name the Deputy Chief Fire Officer and Deputy Chief Executive, as despite their salaries being below the £150,000 threshold it is more transparent to do so as the total they receive is over the £150,000 threshold.

The Chief Executive of Merseytravel (David Brown) on a salary of £150,707 should’ve been named in the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority’s accounts. The email below from myself details the reasons why (KPMG are the external auditors for the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority). Hopefully this will be sorted out at the meeting and corrected.

Subject: agenda item 7 (Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Final Accounts 2014/15) meeting 20th September 2015

To: Cllr Phil Davies
CC: Mayor Joe Anderson
CC: Cllr Barrie Grunewald
CC: Robert Hough
CC: Cllr Andy Moorhead
CC: Cllr Rob Polhill
CC: Cllr Ian Maher

CC: David Brown (Chief Executive/Director General, Merseytravel)
CC: Louise Outram (Monitoring Officer, Merseytravel)
CC: Angela Sanderson (Monitoring Officer, LCRCA)
CC: Stephanie Donaldson (Head of Internal Audit, Merseytravel)
CC: Tim Cutler (Partner, KPMG LLP (UK))
CC: Ian Warwick (Manager, KPMG LLP (UK))
CC: Richard Tyler (Assistant Manager, KPMG LLP (UK))

Dear all,

I am bringing this up in advance of Monday’s meeting, in the hope it can be amended. If it isn’t amended, please class this as a formal objection by a Merseyside local government elector to the accounts of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority for 2014/15.

The draft statement of accounts at note 9 (which is page 41 in the numbering of the report or page 67 of the supplementary agenda) contains details of the remuneration paid to the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority’s senior employees.

For the year 2015 (I presume this means financial year 2014/15), the Chief Executive/Director General received a salary of £150,707.

A number of years ago the Accounts and Audit (Amendment no 2) (England) Regulations 2009, SI 2009/3322 changed the audit regulations (this change started in financial year 2009/2010) and added the paragraph below:

"(c) the remuneration, set out according to the categories listed in paragraph (d), by the relevant body during the relevant financial year of—

(i) senior employees, or

(ii) relevant police officers,

in respect of their employment by the relevant body or in their capacity as a police officer, whether on a permanent or temporary basis, to be listed individually in relation to such persons who must nevertheless be identified by way of job title only (except for persons whose salary is £150,000 or more per year, who must also be identified by name)."

This requirement was kept in The Accounts and Audit (England) Regulations 2011, SI 2011/817 reg 7(2)(c) and the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015, SI 2015/234 (which although referred to in the draft statement of accounts will apply from the 2015/16 financial year onwards).

Clearly, the Chief Executive should’ve been explicitly named and wasn’t. I think everyone I write this email to will know he’s called David Brown, but the draft statement of accounts should be amended to state this.

It’s a basic issue of openness and transparency (which I’m sure you’d expect the press to take a viewpoint on).

Yours sincerely,

John Brace

P.S. I know Merseytravel’s accounts are audited separately to the LCRCA, has the same error been made there too?

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