Merseyside Police and Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside deem it “unreasonable” to comply with their legal requirements to provide information during the 30 day public inspection period
By John Brace (Editor)
First publication date: 13th August 2020, 19:10 (BST).
Dear Mr Keith Dickinson and Mr John Riley,
Unfortunately I have only just today read your letter dated 6th August 2020.
There is one main point I will raise that you appear to have overlooked, as a local government elector, the 30 day public inspection period coincides with when I have a legal right to ask questions or make objections to your auditors (in this case Grant Thornton).
However in the absence of information, it is nearly impossible to do this about information that hasn’t been yet received within the 30 day inspection period.
Whereas this period of objection used to run till the accounts were formally approved, it now runs concurrent with the 30 day period (as you will know from the document you referred to in your response).
It is therefore highly concerning that you have chosen to take this course of action, as it is clear that you are engaged in a course of action that denies me the opportunity to do this should I so wish to do so.
As your public inspection period ends in 1 working day, I will wait until it ends to consider my next steps, but respectfully the following points are made at this point in response to your letter:-
(1) The choice of 30 day inspection/objection period was made by yourselves and considerable extra flexibility was given this year as the Accounts and Audit (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 modified the start date to “on or before the first working day of September 2020”. Therefore point (5) you make about it covering a holiday period was your choice to do this.
(2) You are a category 1 responder (as defined by the Civil Contingencies Act 2004), but this also means, which is of concern, that you consider complying with your legal requirements as optional during a pandemic which is troubling.
(3) It should not be within Merseyside Police’s (or that of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside’s) remit to seek to frustrate or evade its legal responsibilities. Indeed the management override of controls is always noted as a generic audit risk, but to repeat it is not within your remit to pick and choose which laws you comply with and considering your primary role of law enforcement this is extremely concerning.
(4) You therefore leave me with little recourse but to make a formal objection to both your auditors about this unusual proposed course of action you have decided on and also to consider whether legal action is needed against both bodies in the present circumstances.
(5) I hope the above makes my position clear, but in summary you may have gathered by now, I am somewhat disappointed at your approach considering the size of your organisations.
(6) Due to the concerning nature of the points raised, I am publishing this response, as if you desire to spend public money without public accountability over how it is spent during a year when the Police and Crime Commissioner election has been cancelled, there are the legitimate two questions to be asked about to whom you are accountable and in whose interests are you exercising the power you claim to have?
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