Accountability failures by local government highlighted in report by Research for Action and High Court Judge

Accountability failures by local government highlighted in report by Research for Action and High Court Judge

Accountability failures by local government highlighted in report by Research for Action and High Court Judge

                                 

By John Brace (Editor)
and
Leonora Brace (Co-Editor)

First publication date: 28th April 2021, 05:48 (BST).

The three boxes on the left comprise the PFI fire stations contract
The three boxes on the left comprise the PFI fire stations contract

A 40 A4 page report published today (28th April 2021) by Research for Action titled Democracy Denied: Audit and Accountability Failure in Local Government looked at the experience of those who have tried (during a 30 working day period each year) to inspect the financial records of councils, as well as the experience of those who have asked questions of auditors or made objections using rights in the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 (in England) or the Local Authority Accounts (Scotland) Regulations 2014 (in Scotland). The report concentrates on requests to inspect, as well as related rights to ask questions to the auditor and/or object to the auditor. The report is mainly about requests in relation to PFI (Private Finance Initiative) schemes or LOBO (Lender Option Borrower Option) loans.
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What will Cllr Phil Davies answer to a question about the financial risks of Hoylake Golf Resort?

What will Cllr Phil Davies answer to a question about the financial risks of Hoylake Golf Resort?

What will Cllr Phil Davies answer to a question about the financial risks of Hoylake Golf Resort?

                                 

Photo 4 - Cllr Phil Davies answering questions at the Birkenhead Constituency Committee public meeting (1st March 2018)
Photo 4 – Cllr Phil Davies answering questions at the Birkenhead Constituency Committee public meeting (1st March 2018)

Ed – this was edited on 20th March 2018 at 9:33 pm to include video of the questions to Cllr Phil Davies and answers given on the 19th March 2018

Tonight (19th March 2018) I will be asking at a public meeting of Wirral Council’s councillors the following question of Cllr Phil Davies about Hoylake Golf Resort:

Cllr Phil Davies has explained at a number of public meetings what he thinks the benefits of the Hoylake Golf Resort project are, could he further please explain how the financial risks (including the financial risk of Wirral Council lending the developer millions of pounds if planning permission is granted) will be both managed and mitigated please?
 

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Wirral Council hides over £1,829.65 of Labour councillors' taxi expenses despite Labour promising transparency

Wirral Council hides over £1,829.65 of Labour councillors’ taxi expenses despite Labour promising transparency

Wirral Council carries on hiding at least £1,829.65 of taxi expenses by Labour councillors despite Labour promise greater transparency

                                                           

Hackney carriage by Ed g2s
Hackney carriage by Ed g2s

Hackney carriage by ed g2stalkOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The tale of taxi expenses claimed by Wirral Council councillors is rapidly becoming a rather convoluted saga. In case you haven’t been reading this blog I will recap the saga so far. It started with INCREDIBLE: £2,877.35 spent by Wirral Council last year in previously hidden payments on taxis for Labour councillors! This was when I discovered that Labour councillors were using taxis and despite a law stating that the annual totals spent for each councillor for travelling had to be published that these figures weren’t being published.

It led to Row as Wirral Labour councillors rack up nearly £3,000 expense claims for taxis in the Wirral Globe, GRANTY’S INFERNO: Taxi-happy Wirral councillors are taking us all for a ride and a letter defending the use of taxis by councillors. I also wrote a further piece Was there no available public transport when Wirral Council councillors took taxis?

In March I asked the Cabinet Member Councillor Adrian Jones about this. The video of that question and Councillor Adrian Jones’ reply is below (although the link in the previous sentence also has a transcript of the question and answer).

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In the last few weeks Wirral Council has published on their website the annual totals for each councillor in two files, called Members Allowances 2014-15 and Mayors Allowances 2014-15.

Here are two quotes from what I asked Councillor Adrian Jones back in March:

JOHN BRACE: For the taxi journeys made by councillors that were not included in the annual published lists for 2013/14 and those made since can you confirm:

…..

(b) what changes will be made so that the expenses for such journeys made in 2014/15 will be included next time the annual lists are published? Thank you. “

COUNCILLOR ADRIAN JONES (CABINET MEMBER FOR SUPPORT SERVICES): The Council has negotiated competitive prices and entered into contracts with a local taxi company to provide transport for Members in accordance with the Members Allowances Scheme. The taxi company submits its invoices and the details of the Members that used the taxis each month directly to the Council for payment. The advantage of this arrangement is that the cost of transport by taxis is always at the negotiated rate and is a more efficient way to manage the service.

Now these costs have not been published on that basis previously, however in future the cost of Member’s taxi journeys undertaken pertinent to these taxi contracts will be published on the Council’s website as soon as practicable after the end of each financial year.

In answer to this Freedom of Information Act request I made that I received a response to in December 2014, the total amount spent on taxis for councillors to that point in December 2014 was £1,829.65. Obviously the figure for the whole year will be larger as the financial year for Wirral Council for 2014/15 finishes on the 31st March 2015.

So I’d estimate the total for the year would be around £2,400. The Members Allowances 2014-15 has a column for car mileage (which is for when councillors claim money for using their own cars to travel to meetings) and not for taxis.

The only other column taxi expenses could fall into is “Re-imbursement of expenses” , which only totals £836.60 and is lower than the part-year figures for taxis of £1,829.65 provided in response to the Freedom of Information request.

I recently asked a person who regularly comments on this blog, what should the media do in response to whistleblowing? The answer I was given was “The right thing by the tax paying public”.

I don’t think there’s much further or anything more I can go with this topic though. Wirral Council is proud of its recent "Most Improved" award. When a Wirral Council employee writes an answer for a Cabinet Member to read out at a public meeting that has a specific promise that something will be changed, but it isn’t there has been a betrayal of trust. Someone has to be accountable and apologise (whether in public or private) for this and Wirral Council has to learn to take its legal obligations seriously.

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