Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Letter to Grant Thornton

Grant Thornton are the Auditors of The Town Council. They are auditing the 2009/2010 accounts. All electors have the right to ask questions of the accounts. Having read 2009/10 accounts I had a few questions. I emailed both Paul Winrow and Liz Sanford of Grant Thornton the following:

Dear Paul,

The following are the questions I have on the Annual Accounts and Report ending 31st March 2010.

On page 7.- 3. The Council's Governance Framework

The following is stated:

"The Town Council has a Constitution, which comprises (inter alia) of: It then lists all the parts of the Constitution."

"The Constitution is regularly reviewed and updated on an annual basis. The latest review was in May 2010
and the current version is V3"

Question: Why aren't these available on the Town Council website?

"The Council published its forward plan in March 2010."

I cannot find this Forward Plan. It has not been published in the Priorities magazine. Nor has it been published on the Town Council website. There has been no public consultation on this alleged document.

Question: Has this Forward Plan actually been published and made available to the public?
Question: Were the public properly consulted over the Forward Plan?

"The Council has identified and communicated the Council’s vision of its purpose and intended outcomes for citizens and service users through the Forward Plan."

Question: As there has been no public consultation and the Forward Plan isn't readily available how can this statement be true?

Question: As the Town Council states there is a Forward Plan, has the Town Council communicated the outcomes of the previous forward plan(s)?

"The Council seeks to establish clear channels of communication with all sections of the community and other stakeholders, ensuring accountability and encouraging open consultation by:

(a) Publishing a newsletter (Priorities) four times a year."

According to the Annual Town Meeting minutes in answer to question I was informed by the Town Mayor that: "Priorities Magazine is NOT a Town Council publication"

Question: Is Priorities a Town Council publication?

"(b) The Council seeks views from the community by questionnaire and its website."

Question: I have never seen any questionnaire in Priorities or via its website. How can the Town Council justify this statement?

Next bit.

Page 3 - Budget Comparison between for the year ended 2010.

Under this heading it says: "The following shows a comparison with the budget and out-turn figures for 2009/10."

I cannot tally the budget figures given to the original budget passed in January 2009. These are a whole new set of figures. 

Question: How are members of the public able to hold this Town Council to account when different figures are published to those originally agreed?

Page 19 - Related Party Transactions

In an answer to a question to the Annual Town Meeting I was informed: "The Town Council charges the Swimming Pool Trust for grass cutting and officers' time spent at meetings and preparation of accounts."

In the annual report the Town Council only admits to "administration". No mention of grass cutting.

According to the Charity Commission website the accounts the Town Council prepares for the Swimming Pool Trust are 191 days overdue.

Question: The Town Council informs the public that it is a related party, custodian of the site and is paid to prepare the accounts. As these accounts haven't been filed on time is the Council doing its job?

Last year I asked a whole load of questions. Grant Thornton only answered some of these after I prompted them the night before the presentation to the Town Council. Lets hope I don't have to prompt them again!


Ganesh Sittampalam said...

What happens if you file an objection?

Also, presumably the public rights period is currently running. You could go and inspect the accounts in full detail.

Dave said...

If you file an objection then that has to be considered by the Auditor or at a Magistrates Court.

The public right to inspection ended on 12th August 2010. Whilst I would like to inspect the accounts I can't currently find the time. Maybe in the future I will have the time to look into the accounts in more depth.