Electors Rights: External Audit

On the 31st May 2016 I (Liz) presented a motion seconded by Kevin Thompson to call an Extraordinary Meeting of the Council.  This meeting took place on 7th June but my motion was not recorded and substituted by one from Cllr. Geldard.  Before the minutes were ratified at full Council I asked that the minutes be recorded correctly to include the original motion i.e

  1.  Council be provided at this meeting with a copy of the ‘grievance’ received from an officer and a report on legal advice received (‘grievance’ paperwork not provided to our Group despite a number of requests).
  1.  Council be provided with a date when the Independent Report will be published together with a report on legal advice received.  (The first report was presented to Council on 12th APRIL 2016 and this was yet another request our Group have made asking for the report to be released.)

Standing Orders (rules) of the Council state that any motion can only be amended by insertion or deleting of words NOT removed from the minutes.

Following a statement from a sub committee of the council and a declaration of interest from the Chair of this Committee, a formal request was made on 1st July for the internal auditor to investigate ‘allegations’ made in a ‘grievance’ towards a number of Councillors.  This was followed on 5th July with a notice presented to Cllr. D. Taylor, Mayor, signed by 3 members of our group, namely Liz Maddison, Kevin Thompson and Geoff Darkes, to call an Extraordinary Meeting of the Audit Committee, that stated as follows,

(a) Discuss terms of reference for an urgent review following a ‘grievance/allegations’ made against a number of Councillors (Note: a copy of the ‘grievance’ has still not been provided to all Councillors at current date).

(b) Revisit earlier agreed protocols and internal auditor recommendations to ensure that financial procedures are operating correctly, covering the following areas:

(i) Issue of orders and contracts

(ii) Management of incoming and outgoing invoice receipts and payments.

This request for an urgent Extraordinary meeting was refused by Cllr. Geldard and advised to me by e mail.  He considered that the request should have been directed to him as Chair of the Audit Committee rather than the Mayor, and further stated that items (a) and (b) above would not be added to the Agenda of an Audit Meeting originally agreed to take place in July, a date agreed at the previous Audit meeting.  He advised that the request for a special Audit meeting had to be signed by 3 members of the Audit Committee, a cynical statement as he already knew that we have only 2 out of 9 members appointed to this committee (only 2 signatures needed for an Extraordinary Council meeting!).  There was no Audit meeting held in July and none has been planned for August (to date), nor has the internal Auditor provided a review of the ‘allegations’.  Complaints to the Town Mayors, past and present, of this lack of attention and failure to record minutes correctly, have not been acknowledged.

Accordingly, taking account of the notice given to respond with information, on the 8th August a public interest concern signed by all members of our Group, has been submitted to the External Auditor in compliance with Electors’ Rights and before the final date for exercise of public rights (11th August) covering the following issues:

  1.  The public cost and delays in publication of an Independent Report following a complaint against Councillors and officers from a member of the public.
  2.  Under Corporate and Democratic Governance, the failure to provide our Group with a copy of the ‘grievance/allegations’  made against a number of Councillors and failure to provide an urgent audit review of alleged financial issues for accounts purposes.
  3. Issues with financial procedures and protocols reference identified orders and contracts and management of identified incoming and outgoing invoice receipts during the period covered by the Audited accounts.

We trust that there will be a complete review of the aforementioned issues in the interests of democracy, openness and accountability.

for and on behalf of Spennymoor Independent Group

Liz Maddison supported by Geoff Darkes, Kathy and Kevin Thompson

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