I hope when Cllr. Ian Geldard has published his response to the above FOI request (letterhead 15/9/16, Spennymoor Town Council – see Whatdoyouknow and the Council website) that he is sure of the information that he has presented by way of an Audit Report on member expenses.
An Audit Committee meeting was held yesterday,15/9/16, to discuss this report that was first made available to all Councillors just over 10 days ago with the Agenda for the meeting. An Internal Freedom of Information Review meeting followed immediately after this Audit Meeting. I was on the Committee of both meetings.
If he had listened carefully to the statement that I read out at the Audit Meeting instead of checking his stopwatch to see if I had gone over the 3 minutes allowed to speak, he would have heard that a Freedom of Information Report supplied to a member of the public in June 2012 did not contain any details of the expenses claimed for a trip to Corby in July 2011. I requested a copy of this FOI request following an article that had appeared in the Northern Echo regarding a Councillor’s claims for ‘first class travel’. I understand that this FOI request took many months before the information was obtained.
I stated at yesterday’s Audit Meeting that either the detailed information supplied for this FOI request in June 2012 was WRONG or MISSING from the data supplied, or the date of one of the conferences quoted in the report presented at yesterday’s meeting was WRONG.
EITHER WAY, one record of published information has been misrepresented and I would like to know which one it is. I presented this information to our Internal Auditor yesterday and I understood that he would look at this before presenting his next report back to Council. Obviously Cllr. Geldard has not waited for this result before releasing information.
This leads me to another comment that I made yesterday. I obtained information from Council records in preparation for this meeting that I had previously been informed was not available, however my questions 2-8 still remain outstanding that also included financial information questions. I have reserved the right to comment again when these answers are forthcoming. I indicated that the records I had obtained showed that the report now released to the public with names redacted was NOT LISTED as presented at the Audit Committee of 4/2/13. I further stated that:
“I believe that Mr. Fletcher’s undated report – believed to have been written November 2012 – has been deliberately hidden from some members of the AUDIT committee and in particular has not been seen (or known of its existence) to the two members from our Group on this Committee at the time. Mr. Fletcher refers in a communication dated 16/9/16 to his undated report being sent to one officer of the Council to discuss with two senior Councillors from the Labour Group, one still a serving Councillor. There are others Labour Councillors who have been named in the Auditor”s report as interviewed and party to information provided for the report and should be ashamed of themselves that findings are only now being released.
Cover up and deception of this undated report by some Labour Group members when it became available in November 2012 and being deliberately WITHHELD from opposition members of the AUDIT committee and providing inaccurate data against a FOI request as detailed above. I also asked why the report discussed yesterday was not provided against the FOI request re travelling expenses made in April 2016.
The report now in the public domain has had names redacted. NO COUNCILLOR OR PREVIOUSLY SERVING COUNCILLOR FROM THE SPENNYMOOR INDEPENDENT GROUP is named in this report or have been involved in any cover up.
I have passed my full statement read out at yesterday’s Audit Committee meeting to Mr. Wilkinson, internal Auditor, and to the Council’s external Auditor noting my comments and asking a further question reference the scope of the Agenda presented to the Audit Committee meeting of 4/2/13 that should also be investigated. I asked that a record of my statement and summary be recorded in the minutes of the meeting.
I am still waiting for external Auditor response to previous issues.
Cllr. Liz Maddison
for and on behalf of Spennymoor Independent Group