Borough council facing criticism over its accounts

November 10, 2010 12:02 PM
By Paul Ainsworth in Brentwood Gazette
Cllr David Kendall

Brentwood Lib Dem party leader Cllr David Kendall has criticised the latest report.

FORTY auditors descended on Brentwood Borough Council before returning what the leading opposition party has described as another "damning" set of results.

Embarrassingly, the local authority failed to get its 2008/09 accounts signed off last year following inconsistencies and missing information. It was also said to offer poor value for money for residents.

Consequently, in an unprecedented move, officials from the Audit Commission arrived en masse this time around to scrutinise every receipt, incoming and outgoing, for the year ending March 31, 2010.

In the latest financial report presented to councillors last month, Audit Commission officer Paul King said Brentwood council:

Had not planned its finances effectively to deliver its strategic priorities and secure sound financial health

Claimed its financial reporting was not timely, reliable and capable of meeting the needs of internal users, stakeholders and local people

Did not promote and demonstrate the principles and values of good governance

Failed to manage its risks and maintain a sound system of internal control.

It did, however, sign the 2009/10 accounts off.

The council has defended its bookkeeping and hailed the great strides made in just one year.

Councillor Louise McKinlay, leader of Tory-run Brentwood Borough Council, said: "The final report from the Audit Commission is a significant improvement on the 2008/09 accounts which received a 'disclaimed' opinion.

"It has been acknowledged that to provide strong, robust accounts will not happen overnight and whilst the Audit Commission report identifies work still to do, it represents a significant improvement which is recognised by the commission and the fact that the accounts have been signed off significantly earlier than in previous years.

"The report refers to the 2009/10 financial year which ended on March 31, 2010, and does not reflect the further improvements made during the first six months of the 2010/11 financial year.

"The council recognises the need for strong financial control and has put in place improved and robust processes to support that."

Brentwood Lib Dem party leader Cllr David Kendall has criticised the latest report.

He said: "Last year the council faced the embarrassment of not being able to get its 2008/09 accounts signed off and seeing its services ranked as the poorest in Essex and in the bottom 12 in the UK.

"This latest Audit Commission report shows that there is still a need a need for major improvement in terms of how the council manages its resources.

"In the past the Conservatives running Brentwood have tried to blame everyone but themselves for the council's sorry predicament, but it is time they finally took responsibility for their own actions and apologised to residents for yet another damning Audit Commission report."