Monday, 7 July 2014

Council Accounts 2014 - a few figures

For your information, Friday's Audit Committee meeting sees the first outing this year of the Council's Statement of Accounts for 2013 - 14. It's not complete, as it has yet to include the views of the independent auditor, namely the Wales Audit Office. Whether there will be any new 'problems' remains to be seen. According to the WAO there are numerous elector complaints to consider, not least of all this one of course.

The unlawful payments to the chief executive continue to feature in the accounts and blot the copybook as they 'roll over' from the previous year; £13,775 in pension payments and £3,601 for the libel indemnity for 2013 - 2014. The former bumping up the CEOs salary to £180k, and don't forget the Returning Officer fees for the Euro election.

The audit fee for the public interest reports was £51,000, which could have been avoided if the council had admitted its mistakes last summer. Along with the payments themselves, amounting to nearly £57,000 over the two years; £15k+ to Mr Kerr QC (cost of attendance at EGM still unknown) and endless officer hours on the subject etc etc...and still could all have probably fixed a fair few potholes.

Incidentally, the cost of external legal advice, over all areas of the council, was £247,321 which includes an unknown amount to specialist media lawyers.

The accounts also include the Annual Governance Statement with a played down version of the reasons for the current 'governance review', namely the two public Interest Reports 'which made comment on some aspects of two particular decisions'. Compare that with the Audit letter from the WAO, which is also on the agenda, and is a little more, er, specific;

The same letter hints that there are yet again still significant problems with the council's management of grants and it seems that more care needs to be taken when accounting for their capital expenditure. Further details will emerge as the WAO complete their audit.

The accounts show the cost of exit packages was £4m this year compared to £3m last year - 329 jobs have gone over the two year period through 'agreed departures'. One employee left with an exit package of £133,459.

The controversial loan to Scarlets Regional Ltd, originally £2.4m, doesn't seem to be decreasing, rising from £2.5m last year to £2.6m this year, their accounts are now considerably overdue.

The cost of councillors allowances also increased by around £10,000 to £1,235,941 probably due to the Executive Board insisting its numbers were bumped back up to ten rather than nine. Expect this figure to go up another £10,000-ish next year due to the 'approx' 1% increase in allowances.

There was also a marked increase in councillors expenses, the annual total jumping by over £4000 to £47,728.

More details will emerge as the Statement of Accounts winds it's way through the system and the Wales Audit Office does its thing, maybe one day the council will even publish their spending details. How next year's books will look is anyone's guess with the recent announcement from the Welsh Government that cuts to councils budgets are likely to be much higher than first thought. Carmarthenshire council could be looking to cut an extra £8m on top of the £16m it is already cutting in the next couple of years.

The council currently pays out around £14m per year to service its long term borrowing of around a quarter of a billion pounds; that's around £1300 per head of population of the county. Any future borrowing must be for absolute necessities and not to spend on 'visionary' vanity projects.  As for the money currently held in council reserves, the total has gone up from £58.4m in 2013 to £73.4m in 2014.

Let's just hope County Hall is beginning to learn its lesson and remember that whatever cuts to services will be made, and wherever the axe will fall; public scrutiny, effective consultation, proper decision making and full transparency are vitally important ingredients in the whole process.

Update 8th July;
Regular readers will be aware of the controversial and ongoing financial commitments Carmarthenshire Council has with the Scarlets. Two years ago their auditors questioned the future viability of the club with an excess  of liabilities over assets of nearly £2m.
Today's Western Mail reports that the Club's accounts are three months late and they have no intention of submitting them until a firm deal is signed with the WRU.
Richard Roper, a Stradey campaigner and a supporter of the club notes; "I think it's very worrying that the accounts are so late. The region is breaking the law by not filing its accounts with Companies House on time. But in my view, because of the very large sums of public money tied up with the Scarlets, the company has an even greater responsibility to be transparent"

Update 11th July;
The Statement of Accounts (Pre-audit) is now available here, in an easier to read format.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just how can Councillors' allowances and expenses have INCREASED at a time when all other areas of public spending have been viciously slashed?

Surely Members should be showing the way by example, and, by whatever means, reduced their proportion of the shrinking budget?

This revelation is truly shocking - all this baloney about 'ard decisions means nothing when Councillors are clearly looking out for themselves first (with honourable exceptions, no doubt).

No matter what the reason for the increase in expenses and allowances, the message has to be got across that cuts affect everybody. The Executive have shown poor judgement and weak leadership in allowing such profligacy to occur under their watch. It must be pretty galling for staff to see this - I bet their expenses (perhaps with less than honourable exceptions involving senior managers) haven't increased!