Tuesday 25 March 2014

Unlawful payments - the 'review' of democracy

One recommendation from both Wales Audit Office reports was the urgent necessity for a review into the council's governance arrangements, in other words, making sure the decision making processes are above board from now on.

Leader of the Council, Mr Madge, announced back in January that any review would be led by the Welsh Local Government Association. This brought audible groans all round as the public perception of the WLGA is that it is a lobbying group representing the interests of council officials rather than a protector of the democratic process.

The EGM on the 27th February saw an attempt by Plaid for the review to be undertaken by the council's own audit committee. If nothing else, it would be easier to keep an eye on.
At the meeting Mr Madge had his own way and the WLGA will be in charge.

This 'Review' crops up on the agenda for Friday's Audit Committee as the Minutes of the Corporate Governance Group (which met on the 6th March) are up for approval. The minutes record a list of issues 'relating to the Democratic Process' which will be looked at by the group headed by the WLGA;

● Declarations of Interest

● Attendance of Officers with a potential interest in a Report

● Dealing with Urgent Items

● Dealing with Exempt Items

● Equality Impact Assessments

About time too.
The democratic process needs a complete overhaul, back in October calls were made for the council to be put in special measures. Proposals to remove Executive Board minutes from full council meetings and to turn the event into corporate powerpoint presentations need to be withdrawn. Inaccurate and selective Minutes need to become a thing of the past and webcasting should be extended to cover all open meetings.

There should be no more hour long pre-meeting meetings of the Executive Board which result in a fifteen minute rubber stamping exercise when the public and press are present.

I could go on but perhaps while they're at it they could look into the comments made by the former Chair of the Council Sian Thomas on the Byd Y Bedwar programme. Her position was continually compromised by the remarks and comments from Mr James sitting next to her in meetings. I know how she felt, I also experienced something similar from Mr James across the courtroom when I was giving evidence.

Anyway, back to the Corporate Governance group minutes which also records that the WAO will be closely monitoring the authority, culminating with a follow-up report, a Corporate Assessment Review.

As for the setting up of a cross-party group to look at, and receive further advice on, libel indemnities, so far there is no news.

Also on the agenda is a 'things to do' list from the WAO.

Top of the list are the Public Interest Reports. The Auditors are still waiting for 'formal confirmation of agreed actions from the Council and advertisement in the local newspaper'. I have no idea what the newspaper ad will say, it must be a Statutory requirement or perhaps it will be a full page apology. Not.

The WAO will also be discussing the Audit Fee in relation to the Public reports with the Director of Resources.
This fee is yet another cost incurred by the unlawful decisions.

The WAO state that they are also in receipt of a 'significant amount' of correspondence with local government electors. Their work is 'ongoing' and is likely to add to the fees.
That suggest to me that there is a heightened awareness and interest in the financial affairs of our council and people are starting to ask questions. Where else can they go?

Meanwhile, Gloucestershire police continue with their investigation.


Anonymous said...

Was it cuts or costs that Mr Madge said would be of biblical proportion?

Anonymous said...

They will have a long search for the democracy!