Audit commission report

1.  The auditor identifed one non-trivial error of £29,000 which the council has since rectified.  Well good for them!  He doesn’t say what this was for.  But how come the council gets away with making this level of error while I get threatend with court action for £22?

2. The Council’s Balance Sheet at 31 March 2010 shows a net liability of £3.8 million. The deficit arises because it has pension liabilities of £33.1 million. However, this deficit does not threaten the financial viability of the Council.  Well if the council didn’t exist, it wouldn’t have pensions liabilities of £33.1 million, which we have to pay for one way or another.  That’s 300,000 council tax for every household for the next 10 years.

4. An audit committee was established in June 2010. This will help the Council to improve its focus on governance arrangements such as internal control, risk management and the prevention of fraud and error.   …. I’m sorry?  Why?  Why should the council need this if it employed competent staff in the first place?  Well, I suppose that’s what you get for a part time chief exec who doesn’t give the council her full attention (but still gets paid £114,000 pa)

5. In common with the entire public sector, the Council’s management of its financial position will be challenging in the coming years. The October 2010 comprehensive spending review means the Council will see a reduction in central funding of 28 per cent over the next four years. There will also be a freeze in council tax income for several years.  …. And yet our council tax goes up.

6. Ahead of the comprehensive spending review the Council’s service planning for 2010/11 required heads of service to identify and quantify the impact of up to twenty percent reduction in budget over the next four years. The Council has undertaken a fundamental review of all services to identify achievable savings. Management are working through the impact of this, and assessing how easily these savings can be achieved and what the impact on services would be for the community. … And how do they do this?  They spend £50,000 on a survey because Torridge is too stupid to do this for itself.  Let’s face it, if was competent enough to have done this for itself it would have already done so, would it not?

7. The Council will need to rely on significant efficiency savings and service redesign to balance its annual budgets. The Council set a net revenue budget for 2010/11 of £9.9 million but is projecting an under-spend of £0.4 million. For the 2011/12 financial year the Council has set a savings target of £1.07 million (10.8 per cent) and has so far identified £463,000 leaving a further £607,000 to be identified..  £607,000 to be identified???  I’ve already saved £16 million by getting rid of Torridge altogether.  But if they have to exist, how’s about starting with the Chief’s office and not going £97,000 over budget?  And then, maybe, getting the Strategic Director to do his own job instead of spending 10’s of thousands of pounds on strategy reports?

8. The Council started 2010/11 with a general fund balance of £1.01 million and earmarked revenue reserves of £1.96 million and plans to reduce reserves by £0.3 million in 2010/11. The Council’s reserve balances are above the minimum levels set by members.  … Excuse me?  The council has money in reserve????  The council has nearly £2 million in reserve and threatens to take me to court for £22 the day after I received the bill??????

9. In 2010/11, local government accounts need to comply with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). The finance team has undertaken preparatory work since CIPFA published the IFRS Code in December 2009.   … This means that the council have had to put a strategy plan in place to deal with the transition and require extra budget for this.  So basically another seam of red tape comes in and we have to pay for it.  What?  Weren’t our own Financial Reporting Standards good enough?

10. The Council is developing opportunities for joint working with Teignbridge and North Devon district councils. The potential cost sharing will have a favourable impact on the Council’s future budgets.  … There we go, you see, Torridge is too small and needs to work with other councils to ease its budget.

11. And that audit cost £114,456.

Looking back over previous AC reports it would seem that it is the Audit Commission itself which is responsible for the Council’s waste of money on strategy reports.  The council has to waste all this money to satisfy the Audit Commission.  The Council has not improved, it’s only learnt how to make itself look good to the Audit Commission.

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