December 8 2013 Latest news:
Monday, October 7, 2013
An independent financial watchdog has given the district council’s own rules and safeguards a clean bill of health.
But there are concerns because the audit report has been stamped confidential - and some councillors have been refused a copy.
District bosses had called for the South West Audit Partnership to scrutinise their internal processes following the resignation of a councillor who claimed he could influence planning decisions.
Councillor Graham Brown, who also runs a planning consultancy, was caught on camera by Daily Telegraph reporters.
But despite it not being illegal for elected members to work as consultants, the audit and governance committee had wanted it on the record that their procedures and controls, with regard to councillors, were ‘suitably robust.’
But the report, which was completed in July, has been marked confidential and only a summary of the key findings have been released.
The report confirmed that the authority had a ‘robust complaints procedure’, meetings were ‘transparent’, councillors declared their personal interests and all council decisions were recorded.
It also concluded that councillors were given ongoing ‘clear guidance and training’ on their roles and responsibilities, especially with regards to the Code of Conduct.
A council spokesman said: “In light of the widespread publicity about the alleged activities of a former member of the council… to satisfy the council that it does indeed have the right checks and balances in place to be able to demonstrate best practice, SWAP was tasked with including an independent review of these within its latest audits.
“The finding of that review was an audit opinion giving ‘reasonable assurance on the adequacy of the council’s control’ in this area – which is audit speak for ‘good’.”
An extract from the report reads: “...the activities of one councillor were drawn to senior management’s attention by an outside source.
“The council took appropriate action in relation to this matter and the councillor has now resigned. “This review included a review of councillors’ declared interests and of the complaints procedures.”
Councillor Claire Wright questioned why the report was kept comnfidential. She has since been told it will be made public.