Sunday, August 17, 2008

Copeland Council finances: committee feedback

I asked a question on Friday at the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee of Copeland Council (usually referred to as OSC Management) about the issues which surfaced last week in respect of the budget and were reported in the Whitehaven News.

Specifically, how did two large and regular items of expenditure get missed out of the budget, and who is checking that it can't happen again.

The council's chief executive said that two different departments had been emailed a draft budget for their areas and both had missed the fact that a large and regular item in their area was missing. As he said, the fact that this was not picked up should have been an early indicator to us that the council has a problem with accounts and budgets.

There seems to be a culture in Copeland, which I have sometimes encountered in other parts of the public sector and even the private sector, that everyone relies on someone else to check things. This is not good enough and needs to be challenged.


alistair said...

The buck must stop with the executive they are getting well paid to do this work. The leader of the council must go and most of this executive.

Anonymous said...

The Chief Executive and the Executive should go.
One also has to wonder about the competence of these cross party scrutineering committees.

Chris has recognised the problem “that everyone relies on someone else to check things” but he and his party are as guilty as the rest of them. He is correct “This is not good enough and needs to be challenged” but how many more generations must we wait?

Chris Whiteside said...

I do think that changing this culture is going to require a greater degree of accepting responsibility from the top down.

However, it makes no sense either to criticise the competence of scrutiny committees, provided they have challenged things that are going wrong, or of the opposition. Neither have any power beyond that of scrutiny and persuasion.

Scrutiny committees, and the opposition, can question things, call witnesses, and make a fuss, and has some power to delay decisions but neither has the power to sack or discipline anyone, or to directly reverse a decision or policy. Those powers rest with the Executive or the Full council. While the majority group on those bodies fails to take effective action it is that majority group, not the opposition, who the electorate can, should, and I hope will hold responsible at the next council election.