Action plan agreed to tackle issues in audit

Rothbury Parish Council noticeboard.
Rothbury Parish Council noticeboard.

Rothbury Parish Council has agreed an action plan to deal with the issues raised in a public interest report by auditors.

As we reported last month, another report has been published with recommendations on how the council should improve governance.

The public interest report, by auditors BDO, relates to the council’s annual returns for 2016 and 2017, but does expand its scope to include references to concerns raised in previous years, including 2007 and 2012 to 2015.

Discussing the report as well as an action plan to implement the recommendations at its meeting last Wednesday, it was reiterated that the parish council now contains only two councillors who were in post during the time to which the report refers.

Coun Steven Bridgett opted not to comment on the report, while the chairman, Caroline Dawson, said: “I think a lot of it has been addressed in previous years. I think a lot of it is nit-picking and he’s repeating it over and over.”

Of the new members, Coun Richard Armstrong said that the report put the new councillors in an awkward position, while Coun Jeff Sutton said that the report ‘paints the parish council in a very bad light’.

Two members of the public also aired their views at the meeting. One said: “I think the chairman’s been very flippant.

“Whichever way you look at it, it’s pretty damning. I don’t know how the council, as it stands, is going to sort it out, but you can’t just brush it under the carpet.”

It was pointed out that this was exactly why the action plan was being adopted.

The other resident to have his say suggested the parish council should take the report ‘stunningly seriously’.

“This isn’t criticising any one individual, this is criticising the processes which are used by the parish council,” he said.

“He’s not focusing on one individual or what individuals decided, he’s simply saying there are procedures and if you follow them, there’s no problem, and he’s saying it’s very easy to make it right.”