Parish council’s workings spark further concern

Rothbury Parish Council noticeboard.
Rothbury Parish Council noticeboard.
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Another report has been published by auditors with recommendations on how Rothbury Parish 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.

The report says: ‘We are mindful that the reporting periods on which we are reporting concluded some time ago and that there have been changes in the council’s membership since then.

‘However, we have decided to issue this report in the public interest concerning Rothbury Parish Council, its governance and controls for the year ended 31 March 2016 and 2017 to highlight improvements that can be made by the council.

‘We are hopeful that this document will be used in a constructive way to improve the governance arrangements at the council.’

In the overview, it says: ‘Some action has been taken by the council to rectify the issues which have arisen over the past few years, but a number of the issues are still prevalent. As such, we feel that we should issue this report.

‘This report is issued to ensure that the public is aware of persistent governance and financial control concerns, to assist the council to make a plan for progress which is considered necessary, and to support regular public awareness of that progress.’

It adds: ‘A number of the issues highlighted in this report arise from the minuting, or lack of minuting, of decisions and a decision-making process which is not in line with legislation or the council’s own financial regulations.

‘The clerk and councillors should be reminded that the council is a corporate body funded from public taxation and it must operate within the legislation and regulations which are in force.

‘The council as a whole can make decisions or it can delegate decisions to committees or officers. Individual councillors cannot be delegated powers.’

The 19-page report then goes to detail 10 areas where improvement is required with examples and one or more recommendations.

The 10 topics covered are: The appointment of a solicitor in 2015; the employment status of workers/employees; revising standing orders and financial regulations; formation of committees; maintenance and provision of minutes; acceptance of tender/contracts; internal audit; approval of payments and meeting summons; adherence to financial regulations; and control of assets.

Rothbury Parish Council, whose membership is now significantly different from the period addressed, is to discuss the report and an action plan for implementing the recommendations at its next meeting on Wednesday, February 14.