Royal Borough must not forget legacy of CIPFA report, says councillor

Shay Bottomley

An opposition councillor asked for reassurances that the Royal Borough’s previous financial mismanagement cannot occur ever again at a meeting on Monday.

At the corporate overview and scrutiny panel, councillors scrutinised the final update of the CIPFA (Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy) Review of Governance Action Plan.

An action plan was implemented as a result of a damning report which heavily criticised the Royal Borough’s financial management record.

Released in September 2019, CIPFA blasted the ‘poor officer culture and lack of physical capacity and capability coupled with dominant members (councillors)’ and requested ‘urgent’ changes to the financial management of the borough.

Andrew Vallance, head of finance at RBWM, confirmed that ‘all actions’ in the plan have now been undertaken, and said the council would be joining the South West Audit Partnership from April 1, 2022.

When asked by Cllr Phil Haseler (Con, Cox Green), Mr Vallance said he was ‘confident’ that a ‘completely robust’ system was in place to avoid previous mistakes.

However, leader of the opposition Cllr Simon Werner (Lib Dem, Pinkneys Green) said he believed the ‘greatest danger’ would be for the council to forget about the legacy of the CIPFA report.

“I suppose my big concern is [if the council thinks] ‘it’s all done now, we don’t need to think about it anymore,” he said.

“That’s exactly when in the process that things start to slide again and we could start heading downwards.

“I was wondering what sort of review process we could put into the system, so after a year we could do an audit of ourselves, or maybe bring in CIPFA to test whether we’re still sticking to what we promised to stick to.”

In response, Adele Taylor, section 151 officer, said that the ‘most important failsafe’ on finances was the council’s internal audit function as well as external auditors.

“We’re not resting on our laurels, we never would do,” she said.

“We will do our service planning, and we will ensure that we continue to learn and make best use of best practice.”

She added peer reviews could be brought in but such a decision would be the responsibility of the audit and governance committee.

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