Council slammed by Audit Commission

A district council has again been slammed for the way it handles taxpayers' money, a leaked document revealed last night. A report by the Audit Commission obtained by the Journal described Waveney District Council's perfor-mance as inadequate and below minimum standards.

A district council has again been slammed for the way it handles taxpayers' money, a leaked document revealed last night.

A report by the Audit Commission obtained by the Journal described Waveney District Council's perfor-mance as inadequate and below minimum standards.

Yesterday, opposition politicians lined up to criticise the Conservative-led authority, but council leader Mark Bee issued a statement insist-ing improvements were being made.

The Audit Commission carried out its use-of-resources investigation between April 1, 2007 and March 31, 2008, and issued Waveney with an overall rating of one, the lowest possible score. It is the same rating as received by the council in 2006/07, when it was ranked as one of the worst local authorities in the country for the way it spent taxpayers' cash.


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In the latest report, district auditor Robert Davies was particularly concerned that the council recognised it was facing a potential over-spend risk to its bank balances of �5m only after setting the budget for 2008/09. He said: 'Subsequent to approving the 2008/09 budget, it became apparent that the budget was not based on realistic projections about pay, inflation and known service and capital development plans.'

The report also criticised the council for spending �176,000 more from its reserves than planned and highlighted that it had failed to submit its annual accounts on time to resolve 'numerous accounting issues'. The council did receive 'adequate' ratings of two in the sections covering value for money and internal control.

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Mr Davies recognised the council was making changes but said: 'Although this use of resources assessment is generally backward looking, it remains a concern that the overall assessment continues to show the council is performing below minimum requirements.'

Waveney Labour MP Bob Blizzard said: 'Sadly, it's again been found that the council is making poor use of the money they take off the council tax-payers. It is another shocking report.' He also criticised the council for setting a low council tax rate of 1.8pc against the backdrop of its financial difficulties.

And Malcolm Cherry, leader of the council's opposition Labour group, said: 'I am concerned that at this stage we are not seeing any major improvements.'

Andrew Shepherd, leader of the council's Liberal Democrat group, said: 'We don't look at the budget until January and there is no discuss-ion or challenging of the system, and there hasn't been for years.'

Mr Bee said that in the past year the authority had brought in a new senior management team, led by chief executive Stephen Baker, and had made major improvements and savings. He added: 'I can only hope that those who choose to criticise Waveney now will praise and congratulate us in the likely event that the Audit Commission acknowledges our improvements in the forthcoming, and far more up-to-date, 'direction-of-travel assessment'.'

Mr Bee said the delay in submitting accounts was so problems could be addressed. He added: 'This report is important if only because it acts as a reminder of why we took the drastic steps needed to turn this council around.'

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