Posts Tagged ‘County Hall’

AUDIT COMMITEE- the facts don’t add up!

Last week’s Flintshire Chronicle had “Council in Chaos” emblazoned across the front page that depicted County Hall being rent in half with a bolt of lightning. All very dramatic and rather an exaggeration as the Coalition has set its first budget with a promise of more savings in the pipe line and most of the senior vacancies have been filled with excellent calibre staff. Our Executive members are working hard, clearly at ease with their portfolios & we are led by a professional and deeply committed public servant; Cllr. Arnold Woolley. However, saying all that a few odd things are happening that have raised eyebrows. A sharp eyed colleague pushed under my nose a report of the Executive Decision made on 10th March which related to the last Audit committee meeting- (27th Jan. See earlier blog!) I read with incredulity that members are requested to : ‘Support the extension of the contract with RMS Bentley Jennison and the work to achieve a transfer of the management of the Internal Audit function back in-house no later than 1st April 2010.’ “We didn’t agree that my informant complained, what was the word we agreed?” Review in a year was in fact what …..

Councillor Capers. March 2009.

Under the prudent and wise leadership of Cllr Arnold Woolley, Flintshire’s Leader, the Coalition ( in government for almost a year now); set its first budget. The first attempt pitched it at a 3.5% increase; fully aware of the prospect of swingeing cuts next year by WAG. The only real stumbling block to a Coalition consensus was the newly proposed Ward Councillor scheme, which allowed members to spend up to a given sum on their own ward improvements. Rural members of my Group favoured it whilst I, sharing Ewloe with an Independent Cllr, felt conflict could arise. I worried about transparency in how the projects were chosen & also the cost of policing & administering the scheme. Cynical County Hall watchers could easily dismiss this project as a local member ward jolly and argue that the scheme should be shelved in favour of a smaller council tax rise. Arnold and the Finance team were prepared to offer smaller amounts and build in extra monitoring which resulted in the original draft budget increase being shaved down again. When my Group met under our leader, Nigel Steele Mortimer on 3rd March, it seemed that the Ward Scheme had been ditched complexly completely …..

COALITION MEETS FORMALLY AT LAST.

Taking as long as I had to find a solution to the disability access problem, the first INAUGURAL MEETING of the Official Coalition finally got under way in County Hall on 11th December. Cllr George Hardcastle as the Alliance leader took the chair whilst we resolved that Executive members were already too busy to chair this group and that whoever was nominated, the chairmanship would be rotated yearly. A paper ballot secured the role of chairman to Cllr Robin Guest and Veronica Gay was the vice chair. Out of the blue, Cllr Patrick Heesom asked if I would be the Coalition Secretary and although I muttered I never went hunting for work, the decision was forced by a show of hands. I was projected onto the top table armed with a pen and a few scrappy bits of paper on which to take the note. I wonder if my obsession for writing throughout meetings had been noted by Patrick. I confess that it was a skill I learnt years ago when judging if young officers had what it took to make them special and fast track officers. Of course, the trick is not just writing fast but to decipher what’s …..

Challenging Decisions

Blogging has been on the back burner for age, not because of the “hate mail” threats but because of the heavy schedule of training sessions and meetings demanded by County Hall. I’ve had three compulsory training sessions, and more are in the diary, plus Overview and Scrutiny, Corporate Governance and Local Government and Democratic Services presentations. As I’m on the Audit Committee, we had to learn how to read an accounts sheet and fathom the mysteries of Local Government finance. The Authority turns over some £360 million and manages a pension fund of £900m. The Council is legally bound to produce a budget by a given day and 100’s of officers are involved in closing the accounts for the year ending March 2008.