Council leader Iain Malcolm Miss Piggy and the borough’s Dominatrix, Irene Lucas might want to put their celebrations on hold following last week’s announcement by the Audit Commission that South Tyneside Council is rated a 4 star authority.
Mr Monkey has learned that the Audit Commission and it’s inspectors have become a laughing stock after they announced that Cambridge City Council won top marks for sound financial management and value for money – despite investing £9 million in Icelandic banks and a potential loss of £618,000 on Cambridge Folk Festival ticket sales.
The top score of four marks was awarded by the Audit Commission for the council’s use of resources and it was one of the 13 top performers in the country.
The award focused on strategic financial management, sound governance, effective financial reporting and giving taxpayers value for money.
Council leader Cllr Ian Nimmo-Smith said: “The Audit Commission is aware of the financial issues in relation to the Icelandic deposits, which affect many councils, and the Folk Festival tickets. I can’t say to what extent they have been taken into account.”
He added: “I’m very pleased the successful way which we run things in Cambridge has been recognised by the Audit Commission. This endorses the recent survey results that showed that residents in Cambridge rated the city council as providing value for- money services at a higher level than other districts in the county.”
At the recent budget setting meeting, Cllr Lewis Herbert, Labour group leader, likened the Liberal Democrats’ management of council finances to a “road crash” with Cllr Nimmo- Smith at the wheel.
He said the Icelandic investment and Folk Festival losses, after an internet ticket sales company went into liquidation, were “self-inflicted”. He said he was surprised the council still received a four-star rating.
He added: “Losing £9 million in Icelandic investments and over £1 million in interest and the Folk Festival tickets represents a shocking failure of the council’s control systems.”
For the second year running, the finance and value for money element of the inspection gave the county council the top score of four.
Cllr John Reynolds, cabinet member for corporate services, said: “I am delighted that our inspection found that the way we manage our budget and spend council taxpayers’ money is of the highest order. We continue to work within an extremely tight financial climate but this score shows we are among the best councils in the country when it comes to financial management.”
These weaknesses are now most evident. For a Council to be declared “excellent” in the same week that it cuts services and raises taxes, and in the same year that it slashes staff pay, is crazy.
The Council have released a special issue of their staff newsletter to congratulate everyone on the achievement.
At the top of the list of high performing services are the Revenues and Benefits service, who deal with Council Tax payments and the administration of benefits to the needy. They too have received a top 4 star rating and yet a mixture of bad laws, bad government and crazy local decision making has seen many of the staff in that department lose a crushingly large proportion of their salary this year.
There’s nothing about this in the congratulatory press releases issued by the Council, the Audit Commission and the government.
Mr Monkey can’t help wondering what South Tyneside is hiding?