Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Does Barnet council needs help with financal transparency?

Barnet council lost £27 million of our council tax money in Icelandic banks.

They mis-managed the Aerodrome Road bridge project, wasting a further £12 million of our council tax money.

They are badly organised, having to rely on additional agency staff and consultants at a cost of £20 million in the past year.

That’s a mis-management hit of £59 million to the council tax payer!

From the leaflet accompanying our council tax demands the sparse financial information lets slip that Barnet council tax payers have no option but to contribute over £153 million in this financial year.

It’s election time. The different political parties make their various claims. They tell us in their election publicity that in the past 8 years our council tax has increased by 45%, and also that the council has saved £96 million!

If the political parties are correct then:
a) without a 45% increase in council tax we would only be paying £105 million; and,
b) without the savings of £96 million we would be paying more than £249 million in council tax.

That’s a £144 million difference; and not far short of the £153 million that will be compulsorily collected from Barnet council tax payers this year. But more importantly, the identified cost of council mis-management at £59 million represents nearly 40% of your council tax payments for this year!

The financial details necessary to verify and validate or dispute these claims, are obscured from public view and analysis. This makes it difficult for anyone to make an informed decision, be it which candidate to elect, or if council tax money is being spent correctly.

We need the ability to disperse the smoke, and smash the mirrors used by the council to hide what is truly happening. This lack of transparency, and the consequential failure of accountability for mis-management, is costing the council tax payer dearly.

Let us hope that the council has learnt a lesson, and that future financial scrutiny committees co-opt lay members, who can contribute honest and impartial financial expertise, to assist the them in their task.

Barnet residents deserve honesty, transparency and accountability from the council. They now have the opportunity to elect independent councillors who will support the strengthening of scrutiny committees with qualified lay members.

1 comment:

  1. One way they are keeping the council tax down is to whack up charges. For example removal of the 1st square metre of graffiti from a private property is going up from £45-£48 a rise of 3.5% - no actually it is a rise of 6.67% but according to Barnet council in its latest publication that is only a 3.5% increase. Perhaps that is where they have been going wrong. I'm happy to lend them my calculator!