Common sense finally prevailed as I was eventually, yesterday 18/07/2018, given access to all the accounts and associated documents. Quite why it had to be such a battle I don't know!
What was interesting is that one councillor, who is also the vice-chair at another parish council, said that he didn't know about the Exercise of Public Rights and that they didn't publish the Notice at his other council - unbelievable.
I was amazed to receive a reply from the Chair, I don't usually get one, who has asked the clerk to get in touch to arrange another appointment. I'm presuming with all the missing documents. I'll let you know how it goes. As I'm finding you have to be persistent; do your research and tell the councillors when they or the clerk have got it wrong. They don't like it but I can't think of any other way of moving forward. Roll on May 2019.
A fellow parishioner and I had made an appointment to view the parish council accounts earlier today. What greeted us was incredible, a pair of hostile councillors which included the vice chair and the ex-chair.
We were informed we had 1 hour to view the 3 files of documents put in front of us and that if we wished to ask a question we had to write them down on the pad provided. Even simple question such as “do the files contain the bank statements” or “are the check stubs here” were met with no response or “No comment” – truly unbelievable.
So we quietly started to look through the documents provided. I came across the council’s “Certificate of Employers’ Liability Insurance” and, as we believe that the clerk is self-employed I decided to take a photo of it. The ex-chair of the council tried to tell me that I could not make a copy of it this way and that they would provide a copy for 30p. I declined their offer and stated that I had a legal right to copy it, which the current vice-chair sort of acknowledged, so I did.
So at the end of our viewing I have still not seen :-
- All the invoices
- Any bank statements
- Any cheque stubs
- Any VAT Returns
- Anything associated with HMRC (PAYE, NI, etc.)
For the 2017/18 financial year we already know how many hours and at what rate the clerk is paid but there is no proof she is an employee, which she obviously should be as the Proper Officer and RFO.
Contacting the External Auditor proved useless as their response was “As appointed auditors, we have no remit in enforcing the correct provision for public rights, since these rights are the right of the individual.”
I’ve written to the Chair complaining about the above and asking for another appointment where all the accounting and related documents will be made available, but I’m not convinced I’ll get a positive response (or any response at all).
Can anyone suggest a way of moving this forward?