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If I have evidence of the Council not operating within its Financial Regulations, what can I do about it?

e.g. bad debt is being written-off by the Finance Committee, despite the current FRs stating specifically that the authority for writing-off bad debt cannot be delegated - the Town Clerk has admitted this in an open session of the Council.

I believe that most town and parish councils have FRs that state that bad debt write-off must be done by Full Council and cannot be delegated (in line with the NALC national guidelines).

One long-standing councillor argued that bad debt is a sensitive issue and should be done in private session and therefore should be done by the Finance Committee.  I was astonished by this argument.

The Council is now proposing to remove any reference to bad debt in its latest review of FRs which I am trying to resist.  Unfortunately many councillors seem very blasé about the FRs.

Bad debt is not the only area where the current FRs are being ignored - and the proposed FRs would legitimise the current regime.

Is this something I could raise with the Monitoring Officer?  (it seems to take ages for the MO to respond to complaints, by which time the new FRs might be in place and the complaint will possibly be regarded as trivial).

by (1.5k points)
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1 Answer

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I think it depends on whether you are talking about a parish council or district councils. You are correct as far as a PC is concerned, since they generally all use the NALC model regs.

Typically, for a PC, the financial regulation would be something like:

"The Council is not empowered by these Regulations or otherwise to delegate certain specified decisions. In particular any decision regarding:

writing off bad debts;

shall be a matter for the full Council only.

(Other items deleted)

Looking at district councils, powers are often delegated to senior officers according to the amount of debt, the larger the debt the more senior the officer required. For some councils, large amounts of debt may be referred to cabinet.  

by (5.3k points)
Thank you for your response.  This is for a Town Council.

The key thing I want to know is what happens when a TC/PC doesn't follow its own Financial Regulations.
It fails it's audit.
So I should write to the external auditor?
If you do it as a Councillor, they will say they have to be impartial and tell you to contact the uncontactable NALC or relevant assoiation.
Perhaps concider the internal auditor as they do checks every quarter but you may need to flag this again in full council and request it be reffered to the internal auditor. Perhaps state the council is at risk of failing it's audit. (Mine has)
If the council are making decisions against officer advice then the council is at fault.
If officers are not giving advice then it could fall at their feet.
Perhaps a training need for councillors and/or officers.
I'm in the same situation and no one cares here so I just flag it, note it to cover myself and that's all I can do.
If you are very concerned and worried about speaking in council, email your clerk and ask them to raise the concerns with the internal auditor and for a response to at least confirm acknowledgment of the email.
You can then at least raise it if the internal auditor does pick up on this and state a need to comply.  However, internal auditors often focus on key areas so they may miss it if it's not been made aware to them.
If you do raise it, see whether it's been raised previously via another internal auditors report.  The internal auditor reports should be online due to thre transparency code, however again, mine has literally just started adhering to this at the most basic level.
I think that's the only thing I've managed to achieve through pester power and nothing more - although there's still a lot not shared such as an organisational chart as an example.
Thanks the issues are led and supported by the Clerk and a band of loyal long-standing councillors who all have their own agendas.  So raising this with the Clerk is not a solution.  The Clerk says the Internal Auditor has recommended breaking one of the FRs -so has gone ahead without the bother of getting the particular FR suspended... you couldn't make it up!! (I don't actually believe that last bit about the internal auditor but hard to find evidence).
The External Auditor may be my only salvation, but in my experience their recommendations are largely ignored unless it affects the annual return.

As DavetheClerk says, elsewhere, the controls on a rogue council are virtually non-existent.

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