The Annual Report – with references to and experience of Surrey County Council and boroughs.
WHY ACCOUNT? (This excludes Management Accounting until a reference in the closing paragraph)
1. In every walk of life we join together in proprietorial groups with varying activities and purposes. Whether it be a tennis club or plc it will be governed for good order and inter-party relations by rules or a constitution. Varying degrees of prescriptive law apply. Structures are organised and by ancient necessity we elect or appoint from amongst ourselves or hire others to run the show.
2. Given this delegation we retain control by long established formal accountability for stewardship and renewal. Normally there is an annual heartbeat with a discharge by Annual Report, a narrative with facts, to account for decisions taken with explanations of intentions, and renewal by (re)election. Government doesn’t yet embrace this only comparatively recently having evolved out of feudal society, traces of which remain, and granted the incompletely installed universal franchise.
3. We all became the funders of an always growing interventionist State which tries to govern, by whipping, through tribal political Party ‘secret society’ association and influence which has no legal right to exist. This tends to usurp the proprietorial group structures and electoral process. We are ill-served in this respect.
4. Efforts to persuade local authorities, concentrating on Surrey County Council, to comply with the spirit of accountability have failed. That is in spite of that sprit being behind much legislation and best practice. I have, via my MP, sought direction on standards from the NAO, who referred me to the Electoral Commission. They in turn gave me a named contact in the Cabinet Office. Eventually after administrative cock-up the matter was said to be with their constitution group. From there – nothing. I submitted at their invitation to the House of Commons Inquiry into Voter Engagement which terminated only with registration having so far found but not recommended for –“Lack of belief in the meaning of elections as they are presented; Poor voter turnout is not due to apathy but lack of awareness and information on which to vote; dissatisfaction with politicians, political parties and UK politics”. An appeal to the Local Government Ombudsman against the council’s refusal to address the Report to residents has also met with: “This matter affects all or most of the residents within the council’s area and is outside the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction”.
5 Surrey County Council has recently started to produce an Annual Report. That for 2015-16 is exemplary. But undemocratic Party supremacy seems to be behind a refusal to communicate it to the electorate most of whom don’t know of its existence, or more importantly, if they do what is its purpose. In fact we have again the crazy result that for 2016-17, the period ending before the election it will, without a swifter timetable or delay in election date, be withheld until after the council elections.
SOME ASPECTS AND IMPLICATIONS with the Surrey Report in view.
6 An example of activity change: helpful reference was made in context to the bed unblocking policy of the new re-ablement service which I have personally experienced but knew nothing about as a ‘shareholder’
7 It is the natural vehicle for compulsory disclosures or links to data. By definition they must be made to someone.
8 Financial matters are reported on and explained. Surrey CC is insolvent due to the pension deficit, a matter of direct consequence to taxpayers.
9 Allowed its intended function greatly reduced FOI and “transparency” burdens on staff would undoubtedly follow.
10 Under the dubious cloak of “transparency” we are offered access to quantities of internal working documentation, but how can we tell the time from a clock in pieces ?
11 Criminally in 2009 election year the devastatingly critical Frater Report (see website page) was deliberately withheld by the councillors.
12 It is said that “ interest in such documents is likely to be limited to a very small minority…” . That is a lazy and decadent thought which categorises electorate classes. The point is not the degree of interest but the placing of responsibility for being informed by the giving of due notice. “…Those parties interested in………” are not able to apply if unaware.
13 Council refusal to address all residents is on the lame excuse of distribution cost which could, where the internet doesn’t serve, with a ‘can do’ attitude be funded by income (cover charge and/or sponsorship?)
14 As a private sector shareholder I must by law be accounted to and must give consent to receive the Annual Report electronically. Either as shareholder or resident voter my equity interest is identical . My preference has often been to check that the audit report is 'clean' and then perhaps leave it at that. There have been Surrey cases of qualified reports as just one of many reportable matters of concern but invisible to we resident voters about councillors’ behaviour and performance in their managerial role on our behalf (see 11 above).
15 They quote legal ‘small print’ which is said to place the process with the council. Councillors thereby exclude us to deny our democratic rights, and responsibilities, and allows councillor conflict of interest.
16 Once elected to the Council they become responsible for the running of the enterprise. The electorate should be able to judge performance and competence. In the absence of formal accountability I am not equipped to vote in local elections and publicly say so.
HOW DOES THIS ALL FIT IN TO CENTRAL AND CURRENCY ZONE CONTROL ?
17 Local authorities could be regarded as accountable to central government and not resident taxpaying voters. But that is not so, a matter of an identified costly and uncontrollable debt generating Europe-wide system flaw subject to needed further development of WGA (Whole Government consolidated Accounts) and WGB (budgets). I have submitted deep probing questions via my MP about this backed by very high level evidence to the C&AG and PAC.