Tower Hamlets Watch

Urgent: Publics Right To Inspect Councils Accounts – 9 days left | July 19, 2010


Urgent notice to all those concerned; you may inspect the councils Accounts, and certain related documents (comprising books, deeds, contracts, bills, vouchers and receipts) at the Town Hall Mullberry Place, 5 Clove Crescent, London E14 2BG. This is different from your normal rights and only occurs once a year during the councils audit inspection by the Audit Commission. You have a dedicated and protected right under law that states you have a minimum of 20 days to inspect all of the above documents, without any restriction. This years session I’ve just found out ends in 9 working days time on the 30 July 2010..

Dont let the councils employees bamboozle you, walk into Mulberry Place without announcement, and ask to see any reciept of council expenditure that you so please, and the council are duty bound to provide you with it, including the copy facilities. I’ve done this a few years ago with a friend on another council, and its an interesting experience watching them try to lie to you about your rights. They may just try to give you a copy of the already published accounts that are on the councils website, stand your ground and demand to see what you came for, this right is entirely different, and more indepth if you choose to excersise it. You have a different set of rights protected under different regulations, and these rights can only be excersised 20 days a year. If you know what you want to see, be specific, ask and you shall recieve. Be patient as they will tell you to come back another day, but refuse, complain, ask to see their manager, they should be giving you almost unrestricted access to all of the councils reciepts, not summarised in some file, but the actual reciepts or exact copies of.

I had been racking my brains regarding this years right to inspect council documents. I found last years notice online last night;

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placed at this address: http://www.towerhamlets.gov.uk/idoc.ashx?docid=9fb3e66d-c2ef-49d4-a731-fe765d36b736&version=-1 buried deep, deep, deep undercover, with no link to the document from the front page of the councils website and no matter how much you search from that front page you’ll never find it. Yet using the google search tool and my own internet jedi kungfu skills, I managed to find last years, but nothing on this years.

Now the above notice is a statutary notice that all councils are liable to publish a notice;

Appointment of date for the exercise of rights of electors
13.
The auditor shall, for the purpose of the exercise of rights under section 15(2) and 16(1) of the 1998 Act, appoint a date on or after which those rights may be exercised, and shall notify the relevant body concerned, or in the case of a parish meeting the chairman of the meeting, of that date.

Public inspection of accounts
14. – (1) Subject to paragraph (2), the relevant body or, as the case may be, the chairman, notified under regulation 13, shall make the accounts and other documents mentioned in section 15 of the 1998 Act available for public inspection for 20 working days before the date appointed by the auditor under that regulation.

(2) The council of a parish, or the chairman of a parish meeting of a parish not having a separate council, notified under regulation 13, shall make the accounts and other documents in relation to a period to which regulation 9(3) applies available for public inspection on reasonable notice.

Alteration of accounts
15. Except with the consent of the auditor, accounts and other documents shall not be altered after the date on which they are first made available for inspection in pursuance of regulation 14.

Notice of public rights
16. – (1) Not later than 14 days before the commencement of the period during which the accounts and other documents are made available in pursuance of regulation 14, a relevant body to which regulation 11(2) applies, or in the case of a parish meeting, the chairman of the meeting, shall give notice by advertisement of the matters set out in paragraph (2).

(2) The matters referred to in paragraph (1) are –

(a) the period during which the accounts and other documents referred to in paragraph (1) will be available for inspection in accordance with regulation 14;

(b) the place at which, and the hours during which, they will be so available;

(c) the name and address of the auditor;

(d) the provisions contained in section 15 and section 16 of the 1998 Act; and

(e) the date appointed under regulation 13.

(3) A relevant body to which regulation 12(2) applies or which is referred to in regulation 12(3) or, in the case of a parish meeting, the chairman of the meeting, shall display a notice containing –

(a) subject to sub-paragraph (b), the information referred to in paragraph (2) above in a conspicuous place or places in the area of the body for a period of at least 14 days immediately prior to the period during which the accounts and other documents are made available under regulation 14; or

(b) instead of the information referred to in paragraph 2(b) above, details of the manner in which notice should be given of an intention to inspect the accounts and other documents.

– The Accounts and Audit Regulations 2003

Anyway phoned some of my contacts within the council and found out that this was apparently published in the East End Lies magazine in the 14 June – 20 June issue. As I’ve already told you between the hours of 9am and 5pm and up until the 30th July you may excersise your rights unhindered. The council meeting on the 14 July also alluded to this right of public inspection;

“Interested parties have the right to inspect the
accounts during the audit and local electors have the right to submit questions to the auditor. Details of these rights are published in local newspapers at appropriate stages.

but as you can see, it say’s “local newspapers” when the fact is East End Lies was the only one to publish it.

Why the council doesn’t put this up on their website like other councils and authorities do?, I’ll never know.

So get down to the Town Hall, think of some reciepts or documents you may want to see, maybe councillors or council officers expenses submissions, properties bought or sold by the council, basically anything you can think of.

Edit: Here are your specific Legal Rights to Inspect Your Councils Accounts and ask the Auditor questions. These are protected under the following sections (14, 15 & 16) of the Audit Commission Act 1998;

Public inspection etc. and action by the auditor
14 Inspection of statements of accounts and auditors’ reports

(1) A local government elector for the area of a body subject to audit, other than a health service body, may—

(a) inspect and make copies of any statement of accounts prepared by the body pursuant to regulations under section 27;

(b)
inspect and make copies of any report, other than an immediate report, made to the body by an auditor; and

(c) require copies of any such statement or report to be delivered to him on payment of a reasonable sum for each copy.

(2) A document which a person is entitled to inspect under this section may be inspected by him at all reasonable times and without payment.

(3)
A person who has the custody of any such document and—

(a) obstructs a person in the exercise of a right under this section to inspect or make copies of the document, or

(b)
refuses to give copies of the document to a person entitled under this section to obtain them,

is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.

(4)
References in this section to copies of a document include references to copies of any part of it.
15 Inspection of documents and questions at audit

(1) At each audit under this Act, other than an audit of accounts of a health service body, any persons interested may—

(a) inspect the accounts to be audited and all books, deeds, contracts, bills, vouchers and receipts relating to them, and

(b) make copies of all or any part of the accounts and those other documents.

(2) At the request of a local government elector for any area to which the accounts relate, the auditor shall give the elector, or any representative of his, an opportunity to question the auditor about the accounts.

(3) Nothing in this section entitles a person—

(a) to inspect so much of any accounts or other document as contains personal information about a member of the staff of the body whose accounts are being audited; or

(b) to require any such information to be disclosed in answer to any question.

(4) For the purposes of subsection (3), information is to be regarded as personal information about a member of a body’s staff if it relates specifically to a particular individual and is available to the body for reasons connected with the fact—

(a)
that that individual holds or has held an office or employment under that body; or

(b) that payments or other benefits in respect of an office or employment under any other person are or have been made or provided to that individual by that body.

(5) For the purposes of subsection (4)(b), payments made or benefits provided to an individual in respect of an office or employment include any payment made or benefit provided to him in respect of his ceasing to hold the office or employment.
16 Right to make objections at audit

(1) At each audit of accounts under this Act, other than an audit of accounts of a health service body, a local government elector for an area to which the accounts relate, or any representative of his, may attend before the auditor and (in accordance with subsection (2)) make objections—

(a) as to any matter in respect of which the auditor could take action under section 17 or 18; or

(b) as to any other matter in respect of which the auditor could make a report under section 8.

(2) No objection may be made under subsection (1) unless the auditor has received written notice of the proposed objection and of the grounds on which it is to be made.

(3) An elector sending a notice to an auditor for the purposes of subsection (2) shall at the same time send a copy of the notice to the body whose accounts are being audited.
– Sections 14, 15, 16 of the Audit Commission Act 1998

Good Luck, have fun and be careful out there…..


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