Taxpayers’ money – your money – should be spent wisely. Moreover, it should be shown to be being spent wisely. At town and parish council level this is vital to engender trust and a connection between the monthly council tax drawn from our bank accounts and the impact it has on our daily lives locally. See the questions posed below.
The Good Councillor’s Guide 2017 states “All councillors should be aware of the council’s financial position. This ensures everything is open and above board and you have what you need as a councillor accountable for the council’s finances.”
In setting the budget for the 2017-18 financial year, the Town Clerk wrote: “Because the Town Council’s annual turnover is in excess of £200,000 the Council should also comply with the Local Government Transparency Code 2015. This Code expects local councils to demonstrate how money is spent, how their assets are used, how decisions are made and to acknowledge and seek to deal with issues that are important to local people.”
The Transparency Code requires that information to be published quarterly and that each individual item of expenditure that exceeds £500 should be included. It also requires that for each individual item of expenditure the following information must be published:
- date the expenditure was incurred
- local authority department which incurred the expenditure
- summary of the purpose of the expenditure
- Value Added Tax that cannot be recovered, and
- merchant category (eg. computers, software etc).
So, how does Much Wenlock Town Council shape up? Well, its hard to find, but the listing from April 2017 to December 2017 does/did appear on the Town Council website. What it doesn’t do is distinguish in every case between the beneficiary and the purpose.
Some questions are:
4018 01/04/2017 £3057 – what was WPS insurance paid for?
4406 01/04/2017 £1500 – what service did PJ Hirons perform?
4019 06/04/2017 £988 – affiliation to what?
4022 06/04/2017 £1995 – what “employment services”?
4523 06/06/2017 £1473 – repair to what?
4017 16/06/2017 £846 – training in what? For whom?
4043 06/10/2017 £2422 – new heaters – where and why? etc.
From this, it can be seen that £12,281 in expenditure isn’t explained sufficiently to understand what its purpose is. Hopefully, every one of our Town Councillors have a clear picture of the purposes this money has been put to.
Regrettably we’ve struggled to assemble the table such that it lines up properly, but hopefully it’s easier to read than this, which was posted on the Town Council website: