News and Views


Submission to the NAO

posted 4 Dec 2019, 07:16 by Peter Webb

Attempts to influence the National Audit Office 'direction of travel' have matured into increasing certainty that it is the Comptroller (& Auditor General) role that requires attention.

Coinciding with the appointment of Gareth Davies to replace the retiring Sir Amyas Morse they have set up a strategic review. I have been encouraged to contribute.

The new NAO Director (Treasury) Simon Helps says that my "thoughtful considerations and those going beyond the core survey questions will be included in the input for the strategic review." See below

How will the 2019 Election mend broken government?

posted 31 Oct 2019, 07:38 by Peter Webb

Off they go again on the Campaign trail. They still treat us like medieval peasants to be bought with our own 'money tree' money by promises of paradise.  We are not fools anymore.

Take the NHS. It's doing fine because it is getting better managed and equipped. Politicians get in the way. It may not have spare capacity yet but where will all those extra hospital nurses stand while waiting for bottlenecks to clear and ambulance teams to be cleared for return to base?  

From personal experience as an elderly patient the worst part is the stressful logistics and lack of local mobile facilities like xray machines. 

Socialist confiscation would only pay once. It needs a perpetual taxable margin from a steadily improving economy.

A description of the brokenness of political government is implied in the attached file.

CITIZEN TAXPAYERS - BE INFORMED

posted 3 Jun 2019, 02:31 by Peter Webb

 Your MP won't bother to account to you but here is non-political factual stuff meant for you as well as Parliament. Have a look. Be brave. Explore. Don't swallow all at once. Get familiar with the document construction. These 2017-18 Whole of Government Accounts (WGA) 2017-18: were published by Her Majesty's Treasury on 23rd May advanced by 6 months from last year. A further 6 months at least and they will emerge into the land of the living.

2 They have been  sent to me straight away by my Director contact at the NAO replying to my letter of 29th April attached to the 7th May STAG UPDATE. 

3 They cover the whole range and extent of government's managerial responsiility. According to the effectiveness of that management additional resources can be won without borrowing. 

4 There is no budget comparison yet to fully enrich and transform  appreciation of issues and your informed judgements. 

5 Note tasters such as Stonehenge in our balance sheet;  pass over our ownership of the Royal Bank of Scotland; shudder at MOD records being audit failed yet again; see  government pensions liabilities in context, and much more….. 

6  Key numbers are attached on the single page summary as before. More preliminary reactions are:

·                Note the screaming clash of priorities in comparing debt interest (£44bn) and defence (£37bn). The total debt, not all interest bearing, has almost doubled in 10 years to £4,579trillion.

·                NAO Director Elaine Lewis has also kindly sent me links to key PAC Reports indicating the Parliamentary  dialogue with the Treasury and progress towards the goal of a working financial control system. Many references now indicate 'point taken' but not from political leadership and Parties.

·                Indicative also in my mind is that 2-3 years ago there were said to be c6000 entities to be consolidated. Last year that had increased to c7000. I have just now seen reference to 8000!. That is so revealing of the historical backwardness of government.

·                No-one takes titular responsibility on behalf of the Government for these Accounts by signature, otherwise normal practice. Also, as pointed out last year, that means  no formal presentation and accountability to Parliament who get only a  "lay before". This confirms my unchallenged assertion that there is no Managerial Head of Government and Attendant Civil Service. In contrast the Auditor signs his Report with those Accounts. In my mind this is another manifestation of undemocratic even rotting government underlying the public disillusion with internally clashing tribal politics, the old main Parties, and the brexit shambles. 

7 In passing but relevant I have been alerted from India under the heading "What is Vote On Account? Let's understand it." Discussed is the the historical muddle (arising in the Raj era?) of unsynchronised legal and operational decision processes of financial reporting, budgeting, tax raising legislation, spending and so on. To the extent that we may be trying to rationalise all the 'heartbeat' timetables and Parliamentary protocols there is much still to be worked out for UK such as synchronisation of public report with elections. But attitudes and understanding are slow to change. This is even more  important now that we are faced by brexit and beyond, and threatening confidence damage to the Constitution. That the economically competitive environment becomes centre stage is also threatening as indicated in the headline on 29th May "UK falls out of top 20 league of competitive economies". Our governors must get a grip under a strong patriotic leader.

Untitled Post

posted 3 Jun 2019, 02:09 by Peter Webb


Surrey CC issues profit warning

posted 24 Oct 2018, 03:27 by Peter Webb

Surrey County Council effectively issued a profit warning months ago. There is the threat of a Commissioner coming in to take over.  The Conservative leadership is aware but not inspiring confidence that it can transform things sufficiently. It is locked in its statutory and Party political straightjacket. Central government steadily reduces financial support. 

But central government is itself broken down leaving a need for Surrey leadership to draw up a plan to streamline all-Surrey and concentrate management and financial resources into a smaller structure. Project managed implementation should immediately follow. 

Government malaise is seen when a local borough cannot decide on important matters when the next Council meeting is three months away;  when Surrey CC is insolvent and near bankruptcy; when the top Civil Service is described as ‘Victorian’ and the Treasury  accounting practices date from the XVth century.

SCC Profit warning

posted 20 Jul 2018, 03:39 by Peter Webb

See "SCC finance director quitting role seen as yet 'another red light' (Surrey Advertiser in full in What the Press says). 

In What the Press Says are my published letter and quotes in the Surrey Advertiser news report of "Council members paid £££s to promote political parties ". Other outsiders like trade unions get facilities within County Hall. Why not STAG taxpayers with an office from which to intervene?

 The TPA  panel discussion on 'unitary' as in their Newsletter is interesting. But for 40 years to my knowledge countless people and hours of mainly paid-for time has been wasted on HOW TO DO LOCAL GOVERNMENT without enduring result. As in several other areas we know well this is a failure of successive governments and the political method. 

Local authorities' financial sustainability

posted 20 Jul 2018, 03:08 by Peter Webb

In a TOWN HALL report published on March 8th The NAO (National Audit Office) doubts whether the Department (of Communities & Local Government), along with other departments with responsibility for local services, understands the impact of funding reductions on the financial and service sustainability of local authorities. We have to watch while we feel this in our pockets as it is played out in Surrey CC. The underlying governance comments as for the nhs can also be made but with the difference that the NHS is a recognisably stand alone organisation while local services are a mess organisationally at the centre. (UPDATE 7th April)

Surrey County Council Profit warning?

posted 20 Jul 2018, 03:00 by Peter Webb

Will Surrey County Council be issuing another profit warning in the Summer like Carillion? They effectively did so last Autumn with the 15% council tax scare. The 2018-19 financial budgets have not so far revealed themselves in detail.   Is there included  a multi-million unidentified savings item representing a risk which could turn into a profit warning this year a la Carillion? Resident service dependents and taxpayers are not getting re-assurance mainly because it is a central government problem. Will the Annual Report due around end-June reveal all? (from UPDATE to all supporters and correspondents on 7th April)

Senior Tories warn of tax rises

posted 20 Mar 2018, 04:48 by Peter Webb

1  This apparently unremarkable headline appeared on March 18th and after the Chancellor’s Spring Statement which  saw a light at the end of the austerity tunnel. 

2 Unbelievably the two MPs, Ken Clarke and John Penrose, have had to write to the Chancellor pointing out that “official figures” inaccurately and over-optimistically exclude from the country's so-called debt  billions of pounds in future payments, including on PFI contracts and government  pensions. Reference to the “deficit” focuses only on an ‘overnight’ cash balance. 

3 This demonstrates that, though the point is widely understood, our political and manderinate  leaders, and treasury,  are so out of touch and living in the past that they persist in believing that only borrowing in the form of gilts by the treasury is real. It also shows up the ‘stone-age’ government accounting. 

4 In fact taxpayers are committed to paying the much greater total of IOUs. The traditional "debt" is around £1.8trillion but the true debt approaches three times that.(See the attached one-page WGA summary). 

5 In simple terms as an example, the employer's contribution to a person's pension for completed service is money costed in tax that has not been set aside pending retirements but spent on other things leaving the liability as uncontrolled debt. It has been borrowed. There is no difference in essence between borrowing from public employees and from 'the market'. Together they add up to much more than the official "borrowing". Because spent there is no invested  income retention or capital protection. 

6 Admitting government accounting failure "No company CFO (Chief Financial Officer)  would last long if they only bothered with their firm's bonds and ignored all their other liabilities completely" say MPs Ken Clarke and John Penrose. But even that understates the point by some margin because ignoring management accounting.  The company CFO has a total unified accounting system. Without it delegation and feedback data flows wouldn't reconcile and 'scoreboard' and balance sheet totals wouldn’t keep up, rendering the whole  useless. 

7 The 'overnight' cash balance is quickly known. But the present Full Whole Government Accounts (WGA) disgracefully take 20 months without budget values and when available for decision-making, substantive consideration and management attention are disregarded by the Lords of the Treasury and unsupported by the unqualified Permanent Secretary. 

8 Accounting failure extends to the budget planning process. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and National Audit Office (NAO) know this but are faced with political and treasury paralysis. As reported here the PAC has asked for the right system to be installed but the treasury doesn't want to understand let alone act. Politicians mislead us and themselves  by claiming, priestlike, that the "deficit" means what it doesn't. The two MPs are calling on the Chancellor for a "full national balance sheet" at future Budgets.

Surrey Council tax 2018-19

posted 20 Mar 2018, 03:17 by Peter Webb

Capped Council tax invoices 2018-19 for Surrey at just below 6% have now arrived on our doormats. We are to assume that services and operations can be maintained. But back-up information is inadequate and recent media reports of the need for a 15% rate for 2017-18 have become obscured by hints that yet more savings still need to be made. Was that a Carillion-like profit warning?

 

There have been some references in the press to a ‘deal’ having been done which will keep back from central government for one year only more of business rates. Other than that we have to continue to trust in Leader David Hodge’s management in difficult circumstances.

 

Unlike private sector bodies we, as the risking investors, are denied an Annual Report at this point in the proceedings. This would ordinarily give us the plan going forward. Last year when testing the system it was  found that library copies were hidden from view quite apart from being published weeks into the new period. David Hodge did then at least issue instructions for visibility on reference section shelves. That is only a ‘small step for mankind’  on the road towards formal democratic accountability.

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