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SPECIAL BULLETIN No 3 - Annual Report

posted 18 Nov 2011, 02:17 by Peter Webb

At the meeting with SCC Leader Cllr David Hodge and Acting Assistant Chief Finance Officer Sheila Little on 31st October 2011STAG asked that in future please could there be an Annual Report to residents..


To amplify the point I have offered this for newspaper publication (published with excisions)


“The Annual Report is a fact of life which we take for granted, or very often  ignore at our peril. In some shape or form everyone who is in some way accountable does one whether the chairman of the plc or local members’ club.


But there is an exception. That is the political party run local authority. Why do we let the politicians get away with this ? While not yet required by law it is established that there is no reason for this exception. It should be the primary vehicle for pro-actively discharging  accountability for performance (with public money). As such it needs to be put within reach of every resident’s hands, or with  consent delivered via a web-site as required by law for the private sector.


Surrey CC has produced an 18 page  “making a difference, report 2010/11” which goes some way towards fulfilling the responsibility by dealing with activity and achievements but without dealing  with balance sheet performance at all, over six months after the year-end, and furtively not telling anybody of its existence.


But that is a start I suppose. It’s development ought to change   attitudes for the better between  our local politicians and ourselves in the interest of better managed and more economical  local public services using the form of accountability practised in the rest of society.”



..In that letter I have not loaded my words “balance sheet performance” with meaning. I am referring to  the disposition of such assets as cash (we tried to get a refund of £200m). There are funding issues including the PFI contract choice There is  the pension deficit which has wiped out public assets and threatened insolvency. A penny or two off costs for council tax would be welcome but as many of you will have experienced there are often greater rewards, or adverse consequences, to be had from balance sheet management.


An Annual Report  is now promised for next year. At the meeting it was also noted with our approval that the past practice of publishing the next Budget/ Medium Term Financial Plans in great detail would be discontinued. This detail is the province of the compilers and financial staff but is indigestible to others and is bedeviled by eg the complexity of grant funding. Such is the chronological sweep and periodic heartbeat of an annual report, with comparatives,  the outlook section must inevitably include reference to the next council tax round.