In the run-up to the Whitby Town/Parish Poll, a Letter to the Editor from Councillor PETER BATTY of Groby Parish Council, who faces the same arrogance, incompetence and stupidity prevalent in parts of North Yorkshire and elsewhere in the country, provides a wider context. Coverage of Potto Parish Council has thus revealed – and confirmed – inadequate accountability and governance compliance issues at Town and Parish Councils all over the country – costing ratepayers tens of thousands of pounds. Time to stop the rot!
Dear North Yorks Enquirer,
NIGEL WARD’S EFFORTS IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST ARE TO BE COMMENDED!
When I was referred by a long time good friend in your area, to the debacle of the Potto Parish Council scandal, I had never heard of the North Yorks Enquirer or of Nigel Ward, but I have been genuinely impressed by Nigel’s tenacity, obvious knowledge and his clear passion for pursuing important matters in the Public Interest, that would otherwise be allowed to “slip under the radar”.
Having read Nigel’s searching exposés on the Potto scandal and how this was addressed, to a fashion, by the Council’s External Auditor, which raised more questions than it addressed, I then came across Nigel’s FOI requests to Kirby Muxloe Parish Council in Leicestershire.
This was of even more interest to me, as Kirby Muxloe is the neighbouring parish to Groby, where I live and am a member of the parish council and only too well aware of the continuing scandals relating to Kirby Muxloe Parish Council and some apparent “dodgy” characters involved, especially a former Chairman, whose daughter was appointed as Clerk/RFO to Kirby Muxloe Parish Council having previously been Clerk/RFO to Groby Parish Council and is now Clerk/RFO to Glenfield Parish Council (another neighbouring council), where her father had also served as chairman.
Ongoing formal challenges have been raised, by a number of local electors with the same external auditor (PKF Littlejohn LLP), to both Groby Parish Council and Kirby Muxloe Parish Council have complied with applicable law and followed proper required procedure when entering into contracts for the services of a “Consultancy” connected to this family and whether the required competitive quotes had been obtained and proper enquiries had been made about the track record of a company that was not registered and had no online website or any social media presence (sadly the auditor spectacularly failed to address this).
Nigel may not yet realise this, but he may have stumbled on to what could potentially turn out to be the biggest genuine Public Interest story that he has ever covered, definitely worthy in due course, of a BBC Panorama feature and, I kid you not, this is definitely the case because the story, properly developed, would expose that the current ineffective external audit system for Parish and Town Councils (and almost certainly District and Borough Councils as well) as definitely NOT FIT FOR PURPOSE and open wide to abuse. A recent independent review commissioned by the Government, referred to the current audit system as “Impenetrable to the public!”
Considering the number of Councils (approaching 10,000) and the huge amount of public money raised from Council Tax/Precept payers, which appears not to be effectively protected by the auditors involved (both internal and external) who confine their responsibilities to a basic “tick-box” exercise in order to justify their fees.
If the audit process were robust and effective, with proper and positive engagement with concerned electors, it is simply implausible that so few Public Interest Reports are published when there are so many Parish and Town Councils.
My fellow campaigners in the Groby Openess & Transparency Action Group only became aware by chance of the recent, barely adequate, Public Interest Reports (PIRs) relating to Potto Parish Council, Kirby Muxloe Parish Council and the publicity over Weasenham Parish Council, where clearly a Public Interest Report should have been issued by the external auditor but I have been unable to find trace of one. (The common thread between the 4 Audits? — the Auditor PKF Littlejohn LLP)
*In the case of the hopelessly inadequate Groby Parish Council Public Interest Report which incurred c.£39+k plus costs to Groby electors for additional “work” charged at £355 per hour by this auditor, despite the Action Group having compelling evidence of an improper “accommodation reached between an employee of the council (an ex Kirby Muxloe Parish Council employee, apparently introduced to GPC by the “Consultancy” previously referred to).
It is very important to note that the description “IMPROPERLY” is emphasised because any half competent and adequately knowledgeable auditor could not even remotely have made this fraudulent amendment – the evidence to that effect is 100% irrefutable.
Eventually (after much pressure by local electors), a hopelessly inadequate Groby Parish Council PIR was finally published on 18th April 2023 and then *IMPROPERLY* amended on 25th April 2023 (www.groby.com) on claims that the auditor knew from the evidence provided, must have been fraudulent.
It is time to stop the rot. Electors of Whitby have the opportunity to make their opinions known at their Polling Stations for the Whitby Town/Parish Poll on Friday 6th October, between 4:00pm and 9:00pm. And we are now officially informed that Photo ID will NOT be required. Please turn out and have your say!