On the 17 June 2016 I sent the following email to Colin Hall, Vice Chairman of Whittington Parish Council:
These days, when I post the Minutes of the Parish Council meetings on the Village Website, it is in order that our PC is compliant with the requirements of the “The Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014”
I have posted the minutes on the Website since May 2004, originally scanned from Wagtail, and subsequently emailed to me by Jane Binnie, and latterly by Gillian.
Although I have kept records, inaccuracies and omissions have never concerned me as the website was merely an informal service for interested Parishioners. The 2014 Act has changed that. I now have compliance concerns about the Minutes and do not whish it to be thought that I have any input as to their veracity.
In the parishes Annual Return, which from this year has to be included on the website, the Section covering Risk Management requires, among other things, that:
1). “Minutes should be checked by internal audit for any suggestion of unusual activity and evidence that risks are being identified and managed.” and;
2). “Recording in the minutes the precise powers under which expenditure is being approved.”
In May 2015 a payment of £186.10 was authorised to be paid to JD&P Pinch. There are no Minutes recording discussion of this item, who introduced it and what it was in respect of. There is no mention of six cheques, No’s. 470 to 475, anywhere in the Minutes. It is likely that these add up to the £825.38 of expenditure authorised but not confirmed in the Minutes as being paid during the March to July period of 2015
In September 2015 a cheque for £323.50, which is 10% of the total precept, was authorised to be paid to Whittington Village Hall in respect of “tarmac”. It is not minuted who, how or when this item was introduced, or why the PC should be concerned with Village Hall tarmac. There is no indication of a discussion as to whether this was a right and proper payment. Cllr’s Pelter and Atkinson were present at the meeting. Both are Trustees of the Village Hall Charity but this is not mentioned in the Minutes. Their interest is not pecuniary, and therefore there is no reason why they should not speak and vote, but good practice requires that their involvement is Minuted, as they did in September 2012 over a payment of £700. It should be noted that the Village Hall excess of Income over Expenditure during the last five years totals a little short of £20,000 calling into question the need for unbudgeted expenditure of this nature from the PC.
Between 2012 and 2016 a total of £1,600 is Minuted as being paid in Salary to the Clerk, comprising 5 cheques during two years and two standing order payments during the other two. The total, paid but not Minuted, adds up to £3,000.
Between 2012 and 2016 there are a total of 27 cheques which have gone unminuted. I cannot confirm that the payments were authorised in Council.
It has been brought to my attention that business matters have been discussed at meetings, which have been omitted from the official Minutes. I choose to believe that it is because of the, alleged, unregulated manner in which the meetings are conducted and the resulting problems the Clerk has in recording all that transpires. I am aware however that others are inclined towards a less charitable view.
There are more instances of a similar nature to the above, but I feel that this is sufficient to emphasis my point, which is: The Chairman when signing the previous meetings Minutes, as being a true and accurate record, is failing to apply the customary due diligence. Such omissions are not being picked up by the internal audit.
If it is not possible to review procedures so as to make the Minutes more compliant in future, I would prefer to remove them from the Village Website and hand the task over to whomever the PC would like.
Despite a number of reminders I did not receive a reply until the 15 September, three months later. I will post the response separately.