Urgent action is needed at four community councils in Wales to address unlawful expenditure and inadequate governance arrangements, the Auditor General for Wales has said in a series of reports in the public interest.
The Auditor General found:
- St Harmon Community Council: There were systemic weaknesses in governance and internal control. “Our audit found that the Council had acted unlawfully when appointing its Clerk/RFO, co-opting members, awarding grants and contracting for the supply of services. We also noted that the Council has failed to comply with various legislative requirements including those related to the preparation, approval and submission for the audit of its annual accounts.”
- Magor with Undy Community Council: During 2018, broken relationships within the council adversely affected how it conducted its business, in areas of decision making, financial management and internal control. “The Council failed to follow its own internal procurement services rules resulting in unlawful expenditure of over £62,793, and its processes for the appointment of staff are poor incurring an unlawful expenditure of £22,337.”
- Llanpumsaint Community Council: “Notwithstanding that the requirements for the annual accounts and audit are the same for all community councils across Wales”, the council had failed to submit annual accounts for audit.
- Sully and Lavernock Community Council: This council had a long-standing history of conflict between members and appeared to have become “dysfunctional”. During 2018-19, the council failed to take sufficient steps to satisfy itself that its governance arrangements were effective.
The reports make a number of recommendations to the councils, including the review of:
- Financial regulations
- Governance arrangements
- Recruitment and employment
- Member conduct
- Independent renumeration
- Disclosure of payments
Auditor General Adrian Crompton said: “Significant deficiencies in governance, financial management, audit transparency and inadequate arrangements to secure value for money are just some of the matters at four community councils that I’ve found.
“These issues highlight serious weaknesses in the Community Councils, undermines public trust and has led to a waste of public money. I call on all Town and Community councils to take heed and learn from the important lessons within these reports so that communities in Wales get the services and the assurance they rightly deserve.”
In a statement Magor with Undy Community Council said: “The Community Council received on 12th October, 2021 a copy of the Audit Wales Report for the Audit Year 2018-2019 issued under section 22 of the Public Audit (Wales) Act 2004. This report was forwarded to each Councillor, and a meeting has been arranged for 1st November 2021 at 7pm to deal with the report in line with Sections 25 to 27 of the Act.
"In line with Sections 25 to 27 of the Act, a statement and summary of the Council’s decisions will be published in the public domain, following agreement from Audit Wales.”
St Harmon, Llanmpumsaint and Sully Lavernock Community Councils have also been contacted for comment.
Sully and Lavernock Clerk Steve Oaten told the BBC that the report was being considered by councillors, but added that changes hadbeen made in the 12 months since it was put together.
"Councillors have resigned, new councillors and a new clerk have been appointed and some of the report's recommendations have already been implemented," he said.