Auditors Moore Stephens have published ‘in the public interest’ a damning account of shortcomings on the part of Longstanton Parish Council relating to the financial year 2011-2012. This was most notably the period when the council assumed management of the Pavilion and much of the criticism centres around that undertaking. The report criticises the council for mis-management of its employees, finances and tax obligations, and for failing to assess risks or set a proper budget. According to the report, operation of the Pavilion was itself illegal as a council is not authorised to undertake trading activities.
The overall losses incurred as a result of the mis-management are now put in excess of £66,000. As has been reported previously, the need to recoup these losses and re-build a healthy parish balance-sheet are the reason why the parish precept for 2013-2014 has risen so dramatically.
The council is further criticised for failing to follow proper procedures in its function as a charity trustee in that it failed to file the Annual Return for the ‘Allotments for public stone, gravel and clay pits’ charity.
The report notes that the council has already taken steps to deal with a number of the issues. The auditors have the power to apply to the Courts for the costs of activities carried out in operating the Pavilion to be declared illegal. They decline to do this on the basis that ‘the associated further costs of doing so will [not] bring any benefit to the parishioners because the activities have ceased and the membership of the Council has changed’.
The report makes extensive recommendations on where the council should go from here. The Audit Commission Act 1998 requires these to be discussed in a properly advertised meeting.