We used to say there is “the right way and there is the Shepway. Of course, that has now morphed into there is right way and there is the Folkestone & Hythe District Council way“.(FHDC) This comment was made by senior Local Government officers from other district and borough councils in Kent we spoke to very recently.
Now each year, you as an elector of the district have the right to inspect FHDC’s accounts. This laid down by black letter law – The laws are:
The officer responsible is the Chief Financial Officer more commonly known as the s151 officer (Local Government Act 1972). For FHDC this is Tim Madden (pictured). It is the s151 officer responsibility to publish an annual report and annual accounts on a timely basis.
Now as we said any elector – on the electoral role – or any journalist or citizen journalist can “inspect the accounts” and on the 31st May 2018 the Notice of Public Rights were published in accordance with the statutory regime. It said:
“Any persons interested or any journalist may, on request, inspect the accounting records for the financial year ended 31 March 2018 and all books, deeds, contracts, bills, vouchers, receipts and other documents relating to those records and make copies of all or any part of those records or documents, as stipulated in Section 25 of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014.”
Now FHDC DO NOT allow anyone into the building to “inspect the accounting records”. This stopped after we looked at the accounts for 2014/15 and found various anomalies. They ask that anyone submit a request online or in writing and they will respond via email or in writing, oh and they aim to respond within 4 working days; which was rare they did so.
This is FHDC’s interpretation of the law, which we believe is wrong and so do other s151 officers – responsible for the money – and Solicitors to other Council’s in Kent.
They – other s151 officers and Solicitors to the Council’s – have said and we quote:
“The Council will, of course, facilitate any “Inspection of Accounts” or provide information under the “Freedom of Information” regime. However, your request is for the Council to create a third way (via email*) which does not fall within either approach and has no statutory basis. (*our addition) While we do not wish to appear to be unhelpful, we do not feel it is appropriate to create new rights of access to information when specific and deliberately created rights already exist. We are happy to assist you in inspecting the accounts or in responding to an FOI, subject to a consideration of the officer time involved in locating and collating the data requested.”
So how is it other responsible officers make it clear, that an elector has to go to the Council offices to “inspect the accounts”, yet FHDC have created a “third way” which “has no statutory basis” according to qualified Council s151 officers and Solicitors?
We believe that FHDC fail to comply with the law regarding inspection rights of the accounts and there are those who agree with us. They are qualified to give an opinion. It is no coincidence that their opinion reflects what the Shepwayvox Team have been saying to FHDC for the last 3 years.
So now do you understand why we and other Local Government Officers come to the conclusion, “there is the right way and there is the FHDC way”.
The Shepwayvox Team Dissent is NOT a Crime