Honestly you would have thought they’d learnt by now, but no.
Folkestone & Hythe District Council have committed another faux pas regarding releasing data they should not have.
Under the Local Audit & Accountability Act 2014 residents have the right to ask for information which relates to the accounts of the Council while the accounts are open to inspection.
Section 26 makes it clear you can
inspect the accounting records for the financial year to which the audit relates and all books, deeds, contracts, bills, vouchers, receipts and other documents relating to those records,
To give that much more clarification what it means is both ‘accounts to be audited’ and ‘relating to’ should be given a broad meaning: the former referring to and/or embracing the underlying record of financial movements kept as a running record but made up for each financial year, and the latter requiring only a factual connection between the accounts and the documents in question, and not an express reference or mention.
So a request was sent to the Council requesting all Covid Grants paid to all companies and individuals. The Council duly obliged and sent the information with individual names redacted. However, the s151 Officer (the person responsible for the money) of the Council, Charlotte Spendley (pictured), must abide by the CIPFA Code of Practice on Local Authority Accounting in the United Kingdom.
The CIPFA Code at Section 2.6 states
“Section 18.104.22.168 of the CIPFA Prudential Code states that the accounting treatment of transactions within an authority’s financial statements shall have regard to the general principle of whether the authority is acting as the principal or agent, in line with IFRS 15 Revenue from Contracts with Customers, IPSAS 9 Revenue from Exchange Transactions and IPSAS 23 Revenue from Non-Exchange Transactions (Taxes and Transfers).
“In accordance with the requirements of IFRS 15 and paragraph 22.214.171.124 of the CIPFA Prudential Code these require that where an authority acts as an agent, transactions will not be reflected in an authority’s financial statements” [Emphasis ours]
It is clear then the Council were acting as an agent/conduit for the Covid Grant money, and as such this data should NOT have been released under the Local Audit & Accountability Act 2014.
We did not just ask our Council for the Covid Grant data, but all Kent based Councils to release their Covid Grant data.
Canterbury’s s151 Officer, Trisha Marshall (pictured), said in a response:
For the grants to which you refer, the Council has acted as agent rather than principal, as the control, discretion and risk was not held by Canterbury City Council, but by government. The transactions to which you refer are therefore not included in our accounts and so are not covered by the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 inspection regime.
A similar response came from eight other Kent Council s151 officers.
Now central Government have released the data of how much they gave each council, but not who were paid. The government data can be found ⇒ here
So for the curious, as Folkestone & Hythe District Council released the data to the world, we can release it to you below.
The data shows he received in total £15,193.28, all legitimately we add.
Cllr Wimble’s other company Marsh Media Ltdreceived £5,000, again all legally we add. Add in his Cllrs allowances and expenses of approx £17,000, this brings the total to £37,193,28. Triples all round.
Now of the 12 councils in Kent, nine said NO we cannot hand out this data as we were just the agent. However, three said yes, our Council being one of them, the other two were, Maidstone & Tunbridge Wells Council.
So, if you’re curious like the cat, you can have a peak and see what companies in any of these three districts received. In the meantime will these three councils self report to the ICO for a data breach. We’ll leave you to ponder that.
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