Updated – 13/09/22 @17:43
For starters we’ll serve up the c*ck up salad; followed by the main dish the reward scheme roast; and for deseret, a delightful witch hunt souffle
The c*ck up salad.
The Council have published the draft statement of accounts for 2021/22. It is on the agenda to go before the Audit & Governance Committee, on the 21 Sept 2022. Report Number AuG-22/12 which accompanies the draft statement of accounts states:
There has been a delay in publication of the draft accounts firstly due to resolution of technical accounting matters and now due to the ongoing investigations into governance irregularities. The Statement of Accounts presented are therefore a pre-publication version for Members to review and will be published in due course.
One month and thirteen days have passed since the 1 August deadline, for publication.
So what does this mean:
Simply the Council can open the accounts for public inspection, on, or anytime after, the 22nd Sept 2022.
But let’s take a look at FHDCs Draft Statement of Accounts for 2021/22
The first thing we note is how the Council are in breach of the The Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015. Schedule 1, Paragraph 2 of the Regs, makes it clear a Chief Executive who earns more than £150,000; which includes salary, fees or allowances paid, must be named. This is also the case at Para 48 of the Transparency Code 2015.
Alas, the Chief Executive of Folkestone & Hythe District Council is not named. The Chief Executive’s name by the way is – Dr Susan Julia Priest (pictured).
1.38% of Council staff earned above £100,000 – that’s 7 people
10% of council staff earned above £50,000 – that’s 53 people
3% of Council Staff earned £45,000 – 49,999 – that’s 13 people
85% of council staff earned under £45,000 – that’s 370 people.
So given former Tory Chancellor Zahawi’s comments, that people earning up to £45,000 will be affected by the cost of living crisis, that’s a lot of council employees who will be affected.
We are, as you know, in a cost of living crisis, that said, the Chief Executive Dr Susan Priest, received a 12% salary increase between 2020/21 & 2021/22. The same goes for the following:
The Director of Place – Ewan Green – 17% pay increase.
Director of Corporate Services – Charlotte Spendley – 3.5% pay increase.
Director Housing & Operations – Andrew Blaszkowicz – 3.80% pay increase
Director of Transition & Transformation – Tim Madden – 3.50% pay increase
Director of Development – John Bunnett – 6.10% pay increase
Assistant Director Governance, Law & Regulatory Services – Amandeep Khroud – 7% pay increase.
All this has to be agreed and approved by Cllrs who sit on the personnel committee. When discussing Senior Officers pay, this is more often than not, done behind closed doors.
Grated over the top of the c*ck up salad, are the transparency truffles, buried, clearly hidden from sight.
In the draft statement of accounts the Council state
There is no mention of the Government Procurement Card Payments, which form part of the Transparency Code 2015, and must be on the list above, but are not. And no mention of the contracts register either. Or even local authority owned land, such as a castle, a racecourse, or have they forgotten they own them. Then the waste contract is not mentioned, as it too must be. Might that be because Veolia are disputing the claim by the council for £450,000 in contract penalities and admin costs. And finally, social housing assets, not mentioned either. So much for those transparency truffles seeing the clear light of day in the draft statement of accounts for 2021/22.
The Reward Scheme Roast
In our blog post on the 4 June 2022
Whistleblowers claimed that Council employees were selling logs, and keeping the money; which breaches the council’s contract standing orders and creates financial irregularities. They also claimed that former EKH staff, and now Council employees, had kept or sold white goods; which again breaches the council’s contract standing orders and creates financial irregularities.
These matters are addressed in Report Number: AuG/22/13 which is to be discussed at the Audit & Governance Committee meeting on 21 Sept 2022. The Recommendations are:
1. To receive and note Report AuG/22/13.
2. To note the results of the work carried out by the East Kent Audit Partnership
The audit findings state:
Disposal of felled and fallen trees – Not applicable for an assurance
Documented procedures may not be in place but processes for the disposal of felled and fallen trees are well established.
Improvements are required to ensure that compliance with Contract Standing Orders when procuring good/services is sufficiently documented.
Staff have been allowed to take small quantities of logs home for personal use only; with continued verbal reminders from Grounds Maintenance management that the logs must not be sold.
This on the face off it makes it clear, paperwork regarding disposal of felled and fallen trees is shody.
The shoddy paperwork doesn’t comply with the Contract Standing Orders and are creating irregularities and; staff are ignoring management pleas not to flog the logs.
Note well, Council officers flogging logs and pocketing the money is Not applicable for an assurance by Internal Audit.
Given internal audit’s conclusion the Whistlebowers are once again vindicated on the basis of the evidence.
Then there is the Disposal of white goods left in housing voids (empty council properties) Internal Audit report. It states:
It was encouraging to see procedures now in place and being complied with by FHDC officers. Those procedures however do not appear to reflect the previous practices when managed by East Kent Housing. An audit review of Garage Management in 2021/22, highlighted the Auditor was advised that approximately sixty garages are being used as storage facilities for evicted tenants’ possessions and some have been used for up to ten years. Work has been found to be underway on addressing the historic use of garages by EKH.
The italicized words above, imply East Kent Housing staff did not comply with the procedures regarding the disposal of white goods in empty council properties they managed. The whistleblowers claimed these white goods were either taken home, or sold by the officers, and the proceeds pocketed by the council officer/s. Many staff from EKH were brought into our council before during and after Oct 2020. Strange how their behaviour is meant to have changed overnight. Have they been nominated for saint hoods?
A witch hunt souffle
One notes the Council asked East Kent Audit Partnership to undertake a “Corporate Leak Investigation“; which has been finalised. What this means is they undertook a witch hunt to find the mole/s who keep providing fact based evidence of contract and financial irregularities to the Shepway Vox Team.
Finally, given there is a cost of living crisis and 85% of officers earn less than £45,000, and may well struggle, like so many of us. Should selling logs and/or white goods become part of the “reward scheme” run by the council? Or has that already occured?
Its not always brown envelopes. Money is to be made selling logs, washing machines and fridge/frezers, and let’s not forget the car.
To finish off with, whistleblowers now claim even holidays have been known to assist the awarding of contracts. Lets see the council investigate that and give us some assurance, where they have failed to do so on logs and whitegoods
The Shepway Vox Team
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