Updated 26/10/22 @19:30
Sometimes, just sometimes, we do feel for Cllrs who try their best, but find themselves unsupported by other Cllrs who sit on the same committee.
Such was the case of Cllr Laura Davison (Lab) (pictured). At last night’s Audit & Governance Committee, Cllr Davison tried carefully to elicit information from the Chief Finance Officer, or more commonly known as the s151 officer, when the contractual and financial irregularities internal auditor reports, commissioned by the Council back in June, will come into the public domain. The Chief Executive – Dr Susan Priest gave Cllr Davison very short shrift when she asked about the time scale/ time frame the reports might come before the committee, and the public, as is evidenced from 3m.20s onwards.
We remind the s151 Officer that what Cllr Davison was talking about was taxpayers money in those reports. It is we believe, self evident there has been a lack of oversight regarding robust internal controls regarding financial and contract controls.
Now for those of you who are not aware, the s151 officer is regarded as the trustee of local residents money, and has the prime obligation and duty to residents to manage the authority’s resources prudently on our behalf as established in the 1906 de Winton case.
The De Winton case; which is still good law, holds that the s151 Officer (Charlotte Spendley) employed within our council is not simply a servant of the Council but holds a fiduciary responsibility to local tax payers and as such owes a duty of care to the public in managing Council resources on their behalf.
The case is mentioned four times in the role of the Chief Financial Officer
Given the Council’s attitude towards a lack of transparency around these reports, The Shepway Vox Team will now seek legal advice on bringing a tort of negligence against the s151 Officer of Folkestone & Hythe District Council.
The s151 officer has, we honestly believe, failed in her fiduciary responsibilities to the local taxpayers and breached her duty of care to us all. If the advice given to us, makes it clear that such a tort is possible, then we will seek legal counsel to potentially bring a case.
Let’s not forget four officers have left the Council, and no officer has been reprimanded regarding the logs or the white goods either.
We also note the Council published a draft statement of accounts for the Committee on the 21 Sept 2022 and can be downloaded
We commend Cllr Davison (Lab) in doing her best to hold officers to account and at the same time believe Cllr Shoob (Green), Cllr Mullard (UKIP), Cllr P Martin (Con) & Cllr Berry (Con) behaviour was repugnant for not defending the ratepayers of the district.
NB: The terms – s151 Officer and Chief Financial Officer are one and the same. They are the person within any council who is legally responsible for the councils money.
It was the Chief Executive – Dr Priest who gave Cllr Davison short shrift.
The Shepway Vox Team
Journalism for the People NOT the Powerful