Fringe Box



Letter: When Will We See the Borough Council’s Annual Report?

Published on: 7 Aug, 2012
Updated on: 20 Aug, 2012

From Peter Webb

STAG (Surrey Tax Action Group)

When please can we expect Guildford Borough Council (and Waverley, and Mole Valley) to deliver its Annual Report for 2011-12?  It will now have received at its offices the new Surrey County Council version which may be taken as a model.

Councils have been the only exception to the general rule for placing their record, performance with public money, and plans for the future, before their residents in this form. In the private sector delivery may be by web-site given individual consent. There remains the normal concluding step of formal approval and (re-) election.

The full introduction of this standard  will go a long way to cement the democratic process and improve trust in decision-making, communication and consultation. It should also reduce the burden on councils imposed by uninformed questions and  complaints. Claims of ‘transparency’ for mere accessibility  are usually  false: The Public Accounts Committee has just warned that it is “simply not good enough” to pump out vast amounts of raw data without making it digestible.

For context we should  know that the Annual Accounts 2010-11 (which do not add up to an annual report) of Mole Valley District broke the time limit law and were a mess. They were severely criticized by the District Auditor who was not able to sign them off until May this year.

And from the sublime to the ridiculous: Government makes the rules but does not observe them itself  – and how! Confirming the “phenomenal arrogance and incompetence of the European political elites” and failure of government including our own, the draft unaudited annual consolidated accounts for the whole central government for 2010-11 did not see the light of day until late in July this year.

In those accounts the balance sheet bottom line is a red figure of £1.2 trillion casually but in desperation described as “financed by future revenue” i.e. by our grandchildren on top of their taxes to pay for current spending. I hope that the Comptroller and Auditor General in his forthcoming report will consider carefully whether that is a safe assumption in the light of this terrifying sovereign insolvency.”

A Guildford Borough Council spokesperson has responded:

We [GBC] do not have to publish an annual report. Our statement of accounts is signed by the Chief Financial Officer each year by the deadline of 30 June and then published online. Following external audit, which has to be carried out by 30 September, we publish our full accounts online.

All statements of account and summary accounts for the financial years 2004-05 onwards can be viewed via the following link:

We also publish a summary of our accounts in the council newspaper, ‘About Guildford’, each year. This article includes the type of information you would see in an annual report, including details of service performance and future plans.

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Responses to Letter: When Will We See the Borough Council’s Annual Report?

  1. Bernard Parke

    August 8, 2012 at 6:52 am

    ‘Council newspaper!’ Why do we need a Council Newspaper?

    How much does this news sheet, which is deliverd free to each address throuhout the Borough, cost the Council Tax payer?

    Is it entirely unbiased?

  2. Julian Lyon

    August 8, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    “We [GBC] do not have to publish an annual report…” I think the idea is that GBC is allowed to have a feast of information and we, the voting public, are barely allowed a few crumbs between us. It is high time the leadership embraced the spirit of Localism and community rather than giving us the minimum of information it can get away with.

    What about engagement? No, not if GBC might have to take notice! Not good enough at all, GBC. Read your own Community Involvement Strategy?

  3. Peter Webb

    August 8, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    “We do not have to publish an annual report”. An arrogant and out of date attitude which helps to explain why party political government has sunk to such a low point in public esteem.