covid marshals - chief executive appointed

Dear Editor,

Last month in this column I highlighted the need for good financial evidence if Cheshire East Council is to be successful in lobbying Government for more money to meet the costs of Covid-19.

I was therefore delighted when during the Cross-Party meetings of the Overview and Scrutiny Committees and the Audit and Governance Committee during late May and June, a singular, unanimous recommendation was made to the Cheshire East Administration; to follow the national guidance from the Centre for Public Scrutiny and set up a sub-group of the Corporate Scrutiny and Audit Committees to examine the Council’s spending during Covid-19 crisis and provide that evidence.

However, regrettably, Cheshire East Council refused to implement the recommendation even as they published their latest press release, highlighting an even higher predicted shortfall in funding of £70m.

There are recent examples, where severe criticism has been levelled nationally, at scrutiny and audit committees who did not adequately fulfil their roles.

Should this administration’s worst fears, as stated in their press releases, be realised and a Section 114 notice needs to be served, then on behalf of all those Cheshire East Councillors, who serve in a scrutiny or audit role, it is important to state on public record that Elected Members sought to fulfil their audit and scrutiny functions in a timely way, but were denied the opportunity to do so.

Today’s Audit and Governance Committee could have provided an opportunity to offer the transparency requested but tucked away (Item 15) there is a short paper (“Covid-19 Financial Impact”) with a 3-page appendix in which most figures are ’to be confirmed’ or ‘are subject to change’.

This is not evidence and perhaps explains why, at the time of writing, the Cheshire East Labour-led petition to lobby Government for more money has attracted just 22 signatures.

Yours,

Cllr Janet Clowes
Chair: Corporate Overview & Scrutiny
Cheshire East Council

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