Barnet Borough Councillors delay voting on accounts at audit committee

Councillors delay voting on accounts

Councillors delay voting on accounts

First published in News
Last updated
Times Series: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Reporter

Councillors refused to approve Barnet Borough Council's accounts over claims they were not given time to read through crucial documents.

The authority's audit committee was due to vote on whether to approve the 2014/15 accounts at a meeting on Tuesday night, but has now deferred its decision until next week.

At the start of the meeting at Hendon Town Hall, chief operating officer Chris Naylor told the committee he was "proud" of how Barnet was one of the first councils to publish its draft documents.

But just hours later, councillors demanded more time after only receiving a 116-page bundle relating to the budget at the start of the meeting.

The draft accounts had been available on the council website since May, which included a link to a copy of the accounts report.

However, the link was not sent to members' email accounts and those who prefer to read the documents in hard copy format missed the link on the council website.

Debra Lewis, an independent committee member who is not a councillor, told the committee she was unable to approve the accounts without having read them.

Labour councillor Arjun Mittra said: "We’re not doing our job if we say this is fine and don’t ask questions.

"If it means we have to have another meeting, so be it. It’s not acceptable members of the committee don’t have the chance to go through this in the relevant detail the public would expect us to.

"You can’t do democratic decision making that way without a proper chance to scrutinise. It’s not transparent, it’s not right."

Chief monitoring officer Maryellen Salter said the link to the draft accounts was circulated to all members.

But Cllr Gabriel Rozenberg checked his e-mail history and said he had no record of any e-mails about the accounts sent to the committee as a whole.

Barnet’s operating director Chris Naylor admitted: "Something has clearly gone wrong here. It’s troubling. It’s been on our website since May but it's disappointing in hindsight that the full pack wasn’t sent as a PDF (file)."

A statement from Barnet Council said this year’s accounts were the subject of training for all members of the audit committee on July 1.

It added: "All audit committee members received copies of their papers for the meeting five working days in advance of the meeting, which included a weblink through to the annual accounts on the council’s website.

"Some members were unaware of the link and, at the meeting, asked for more time to view the accounts."

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