Saturday 2 July 2011

Legally Bound

Sometimes pictures can speak louder than words.

At Thursday night's inaugural meeting of RBC's Audit & Governance Committee the subject of developer contributions - Section 106 monies (S106's) - was discussed.  However I was, and still am, constrained from revealing details of the independent reports carried out earlier this year by Wokingham Borough Council officers into Reading's management of S106's because of legal privilege.  Only an edited, shortened & diluted version of one of the reports has been published by the Labour administration.

Reading's internal audits from October 2006 and Spring 2008 (the latter finalised May 2009) highlighted serious concerns.  The 08/09 report stated
"there is no coherent specific control system to support the identification, recording, receipt and spending of monies and the reconciliation of it to Council financial systems."
You may well ask yourself why on earth the authority did diddly-squat to sort the situation out back then...

On Thursday I asked for Wokingham's investigation reports to be published.  Also I, supported by the Lib Dem's Cllr Daisy Benson, asked for the District Auditor to be invited in to carry out a further investigation to more thoroughly probe into the pre-May 2010 Labour administration's 'management' of S106 monies. However Committee member & Leader of the Council, Cllr Jo Lovelock, was dismissive.

I remain concerned that the salient facts are being suppressed from public scrutiny.  Ask yourself this question:  If Wokingham's investigation had failed to throw up any damning evidence, would Reading's Labour administration have had any problem with publishing Wokingham's results in full?

As I said at the meeting, I want this S106 debacle cleared up once and for all.  In my opinion this can only be achieved by having a further, more comprehensive investigation by an independent body: hence my call for the District Auditor to be brought in.  The published extract from Wokingham's limited terms of reference investigation does not provide sufficient information for councillors - let alone members of the public - to even scratch through the surface and see what has been going on.