Amy Kitcher has just brought to our attention the triumph of a local Liberal Democrat activist in exposing less than scrupulous accounting on the part of Merthyr council over the distribution of the Biffa Community Fund.
This is the key point of her email: "I am so proud of the actions of my ward colleague councillor Bob Griffin who instigated the investigation by reporting the Council to the Audit Office. He has been on the receiving end of much criticism and innuendo from other councillors who have tried to twist his motives. Yesterday, he was totally vindicated when he received a copy of the response from the Audit Office to the Financial Controller with the following statements:
'It is not clear what criteria you apply when signing applications as approved as they are not documented on the form. I suggest that the approval form that you sign be amended to make it clear that payments are made both within the powers of the Council and for the benefit of the ward residents; and
'The recipient of the monies should be requested to provide receipts confirming that the expenditure was defrayed in accordance with the approved application. I appreciate that this may not be possible in some cases, for example, where you have made a contribution to the total cost of an event. In such cases written confirmation that the event (or some other form of spend) went ahead should be obtained. Internal audit may be able to assist in identifying an efficient manner of implementing such a requirement.'
"The whole incident highlights the critical difference between the Lib Dems and other parties: Councils often ask Councillors to be their uncritical cheerleaders. Other parties often agree. We do not. We are there to serve the electors, monitor what the Council does, and criticise and get things done better when necessary. This can make us unpopular, we we don't care.
"We recognise that “Yes Minister” mentality is alive and living in local government. Council officers and local councillors all too readily enter a conspiracy of mutual support and cooperation to conceal each other’s mistakes. We act differently."
The phrase "councils often ask councillors to be their uncritical cheerleaders" strikes a chord. I am always ready to praise Neath Port Talbot CBC when it does things right, but I do not leave my critical faculties at the doors of the civic centres.