Welcome to The People’s Audit website
In 2015, local residents in England acquired a legal right to inspect, question and challenge items in their council's accounts. Our Aim is to raise awareness of these rights and share lessons learned.
Councils have had time to prepare for this but, like members of the public, it is new to them as well.
We have prepared some detailed guidance of the public's rights to audit council accounts and some audit request templates to help you get started. If you have some lessons to share please do so and we will update the websites and post updates of lessons from around the country as they come to our attention.
At a time of widespread cuts, senior salaries soar
Latest research by Lambeth People’s Audit has found that during a time a deep cuts in services and staff levels at Lambeth Council, the number of senior employed by the borough has soared – along with its salaries’ bill.
In the ten years 2006/2007 to 2016/2017 the number of senior managers (those earning £50,000 or more) increased by 377. Between 2010/2011 and 2016/2017 Lambeth council have made close to 2,200 employees redundant, at a cost of over £33 million in redundancy packages. And during this period of redundancies the number of senior managers has increased by 110.
Lambeth council now spends £23.8 million a year extra on senior management compared to 2006/2007. Even after adjusting for inflation, the figure still stands at an additional £19 million a year.
To put this figure into context, £19 million is equivalent to the annual budget for libraries for 5 years; the playgrounds budget for 25 years; the cost of building over 100 new council houses
‘QUESTIONS THAT WON’T GO AWAY’: RESPONSE TO LAMBETH COUNCIL (September 2017)
Two months after publication of a ‘citizens’ audit’ of Lambeth Council’s spending in 2015/16, serious questions remain about inadequate control of contracts with the private sector. This report details the evidence unearthed and the concerns that have yet to be properly investigated by the local authority.
PEOPLES’ AUDIT DISCOVERS EXTENSIVE FINANCIAL MISMANAGEMENT IN LONDON BOROUGH OF LAMBETH (July 2017)
Evidence of extensive financial mismanagement and failings in financial governance potentially costing millions of pounds has been discovered by a team of ‘citizen auditors’ who scrutinised the annual accounts of the London Borough of Lambeth for 2015/16.
Using powers granted under the 2014 Local Audit and Accountability Act, a group of ten Lambeth residents had 30 days to request accounts, contracts, invoices and correspondence relating to expenditure. They supplemented this with Freedom of Information Requests and Members’ Enquiries by a councillor.
The group, which includes a chartered accountant, quantity surveyor and other financial professionals, unearthed a “systemic lack of financial governance” within Lambeth Council.
The co-ordinator of the research by Lambeth Peoples’ Audit, Simon Morrow, said:
“We have unearthed evidence of extensive financial mismanagement that suggests millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money is being wasted. Lack of governance within Lambeth council appears to be systemic.”
“Whilst recognising the effect of central government cuts on local authorities, from our own experiences of dealing with Lambeth council we knew that was not the whole story. That’s why we decided to investigate further. We believe ours is the most extensive use so far of citizens’ powers of scrutiny introduced when the Audit Commission was abolished in 2015.
“Lambeth describes itself as a ‘co-operative council’. In this spirit we offered to help the council review how their contracts were operated and to help them save money. Our group contains some highly experienced finance professionals who could see immediately that there were some significant problems. Our input could have saved the council significant amounts of money. Sadly our offer of help was rejected by the council.
“This is about accountability - it is very easy to spend other peoples’ money. Now Lambeth needs to be held to account for their spending decisions.”