Birmingham City Council defend itself against Audit Commission report
Birmingham City Council leaders have described a damning audit commission report into its finances as being full of ‘praise’.
Government public spending watchdog, the Audit Commission, accused Birmingham City Council of submitting late end-of-year accounts which were “strewn with errors”.
During a cabinet meeting, councillors put their hands up to some of the commission’s accusations, but insisted the vast majority of the council’s work had been praised.
The commission wrote to the council over its 2008-09 accounts which district auditor Mark Stocks has been trying to approve since last September.
In the letter, Mr Stocks cited accounting errors, inaccuracies and over-valued assets which he said meant he had been unable to approve the books in time and was subsequently adding £60,000 to his bill.
But council leader, Coun Mike Whitby, hit back, saying the commission had given them a rating of two out of four and it was a case of “glass half full than half empty” as there was a lot of praise in Mr Stocks’s report.
He said they took on board all of the commission’s criticisms and would act on them.
One particular criticism was the role of the council’s own audit committee which will play a greater role in challenging and keeping an eye on finances.
The commission also took issue with Birmingham valuing its fixed assets – mostly council houses – at £6.2 billion whereas the true value is £5.7 billion.
Coun Alastair Dow, chairman of the audit committee, said because they were based on property values they fluctuate.
“The value of these assets is set at just one moment in time and we are not planning to sell them so it is not a big deal,” he said.
Labour leader, Coun Albert Bore, said he was unhappy at the £2 billion debt Birmingham was carrying.
But chief executive Stephen Hughes said the debt was under control as £1 billion of this was Government backed while a further £600,000 was self-financing.