News From Crystal Palace asked for and have been sent the following response by People’s Audit Lambeth’s Simon Morrow to Cllr Peck’s comments about them made at last Thursday’s election hustings: (Bold type by News From Crystal Palace – Ed.)
Of course if something is wrong we would correct it. The problem is that rather than face up to the undeniable facts (such as the new town hall cost rising from the £50M they told the public to £104M), Lambeth choose to throw mud at the People’s Audit in the hope that some of it will stick. Lambeth have produced no evidence to refute what was in our main report or our report on the Fenwick estate procurement.
With regard to our report on staff costs, when we start to analyse the claims made by Lambeth what we have found out so far does not bear up to scrutiny. Cllr Imogen Walker stated in an e-mail to us dated 14th January 2018 “The council also processes payroll as a service for many schools and 430 of the salaries you quote are schools staff. “These are obviously not new posts but largely accounted for by the salaries for lead practitioners in schools moving from just below £50,000 to just above over that over the ten year period.” When we pointed out to her that the figures in the accounts did not corroborate this statement, Lambeth subsequently dropped this claim.
Lambeth claim that in 2006/2007 212 of the 274 staff earning £50K and over were council staff. Yet when we asked to see the job titles for these staff, we were told by the FOI department in an e-mail dated 15th March 2018 “For 2006/07 we do not have this data”, which begs the question where did Lambeth Labour get their figure of 212 from?
Lambeth are claiming that the increase in staff costs is almost exclusively due to an increase in school staff costs. This would mean that the number of school staff increased from 62 in 2006/2007 to 431 in 2016/2017, a seven-fold increase. We were naturally sceptical about this claim without seeing any evidence.
When we asked to see details of the job titles of the staff making up the 2016/2017 figures, the list provided by Lambeth had scores of people missing. We are currently following this up with Lambeth’s FOI department.
The situation is further complicated by the recent article in Private Eye’s Rotten Boroughs column which alleges that certain people who we expected to be staff are in fact paid through consultancies and would therefore be excluded from the figures for senior staff in Lambeth’s accounts.
We will be responding to Lambeth’s claims when we have been given all the correct data.
If Councillor Peck is serious about correcting errors then perhaps Lambeth Labour would like to apologise for the smear that they have been propagating that the People’s Audit is a front for the Green Party. We offered to provide evidence of this in an open letter dated 20th July 2017 to councillor Imogen Walker: https://twitter.com/PeoplesAudit/status/887972805110882304
Nobody took us up on this offer.
Firstly, all of KPMG’s final responses to us were all copied to Cristina Thompson, Lambeth’s director of finance. So there is nothing to stop Lambeth from publishing them if they wish. This has already been explained to Lambeth Labour: https://twitter.com/PeoplesAudit/status/984747266421526528
I don’t have a problem per se with issuing KPMG’s responses, although it wouldn’t be top of the list of my priorities. If Cllr Peck wants us to push this issue up the priority list she could help us out by removing some of the items higher up the priority list, such as providing us with details of the original budget for the town hall, which we have been trying to get for well over a year now.
Whilst we have our concerns about KPMG’s performance (remember that they audited Carillion, Northamptonshire county council, FIFA and HBOS), BOLD it is also important to understand that their remit does not cover many of the issues that our reports have highlighted.
We explained this in an open letter to Cllr Imogen Walker dated 20th July 2017: “We state in the report “The grounds under which an external auditor can act under the Act are fairly limited”.
“The principal problem that our report has identified is the extensive financial mis-management within the council. “This issue falls outside the external auditor’s remit. “The majority of the questions that the report poses need to be answered by Lambeth council, not KPMG.” https://twitter.com/PeoplesAudit/status/887972805110882304