Monday, 10 July 2017

'Extensive financial mismanagement' at Lambeth council condemned

Lambeth's financial claims questioned by report
Green Party councillor Scott Ainslie has called for a fundamental change in the culture of Lambeth Council after a year-long investigation by Lambeth Peoples’ Audit revealed “extensive financial mismanagement and failings in financial governance potentially costing millions of pounds.”

The full report, which can be seen here, reveals details of mismanagement across the borough including:
  • Lambeth selling Streatham council estate plot to developer for £335,000 below market value
  • Over-paying building contractors for work on council estates
  • Appearance of price-fixing in building contracts
  • Doubling of costs of ‘Your New Town Hall’ development
  • Behind-the-scenes deal over library closures
  • Huge numbers of invoices and records missing
  • ‘Industrial scale’ ignoring of rules on competitive tendering

Lambeth Peoples’ Audit is a group of ten residents, including accountants and other finance professionals, who have used powers granted under the 2014 Local Audit and Accountability Act to scrutinise the annual accounts of the London Borough of Lambeth for 2015/16.

St Leonard's ward councillor Ainslie, said: “From their own dealings with the council, people in Lambeth have long known something is wrong with the way Lambeth Council is governed. Now ordinary residents have taken things into their own hands and shone a spotlight on Lambeth’s finances.

“The evidence they have found suggests a staggering lack of financial control by Lambeth Labour. It appears that Labour in Lambeth, while facing deep austerity cuts from the failing Conservative government, is making matters worse by wasting millions of pounds through a lack of control over what it spends locally.

“This money really matters – it could be keeping libraries and youth services open and properly maintaining and refurbishing council homes, instead of demolishing them on Cressingham Gardens, Central Hill and other estates.

“The report also raises serious concerns about Lambeth Labour’s ability to get value for money in its dealings with private developers and contractors, which is particularly worrying at a time when Lambeth is entering into property deals with the private sector worth many millions of pounds.

“And perhaps most worrying of all, in the light of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, is the question of whether residents can be confident their homes are safe when the Peoples’ Audit shows Lambeth Labour’s building works inspection regimes are ‘at best inadequate, and possibly non-existent.’?

“This is a massive wake-up call. The complacency at the top of Lambeth Labour has to end. People deserve much, much better from their council.”

For anyone wanting the look at Lambeth's accounts for 2016/17, the scrutiny period for 2016/17 runs from 3 July – 11 Aug 2017. More information is available here.

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