Crisis-hit Keighley council tells councillors: you need extra training

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EXTRA training is to be given to councillors at a crisis-hit Yorkshire council following critical audit reports which said basic financial regulations were not being followed.

Keighley Town Council’s clerk, Tom Ferry, has recommended training sessions for new and re-elected councillors.

He is also urging specific training around “internal control” systems relating to decision making and spending.

The specific training will be for members of the finance and audit committee, the policy and guidance committee as well as individual committee chairmen.

His recommendations, previously backed by the finance and audit committee, will be put to councillors on Thursday April 9.

The need for extra training follows audit reports which highlighted poor decision making and failures to comply with financial regulations.

Councillors were warned last July by one of the authority’s own staff that cheques were being signed without the correct authority and that the council account was being used for non-council business.

Concerns were also raised about payments to family members of councillors and officers who had carried out work for the authority.

Councillors were criticised for not declaring their financial and pecuniary interests.

Similar criticisms were made in a public interest report by external auditors last year and in an internal audit report in November.

The April 9 council meeting will also discuss the authority’s response to the public interest report and internal audit.

Councillors have been sent completed action plans and policies in response to both audits.

They are being asked to scrutinise both action plans as well as updated financial regulations.

Policies relating to the asset register and the public inspection of council accounts have also been sent to councillors for scrutiny and discussion.

Previous audits had highlighted shortcomings in the asset register and mistakes made relating to the public right to view accounts.

Councillors will be allowed to ask questions at the meeting of Mr Ferry, finance officer Safia Kauser and a consultant who is not named on the agenda papers.

Critics of the council are also expected to be present.

Graham Forsyth, a member of the Keighley-based Cavetown Council campaign group, said he believed that councillors had previously been on training courses but had still failed to follow their own council’s rules.

“Keighley Town Council has been sending councillors on training courses for years and while it is sensible to provide newly elected councillors with training, and specific training for committee chairs with regards to internal control, what good is any training if it is not followed?

“The problem with Keighley Town Council is its failure to comply with existing regulations, hence the damning external auditor’s report.”

Mr Forsyth said the action plans listed on the agenda were a vindication of those parishioners who had first highlighted the issues.

“If not for the group of parishioners bringing the failings to the attention of auditors, how long would this council have continued being run in this way?”