Audit commission: Pickles scraps councils' watchdog

The official watchdog responsible for ensuring local councils deliver value for money is to be scrapped.

Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said yesterday the Audit Commission had "lost its way" and would be disbanded.

The commission's inspection duties will now pass to the National Audit Office – the Whitehall spending watchdog – while its in-house audit practice will be transferred to the private sector.

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"The corporate centre of the Audit Commission has lost its way.

"Rather than being a watchdog that champions taxpayers' interests, it has become the creature of the Whitehall state," said Mr Pickles, a former leader of Bradford Council.

"We need to redress this balance.

"Audit should remain to ensure taxpayers' money is properly spent, but this can be done in a competitive environment, drawing on professional audit expertise across the country.

"I want to see the commission's auditing function become independent of Government, competing for future audit business from the public and private sector.

"These proposed changes go hand in hand with plans to create an army of armchair auditors – local people able to hold local bodies to account for the way their tax pounds are spent and what that money is delivering."