Earlier this year HTFP carried a story about a news agency’s laudable attempt to provide a comprehensive list of four-week council audits taking place this summer.
Under the Audit Commission Act, local authorities are required to open their books for public inspection for 20 working days each year.
Since councils are obliged to provide the actual receipts and supporting documents behind each accounts entry, they are a rich mine of stories for journalists, with councillors’ expense claims being a favourite hunting ground for hacks who are into this sort of thing.
Unfortunately some councils do little to publicise the date of the audit, beyond the bare legal requirement to publish a public notice in a newspaper on a single day – prompting Orchard News agency boss Richard Orange to write to every council in the country asking for the information.
Richard’s website shows he met with mixed success in this, with some councils resorting to the most mindless blocking tactics to prevent the information appearing.
For instance, Richard wrote to Middlesbrough council on 2 July asking them for the date. They replied on 30 July – the day before the audit was due to end. Milton Keynes council was even less helpful. Its reply did not arrive until three days after the books were closed.
Most of the four-week audits have now closed until next summer – but Richard’s site reveals that there are still a few that are open for inspection.
So if you’re a journalist in any of the following English local authority areas, it’s not too late to get down to your council offices armed with a copy of the Act.
Open for another week
Barking & Dagenham
Kingston upon Thames
Open for another fortnight
Open for another three weeks