Armchair auditors - who are they supposed to report to?

The request was successful.

Dear Department for Communities and Local Government,

I learn from today's Guardian that following the scrapping of the Audit Commission, ordinary people are to act as armchair auditors to report financial waste and wrongdoing. Who do they report this to? I assume something has been already put in place, or why announce it in the press?

Just to give you some background:

I have tried for possibly three years to report a serious waste of council taxpayers money. I tried asking council meeting questions of the Leader of Stockport Council, Dave Goddard, for over a year without success, I reported it to senior officers and Executive Councillors at Stockport Council without success, I reported it to my MP, Andrew Stunell without success, I reported it to the District Auditor without success and to the Chief Exec of the Audit Commission without success. Stockport Council has a Fraud and Financial Irregularities policy, which they refuse to comply with - even the Director of Finance, Steve Houston. I have been told by the Audit Commission that the Council doesn't have to comply with its own policies.

In case anyone is interested in the details, I set them out below. I may be wrong, but it all seems a rum do to me and if even one of those mentioned above had actually addressed the issue, I wouldn't be writing this now.

In October 2005 Stockport Council announced they would build a school on a former toxic waste dump which would cost £5.5 million. By December 2005 the cost was £7.5 million for a 3443m2 school at £1650m2. By February 2006 the cost was to be £8 million. By July 2006 it was £8.2 million with a £2.40 million funding shortfall. The proposal went before the planning committee in July 2007 with no mention of the funding problems. The cost then rose to £8.6 million and up to £9.9 million. This was before they admitted the site was contaminated with lead, arsenic and brown asbestos. Brown asbestos is currently being hand picked out of the site by asbestos experts. How much that is costing I am not allowed to know. The Council has been told by the Information Commission that they should be answering questions regarding this but they are maintaining secrecy. In the project initiation document it was stated to be a risky venture, but there was never a Plan B, although there was a cheaper, safer site. As an explanation to the Executive Committee of Stockport Council as to why the cost had risen exponentially the following was put forward.

The cost had risen in part because the school had increased from the original 2600m2 to 3185m2 at a cost of £1450m2, which they put at £1,050,000. 3185 - 2600 = 585m2 x £1450 = £848,250. No-one will explain this apparent arithmetical error of a quarter of a million pounds. What about the original 3443m2 size of the proposed school @ £1650. None of this makes sense!

Something doesn't add up and I would like to report it to someone who will listen. The Council won't, my local MP, won't, the District Auditor won't and the Chief Exec of the Audit Commission (now defunct) won't.

Who has this Department set aside to deal with the armchair auditors like me?

Kind regards


alan harvey flounders left an annotation ()

Well done,Sheila,
How I wish I had your drive and determination, I await the answer with anticipation,
I intend to submit a F.O.I. request to the same department later on Planning.
Best wishes

Dear Madam

Thank you for your email of 14 August 2010 requesting information about
his decision to disband the Audit Commission. Your request was received by
Communities and Local Government on 16 August 2010.

I am considering your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
You should expect to receive a reply by 14 September 2010.

In some circumstances a fee may be chargeable. If that is the case, I will
let you know the likely charges before proceeding.

If you have any queries regarding this letter, please contact me. Remember
to quote the reference number above in any future communications.

Our Access to Information leaflet on our website at
explains how the Department handles formal requests for information. I
hope you will find it useful.

Yours sincerely

Mel Lea
Local Governance
Department for Communities and Local Government
3/J2 Eland House
Bressenden Place
London, SW1E 5DU
0303 444 2641

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Communications via the GSi may be automatically logged, monitored and/or
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Dear Mel Lea,

I would please like a response to this question especially with regards to this shocking news story. This is costing the council taxpayers millions of pounds extra. The Council was warned of this but ignored all evidence.

Yours sincerely,

Sheila Oliver

1 Attachment

Dear Ms Oliver,

Thank you for your FOI request of 14 August 2010. Please find attached a
reply to your request.
Please can you confirm that you have received this email.
If you have any further questions about your FOI request, please do not
hesitate to contact me.

Mel Lea
Democracy and Local Governance
Department for Communities and Local Government
0303 444 2641

<<10-09-14 Letter to Ms Oliver - final.doc>>

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Communications via the GSi may be automatically logged, monitored and/or
recorded for legal purposes.

Dear Mel Lea,

Thanks for your reply, but it won't work. I found the District Auditor a complete waste of time on the issue of millions of pounds which have gone adrift and the top panjandrums and executive councillors at Stockport are still concealing this information.

It was quite truthfully easier to get information about the Trident Nuclear Weapons programme from the MOD than one snippet of information from these people or the District Auditor about these unaccounted for millions.

If a council like Stockport can actually chose its own auditor, then we are truly all doomed. It was bad enough before.

Yours sincerely,

Sheila Oliver

Sheila Oliver (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

Is my local MP Andrew Stunell and Junior Minister at the Department for Communities and Local Government having a laugh here? I repeatedly
asked him to make Stockport Council reply to questions, which they
have avoided for about four years:-

I shall ask him again for help and post his response, or lack of
it, on this site.

Have a look at this frightening You Tube clip of the brown asbestos
"experts" languidly and unscienficially removing brown asbestos
from the school site:-

Sheila Oliver (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

I don't think that Andrew Stunell link worked. Try this:-