Public exercise of inspection and objection rights under Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014

The request was refused by Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council.

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

The Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 provides members of the public with rights to inspect, within an annual inspection window, the council’s accounts and related documents. It also provides local electors with the right to object to an item of the accounts. Prior to the 2014 Act these same rights were enshrined in the Audit Commission Act 1998.

As a regular user of these rights, in my capacity as a local journalist, local elector, member of accountability campaigns and academic researcher I am interested in understanding the frequency and the way in which these rights are being used across the country.

The MHCLG have recently launched an independent inquiry into the quality of local authority audit (the Redmond Review). One of the questions in the recent call for views asks whether the “the inspection and objection regime allow local residents to hold their council to account in an effective manner?” whilst also acknowledging that data is not currently gathered at a national level on the citizen uses of these rights. I feel there is therefore a strong public interest in the timely disclosure of the information in this request.

Please provide the following information:

A. For all the objections you received between 2009 and 2019 (i.e. relating to financial years 2008/9 to 2018/19 inclusive) please provide the following information in an excel spreadsheet. Please use the list below as column headers and compile the data for each objection in a separate row.

1. Objection reference no.
2. Financial year the objection relates to
3. Subject/summary of the objection
4. Date objection was received
5. Did objector ask the auditor make a referral to the High Court?
6. Did objector ask the auditor to issue a Public Interest Report?
7. Was the objection accepted as valid?
8. If not, why?
9. Was a public interest report issued?
10. Was a referral made to the High Court?
11. If so, what was the High Court’s decision?
12. Were any other recommendations made or actions taken by the auditor under the powers set out in Section 24 of the Local Audit and Accountability Act?
13. Date objector was sent a final decision notice
14. How much was the council charged by the auditor to carry out work in relation to the objection?

B. For all the inspection requests you received between 2009 and 2019 (i.e. relating to financial years from 2008/9 to 2018/19 inclusive), please provide the following information in an excel spreadsheet. Please use the list below as column headers and compile the data for each inspection request in a separate row.

1. Inspection reference number
2. Financial year inspection request refers to
3. Date request for information received
4. Was the request accepted as valid?
5. If not, why?
6. Was request transferred to FOI?
7. If transferred to FOI, what was the justification for doing so?
8. Subject/summary of request as recorded
9. Which department(s) dealt with the information request?
10. Date the response and documents requested were sent to requester

Yours faithfully,

Megan I Waugh

InfoMgr, FinDMT, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

Dear Megan Waugh

 

Thank you for your recent request made under the Freedom of Information
Act.

 

You have asked the following

PART A

A. For all the objections you received between 2009 and 2019 (i.e.
relating to financial years 2008/9 to 2018/19 inclusive) please provide
the following information in an excel spreadsheet. Please use the list
below as column headers and compile the data for each objection in a
separate row.

1. Objection reference no.
2. Financial year the objection relates to 3. Subject/summary of the
objection 4. Date objection was received 5. Did objector ask the auditor
make a referral to the High Court?
6. Did objector ask the auditor to issue a Public Interest Report?
7. Was the objection accepted as valid?
8. If not, why?
9. Was a public interest report issued?
10. Was a referral made to the High Court?
11. If so, what was the High Court’s decision?
12. Were any other recommendations made or actions taken by the auditor
under the powers set out in Section 24 of the Local Audit and
Accountability Act?
13. Date objector was sent a final decision notice 14. How much was the
council charged by the auditor to carry out work in relation to the
objection?

 

Wirral Borough Council can confirm in relation to part A of your request
that we hold information on objection(s) raised for the time period
requested however as these objections currently remain unresolved we
suggest that you re-submit your request a later date when we would be able
to provide the detail you have requested.

 

 

PART B

B. For all the inspection requests you received between 2009 and 2019
(i.e. relating to financial years from 2008/9 to 2018/19 inclusive),
please provide the following information in an excel spreadsheet. Please
use the list below as column headers and compile the data for each
inspection request in a separate row.

1. Inspection reference number
2. Financial year inspection request refers to 3. Date request for
information received 4. Was the request accepted as valid?
5. If not, why?
6. Was request transferred to FOI?
7. If transferred to FOI, what was the justification for doing so?
8. Subject/summary of request as recorded 9. Which department(s) dealt
with the information request?
10. Date the response and documents requested were sent to requester

In relation to Part B of your request having reviewed the scope of your
request, I regret that on this occasion we are unable to assist you with
this enquiry as this information is not held in a reportable format as you
have requested.  Therefore to answer your Part B enquiry in full would
involve a manual exercise cross referencing against individual records
from multiple sources over the time period 2008/9 to 2018/19 inclusive. 
This would take officers over the appropriate limit of 18.5 hours allowed
by the FOI Act 2000.  The Council has therefore relied on section 12 (1)
to refuse your request.  Further information relating to this exemption is
below:

 

Wirral Council can confirm we would not hold this in an electronic
format.  A manual exercise would need to be undertaken to review 1,000
plus public accounts inspection requests received.  This exercise would
exceed the appropriate limit 18.5 hours allowed by the legislation for
example 1000 plus inspection requests at 10 minutes per inspection we have
calculated 1,106 items x 10 minutes / 60 = 184.3 hours.  Therefore
facilitating this enquiry would involve a manual exercise to identify and
collate the information, taking Officers over the appropriate limit of
18.5 hours allowed by the legislation, FOI Act 2000.  The Council has
therefore relied on section 12 (1) to refuse this part of your request. 
Further information relating to the 18.5 exemption we have relied on is
below:

 

Where an authority is not obliged to comply with a request for information
because, under section 12(1) and regulations made under section 12, the
cost of complying would exceed the "appropriate limit" (i.e. cost
threshold) the authority should consider providing an indication of what,
if any, information could be provided within the cost ceiling. The
authority should also consider advising the applicant that by reforming or
re-focusing their request, information may be able to be supplied for a
lower, or no, fee.” 

 

Section 16 of the FOI legislation requires us to provide you with advice
and guidance, if you review part B of  your request, we would be able to
provide information for financial year  18-19 once all of the responses
have been issued, however as this is an ongoing piece of work we suggest
you that you submit a narrower scope at a later date.

 

You have the right under Section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000
to ask for an internal review of the refusal of the information
requested.  Please direct any request for an internal review to
information [1][Wirral Borough Council request email] and your request will be
allocated for review.

 

You do also have the right to complain to the information Commissioner, if
you are dissatisfied with the outcome of any internal review:
[2]https://ico.org.uk/global/contact-us/

 

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

Tracy O'Hare

Information Management Officer

Business Management

Treasury Building

Argyle Street

Birkenhead
Wirral
CH41 1AH

[3]Tel:0151 691 8397

[4][Wirral Borough Council request email]

 

 

 

 

This information supplied to you is copyrighted and continues to be
protected by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.   You are free
to use it for your own purposes, including any non commercial research you
are doing and for the purposes of news reporting. Any other reuse, for
example commercial publication, would require our specific permission, may
involve licensing and the application of a charge

 

 

 

From: Megan I Waugh <[FOI #607473 email]>
Sent: 25 September 2019 20:27
To: InfoMgr, FinDMT <[Wirral Borough Council request email]>
Subject: FW: FOI 1425206 - Meghan L Waugh - Public Exercise of Inspection
& Objection Rights Under Local Audit & Accountability Act 2014 - DUE
24/10/2019

 

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

 

The Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 provides members of the public
with rights to inspect, within an annual inspection window, the council’s
accounts and related documents. It also provides local electors with the
right to object to an item of the accounts. Prior to the 2014 Act these
same rights were enshrined in the Audit Commission Act 1998. 

 

As a regular user of these rights, in my capacity as a local journalist,
local elector, member of accountability campaigns and academic researcher
I am interested in understanding the frequency and the way in which these
rights are being used across the country.

 

The MHCLG have recently launched an independent inquiry into the quality
of local authority audit (the Redmond Review). One of the questions in the
recent call for views asks whether the “the inspection and objection
regime allow local residents to hold their council to account in an
effective manner?” whilst also acknowledging that data is not currently
gathered at a national level on the citizen uses of these rights. I feel
there is therefore a strong public interest in the timely disclosure of
the information in this request.

 

Please provide the following information:

 

A. For all the objections you received between 2009 and 2019 (i.e.
relating to financial years 2008/9 to 2018/19 inclusive) please provide
the following information in an excel spreadsheet. Please use the list
below as column headers and compile the data for each objection in a
separate row.

 

1. Objection reference no.

2. Financial year the objection relates to 3. Subject/summary of the
objection 4. Date objection was received 5. Did objector ask the auditor
make a referral to the High Court?

6. Did objector ask the auditor to issue a Public Interest Report?

7. Was the objection accepted as  valid?

8. If not, why?

9. Was a public interest report issued?

10. Was a referral made to the High Court?

11. If so, what was the High Court’s decision?

12. Were any other recommendations made or actions taken by the auditor
under the powers set out in Section 24 of the Local Audit and
Accountability Act? 

13. Date objector was sent a final decision notice 14. How much was the
council charged by the auditor to carry out work in relation to the
objection?

 

B. For all the inspection requests you received between 2009 and 2019
(i.e. relating to financial years from 2008/9 to 2018/19 inclusive),
please provide the following information in an excel spreadsheet. Please
use the list below as column headers and compile the data for each
inspection request in a separate row.

 

1. Inspection reference number

2. Financial year inspection request refers to 3. Date request for
information received 4. Was the request accepted as valid?

5. If not, why?

6. Was request transferred to FOI?

7. If transferred to FOI, what was the justification for doing so?

8. Subject/summary of request as recorded 9. Which department(s) dealt
with the information request?

10. Date the response and documents requested were sent to requester

 

Yours faithfully,

 

Megan I Waugh

 

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