The full County Council has four scheduled public meetings each year. Its main purpose is to agree a budget and policy framework within which the Leader of Council and his Cabinet operate and council services are provided.
“Transparency International’s report ‘Corruption in Local Government: The Mounting Risks’ warns that an unintended consequence of changes such as the Localism Act and those proposed in the Local Audit and Accountability Bill may be to create an enabling environment for corruption.
The report notes that experts hold widely different views about the scale and prevalence of corruption in local government, but there was general consensus that recent changes would increase the risk of corruption happening in future.
It identifies sixteen recent legislative changes which increase the risks, as well as other trends such as the decline in scrutiny by local press and the move to more private sector out-sourcing. This report includes twenty-two recommendations, including that the Government should conduct a corruption risk assessment and strengthen whistleblowing procedures.”
The report was also discussed on 28th October in Parliament (Local Accountability and Audit Bill – Second Reading).
Q.1 Does SCC acknowledge (as indicated in the report) that particular risks of corruption (in local government) include:
a) Public procurement at needs assessment stage;
b) Public procurement at bid design stage;
c) Public procurement at award stage;
d) Public procurement at contract implementation stage;
e) Control and accountability over outsourced services;
f) The revolving door of personnel between local authorities and private companies bidding to provide services;
g) Planning discretion and influence regarding permissions to build decisions;
h) Planning discretion and influence regarding “change of use” decisions?
Q.2 The Campaign for Change website article has asked the question “Does outsourcing make corruption more likely”?
Does SCC agree?
Q.3 The Spend Matters website article:
Highlights a few other issues and concerns from The Transparency International article:
a) Failure to enforce section 106 agreements;
b). the conflict of interest where councils make planning decisions about property they own;
c). collusion in housing fraud or deliberately ineffective monitoring of housing fraud; and
d). manipulation of electoral registration”
What steps and measures will SCC take to address the issues raised here and in Q.1 and Q.3?
Q.4 A key recommendation in the TI – UK report is for the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to cover private contractors operating with public funds.
i) Does the council agree with this recommendation?
ii) Will the Council support a campaign to extend the FOIA in this key area?