Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Olympic non jobs, payment cards and a lack of scrutiny at Cornwall Council and Cornwall Development Company

Following on from yesterday's news (my blog about it here) about the Olympic non job paid for by Cornwall Council. It emerges that the post was not £19,689 per annum as everyone assumed from this advert:
But instead £19,689 pro rata so actually just £13,126 for the whole contract. As Andrew Wallis revealed on his updated blog 20k for one day's work (updated).

I still believe criticisms made by myself and others are still valid, there is no need for this position and existing staff could easily do the work involved. It also reveals something of a trend within Cornwall Council which has spilt over to it's 'company' Cornwall Development Company (CDC) and that is the council has no idea where money is being spent. For some reason Malcolm Bell head of Visit Cornwall (itself a subsidiary of CDC) a man presumably in the know on this subject, told the Daily Mail:

"But Malcolm Bell, head of Visit Cornwall, told MailOnline that the council was expecting revenue of at least £1million and maybe up to £7million with an influx of visitors to the town.
He said it would spend £100,00 on the event, which included the wage of the new employee."

link to story

Malcolm Bell on a happier news day
So if this post was indeed half the actual salary advertised why didn't Malcolm Bell flag this up when interviewed by the Mail? This man is in charge of attracting visitors to Cornwall and spends taxpayers money to do so, the only possible answer is he did not know. For some inexplicable reason he was not aware how much money was going on the post and probably read the advert and took it it was accurate as did everyone else. This poses serious questions about the council (and it's subsidiary organisations) and how they spend money and how this process is monitored and scrutinized.

In the light of the credit card scandal a few months ago a pattern of spending apathy and abject lack of scrutiny is emerging from Lys Kernow. For those that missed the story the Telegraph published a story based on an FOI request that revealed Cornwall Council had spent nearly 8 million pounds on credit card transactions from the Telegraph. The original  press release about it from Cornwall Council explained that foreign spending had been divulged to the Telegraph in the original currencies and not converted to the sterling equivalent (not a great example of keeping a check on spending). Alec Robinson commented with a rather bland, unfactual statement:

"Cornwall Council is committed to achieving the best possible value for money for council tax payers in Cornwall... All spending, including credit card spending, is very closely monitored and strict financial controls are in place."
link to the statement

Alec Robertson Conservative leader Cornwall Council
Clearly again even the leader of the council has no real idea about what was spent and only know's what a reassuring statement looks like. It turned out later, when people actually bothered to look at the spending figures that the information supplied to the Telegraph was wrong in parts. Alec lambasted the Telegraph in a letter titled  When did FOI Become Freedom of Misinformation? link hereI can't find any reply from the Telegraph but I assume the answer was when you send us the wrong information. Amusingly Alec criticises the Telegraph for wrongly identifying the payment card system used as credit cards, see his comment above where he also makes the same mistake. It took from the 28th May to the 20th June for the Council to investigate fully the card spending and Alec to pen his diatribe, again a damning indictment of the spending regime at Cornwall Council. It is unacceptable that any organisation should need nearly a month to check what they have spent vast amounts of public money on.

Both in the case of Malcolm Bell and Alec Robertson they need to start doing their jobs properly and actually taking charge of how taxpayers money is spent in Cornwall. It is unforgivable that neither has a clue what money is spent on when asked by the press, their jobs are to spend taxpayers money properly, it is a bare minimum they have a close eye on this. How can we take austerity and cuts budgets seriously from people who have no idea about spending existing at County Hall?  Eric Pickles wants to come to Cornwall if he thinks wayward spending  in local authorities is something immune to Conservative administrations.

As a side point, anybody care to guess why the council needs to spend the remaining one hundred thousand pounds on promoting the Olympic Torch's journey through Kernow.