New Homes Auditor Update - Sylvia Dunn
13th April 2016 By Sylvia Dunn
When Lewes District Council announced in June 2015 its New Home’s Project and Sites List for the District, showing the Buckle Car Park as potential development for luxury flats, Seaford residents were up in arms and rightly so. The questions were ‘when did this happen?’, and ‘why were the residents not informed?’.
At the time in question I was standing in a by-election. Without hesitation, Independents for Seaford (ifs) started a petition, which in turn led to a debate at Full Council; this was the start of something big.
But was this going to be enough? After some intensive research into the background, I came to the conclusion that possibly Lewes District Council had acted unlawfully and had not followed due process. On the 23 November 2015, with help, I compiled a list of 9 issues and ‘Called In The External Auditor’ the issues included:
• keeping this confidential for 3 years,
• the tendering process,
• and no public consultation prior to awarding the contract.
In January 2016, the New Home’s Project was terminated, but the investigation by the Auditor was far from over. I strongly believed that the residents of Seaford had suffered an injustice by the way this was carried out, and that this must never be repeated again.
I am now in a position to be able to share the initial findings of The Auditor, and by bringing it into the public domain, it will guarantee that the District Council remains under the spotlight. On the 5th April I had a meeting with The Auditor, and presented more evidence to support my claims; these are being looked into further.
At present The Auditor has not found that LDC had acted unlawfully, but this is under review until the completion of the investigation in September.
On receiving my complaint, The Auditor did identify a significant risk in respect of: The Governance and Decision making arrangements for entering into and terminating a contract, to determine whether the Council’s own internal processes were followed, to ensure that appropriately informed decisions were made. This is in an audit plan on Page 13, on the Council’s website, as it went to the March Audit and Standards Committee. Can be viewed here: LDC Planning Report 2015-16
All of the issues I have raised will be included in The Auditor’s Audit and Completion Report in September, and will be published on the Council’s website. Furthermore, the Council will be submitting their accounts, which will show an amount in the region of £575,000 that has been spent on the New Home’s Project. These accounts can be viewed between 1st July and 31st July, these will be investigated further to ensure that best value for money was obtained and that no unnecessary expenditure or wasted resources were incurred.
I have asked for a Public Interest Report, this will be decided after the Audit Report in September. As soon as I have news I will let you know.
IfS Your Voice for Our Town