Cross-Party Consensus for Audit & Scrutiny of Council’s Covid-19 Spending

Cross-Party Audit and Governance and Overview & Scrutiny Committees have unanimously supported the setting up of a joint Audit and Scrutiny sub-group to examine and audit the spending and distribution by Cheshire East Council, of  over 130 million pounds of Government grants and emergency funding in response to the Covid-19 Pandemic.

In addition, the sub-group will be examining the impact of the lockdown on the medium-term financial status of the Council as recovery plans are designed and implemented which the Cheshire East Administration are suggesting will leave a 60 million pound shortfall by April 2021.

Conservative Cheshire East Councillors are in no doubt that this Council is facing financial pressures caused by Covid-19 and that Government must be made aware of those pressures, but this must be done effectively.

In order for any ‘Lobbying’ to be effective, the Council must demonstrate that it is fiscally competent, can present the detail of all additional Covid-related expenditure and where Government money thus far received, has been spent.

The Conservative Group is therefore pleased that at both the Children and Families Scrutiny and at the Health and Adult Social Care Scrutiny Committees, there has been cross party consensus to refer the financial implications of Covid to a sub group of Corporate Scrutiny and Audit and Governance. 

This approach is undoubtedly necessary as the only financial detail that Children and Families Scrutiny received was the extra spend of £185,000 on Foster Carers. So too the approach proposed is in direct alignment with the national guidance that has been published by the Centre for Public Scrutiny.

Cllr Jos Saunders and Cllr Liz Wardlaw, who chair the two scrutiny committees explained “We cannot just hold our hands out asking for significant sums of public money without evidence. We owe our residents a Council that can demonstrate that all monies received are being spent appropriately and so focus our lobbying activity for additional funds where they are necessary and can be justified”.

Cllr Janet Clowes (Chair of Corporate Scrutiny) with Vice-Chair Cllr Brendan Murphy (Real Independent Group), together with Cllr Rod Fletcher (Chair: Audit and Governance and Liberal Democrat Leader) with Vice-Chair Cllr Rachel Bailey (Audlem Ward) have submitted a formal request to the Executive Team (in response to the recommendations of the Scrutiny Committees), to expedite the setting up of the Covid-Finance sub-group as a matter of urgency.