Next Wednesday, 23rd February, Holyrood’s Local Government &
Communities Committee will take evidence from the Audit Commission in
a Local Government Overview Report (http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/
s3/committees/lgc/papers-11/lgp11-06.pdf). The Audit Commission
through Audit Scotland is our watchdog responsible for oversight of
local authorities’ accounting practices.
In 2007 the Scottish Executive, through LASAAC, instructed local
authorities to update Common Good registers. In reply to a request
from the Petitions Committee (PE1050) in 2010 Audit Scotland stated
that in their 2008-9 audits "Councils have generally taken reasonable
steps to comply with the guidance". With this assurance the Petitions
Committee concluded that “the Scottish Government, in light of this
assessment, is satisfied that common good sites are as protected as
they can be and sees no need for new legislation in respect of common
good assets. Further, Audit Scotland will continue to monitor progress
made by local authorities as part of the annual audit process...”.
Audit Scotland confirmed to me in late-2010 that they had no plans in
the current work programme to look at this again.
In 2008 the Improvement Service, an organisation funded by COSLA,
published a report (http://www.improvementservice.org.uk/library/
report-of-sample-survey-of-council-practice/) showing that many local
authorities had not yet complied with the 2007 instruction.
The deadline for the register update was March 2009 but we all have
individual evidence that compliance has been patchy. The question is –
has Audit Scotland fulfilled its obligation under the 2007 LASAAC
Community groups cannot act in the interests of the common good fund’s
beneficiaries if the local authority refuses to cooperate in
publishing a complete asset list.
To ensure the Committee asks probing questions I suggest as many
people as possible submit evidence of non-compliance, and therefore
Audit Scotland’s dereliction, to the Clerk of the Committee -
email@example.com – with a copy to their MSP and
members of the LG&C Committee