We've written today to the District Auditor of Doncaster requesting that he commence proceedings to require a number of Doncaster Councillors to repay £68,000 to taxpayers that was lost thanks to their behaviour.
Doncaster has well-known troubles - most infamously it was the location of the horrific recent case where two young brothers tortured two other children.
An Audit Commission "Corporate Governance Inspection" recently found numerous serious problems in the way the council functions. The report was very scathing and very specific about what was wrong.
Here are some key quotes from the Audit Commission:
The Council, and key councillors within it, are not working constructively with the Mayor or with partners to achieve better outcomes for the people of Doncaster. Some influential councillors place their antagonism towards the Mayor and Mayoral system, and the achievements of their political objectives, above the needs of the people of Doncaster, and their duty to lead the continuous improvement of services. The Scrutiny process within the Council, which could act to hold the Mayor and Cabinet properly to account, and help him develop his policies, is instead being used to undermine the Mayor, and develop separate policies and budgets. The process of budget-setting itself is not robust.
The Audit Commission also pointed (in Paragraph 11) specifically to the appointment of the Interim Chief Executive Tim Leader as "a clear example of poor governance". Despite being advised by external legal experts that the recruitment process was "flawed", certain councillors forced through his appointment. He later had to leave at a severance cost to taxpayers of at least £68,000.
This is clearly unacceptable. The Audit Commission were unequivocal that this was a fundamentally flawed decision which for them was a leading example of what is wrong with the council. The fact that taxpayers had to shell out £68,000 to get Mr Leader to leave a post he should never have been appointed to is a matter of public record.
District Auditors have the power to seek Orders against councillors who commit misconduct or malfeasance, requiring them to compensate taxpayers for any cost incurred as a result. Our letter seeking exactly that is online here.