Wokingham.Today

Finance report DIDN’T change and council leader sees no need to resign over Standardsgate

John Halsall
Wokingham Borough Council leader Cllr John Halsall

A REPORT was not altered between its appearance at a committee meeting and a council meeting.

Resident Philip Meadowcroft said he had watched the audit committee meeting of February 1, and said that “the Treasury Management Report which the Audit Committee had agreed in November 2020, and then forwarded to the Executive were replaced by new and materially different numbers whilst the approved November numbers were relegated to an appendix.”

He wanted to know if the changes made were “another honest mistake” or “further evidence which suggests that compliance with the Constitution takes second place to the political convenience of the ruling group?”

The question was asked during a virtual meeting of Wokingham Borough Council’s executive committee, held on Thursday, February 18.

Responding, Cllr John Kaiser, the deputy leader of the council, said: “I can categorically confirm that this was not the case”.

He added: “Audit Committee is required to review progress against Treasury Management indicators (which they did) and note further information in the report”. This referred to a report agreed by the committee on November 23 last year, not February 1 and, as such, did not need to be presented back to the audit committee.

“The Treasury Mid-Year report presented to the Audit Committee was not changed, the Audit Committee discharged their responsibilities under the constitution and the Chief Finance Officer is required to provide a covering report in passing the Mid-Year report on to the Executive. There is no constitutional breach here whatsoever.”

Cllr Kaiser said that he found it “alarming” that the Lib Dems were marking reckless claims that the council’s debt level is £10,000 per household.

“We get our roads, schools and other essential assets for our community at no cost to the Council Taxpayer, in fact they receive a credit,” he said. “This is achieved because the income from our commercial and investment activities not only funds but exceeds all of the Council’s cost of borrowing.

“This is a remarkable achievement and should be applauded.

“We should be both assured and delighted about yet another indicator of our strong sound financial management, which is vital in us being able to meet the needs of our community, particularly during Covid-19. But incredulously this isn’t the issue being talked about and this isn’t what questions are being asked about, I wonder why?

“Do you think it is that our opposition find it galling that we are holding up so well during this pandemic and aren’t plummeting into the financial crisis so yearned for?

“This is so wrong and makes no sense to me, petty politics to detract from the fundamental issue – we are strong, ready and capable of being able to continue to step up to meet the needs of our community.”

Mr Meadowcroft said that the executive had not stuck to the rules, and Cllr Halsall had undermined his authority as a leader – but Cllr Halsall stopped him, saying he was making a statement rather a question. Mr Meadowcroft then asked if he would stand down.

Cllr Halsall simply said: “In your opinion”.

Mr Meadowcroft pushed for an answer and Cllr Halsall said that his response was just that.

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