City council failings exposed in audit

A DAMNING report into a council deal with a building contractor has highlighted how taxpayers’ money may have been put at risk by poor management.

Lancaster City Council has published an internal audit report into its £8m five-year deal with building contractors HT Forrest covering improvements to its council houses.

The council came under fire in September for accepting a £341,000 bill from Forrest for pebbledashing 60 council and privately-owned flats in Hala.

Leaseholders who had bought their council flats, but were still liable to pay, were hit with £5,000 bills and branded the charges “outrageous”.

The audit report highlights misunderstandings, communication problems and gaps in skills and knowledge among council staff, as well as incomplete records.

It says that while Forrest had initially proposed improving service delivery, achieving efficiencies and reducing costs, the council had not pursued this.

The report says that the council may not be achieving value for money from the partnership and that management of it could be improved.

It reveals that a “misunderstanding” between the two parties had led Forrest to presume that the council would pay an agreed maximum sum for work, subject to agreed variations, irrespective of the actual costs.

See the Lancaster Guardian (01-12-11) for full story.