Questions about the "People's Audit" campaign group have been raised following information released by Lambeth council. The information, including responses to Freedom of Information requests and a letter from the council’s chief executive, have raised serious questions about the accuracy and transparency of the work of the "People's Audit".
A Freedom of Information Request (data available here) has revealed further evidence that a key report by the group (claiming that Lambeth increased the number of council staff earning high salaries by almost 400) was completely inaccurate. The figures used by the group were made up of teachers, who the council doesn’t set the pay for. The "People's Audit" were made aware of this almost two months ago - but have refused to correct the claim and continue to use it.
The council has also released a further rejection of a "People's Audit" report into a procurement issue at Fenwick estate by the council's chief executive. Their report claimed that the council should accept the lowest possible bid for vital work on one of Lambeth's council estates - without paying any attention to quality or even if the bid was practical. The complaint has been investigated and rejected by the council’s chief executive.
Information on the council’s website also shows that the "People's Audit" claims about financial management were investigated by the council's independent auditors and 18 out of 20 were rejected (with two more still to be finalised). Many of the claims were rejected in an eight page letter sent to the “People’s Audit” over six months ago - but the group have never revealed this or released this correspondence. The information also refers to correspondence between the independent auditors and the “People’s Audit” stretching back to 2016 – yet this material has never been released by the group.
Cllr Paul McGlone said: "These latest revelations cast serious doubt about the motives and credibility of the "People's Audit". Major claims have been made with no evidence and when claims have been proven wrong, they have refused to correct them. They have released false reports based on partial figures without giving the council a chance to clarify them and have even refused meetings with the council’s lead for Finance, while at the same time claiming they haven't been able to meet anyone from the council.
We'll always work with residents to continue to improve how the council works for local people as there is always more to do. But to release a report alleging financial mismanagement without evidence or revealing correspondence between them and the independent auditors that directly contradicts that, smacks of a partisan attempt to mislead residents. Sadly, this is what we're coming to expect from Lambeth's Green party*, who are very involved in the group, and have resorted to increasingly desperate accusations and false claims as the local elections come closer.
The "People's Audit" should correct their false claims and, if they truly believe in transparency, release all the correspondence they have received including those which rebutted their claims."
*The "People's Audit" was set up by a Lambeth Green councillor and is made up of several individuals who are standing for election for the Green party in May.