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Council bosses hit back over 'misleading' accounts report for Lincolnshire parish

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: September 18, 2012

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Village council bosses have defended their accounting after they were named and shamed by a watchdog.

An Audit Commission report shows that in the 10 years since 2001/02, no agreed accounts were issued on time in Fillingham, near Gainsborough.

The tiny parish group was not alone in being singled out in the Audit Commission's Auditing the Accounts 2010/11 Parish Councils Report.

Saxilby with Ingleby Parish Council was late in publishing audited accounts with details of how it used taxpayers' cash from 2008/09 to 2010/11.

Andrew Carter, chairman of Fillingham Parish Meeting, said: "I'm conscious that, as chairman, I have been lacking in getting the annual returns to the Audit Commission's accountants, but our accounts are overseen internally.

"The last return was sent to the Audit Commission in 2008 and we are catching up.

"We have an income of about £3,000 a year and the question of raising a precept each year and what the money is spent on is discussed in public.

"There's no issue of any overspend or anyone unhappy about where it's all gone. It's not correct to say there's nothing been done for 10 years."

A parish meeting performs the same role as a parish council in smaller areas. Fillingham Parish Meeting receives £38 a year in council tax from each band D household.

In all, six Lincolnshire parishes were among 14 nationally which failed to produce by the September 30 deadline for three years or more.

Councillor Peter Odam, chairman of Saxilby with Ingleby Parish Council, said the report must be taken in context.

He said: "The report is slightly misleading in that it could be construed that we have still not submitted our returns, which is not the case.

"We agree they were late, primarily due to the additional size that we had grown to with the increase in precept and it took our accounting systems time to catch up.

"We received a Public Interest report for year ending March 31, 2010 as this was the second year we were late and this was accepted and discussed by us at the time.

"Measures were then put in place to tighten up on the issues they raised. The 2012 return was submitted within the time limit, although we have still had no feedback or agreement from the Audit Commission some three months later.

"Our financial systems are now sufficiently robust to enable us to submit future returns on time.

"Yes, we had problems, but we have now corrected and installed systems to enable us to fully comply with Government requirements. We run a very open system. We hold a specific finance meeting monthly, which is open to the public, and publish financial spending details on our website."

Parish council spending in Saxilby is about £130,000 annually and includes after school clubs, running the community centre, grass cutting and litter and dog waste bins.

Fenton Parish Council, near Torksey, was also late with its returns for three years.

Clerk Shirley Shaw said: "Sometimes they're late because the auditors sit on them for some reason."

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