Board members criticised in damning report

Board members criticised in damning report

Dudley Borough Council managers are failing to respond properly to recommendations from their own watchdog, a damning report has found. The alarming verdict was delivered at the first meeting of the council’s Audit and Standards Committee since the local elections on July 8.

Graham Harrison, the council’s head of audit and risk management services, said he could only provide “limited” assurance on the council’s governance, management and internal controls, which he said meant there were significant weaknesses in the authority’s management systems and how they were implemented. Mr Harrison said: “Agreed audit actions are not being addressed by management in a timely manner and in line with agreed timescales.”

He went on to say that a large proportion of assessments in council departments had a negative outcome on ‘the effectiveness of the control environment’, adding: “This has been the case for a number of years and although it has been discussed with senior management and the Audit and Standards Committee, there has been very little improvement.” The conclusions of the council’s own internal auditor support the findings of a 2023 review by the Local Government Association, which said: “There is evidence of good work within the Internal Audit Team, but there is an urgent need to ensure this is acted upon to improve the internal control and assurance environment.”

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Mr Harrison concluded that he ‘felt he had no choice but to give a negative opinion’ and found support from committee member, Cllr Shaukat Ali. Cllr Ali said: ‘You don’t have to apologise for your opinion, you have to say it like it is.

“You’re not just saying there’s a problem within the council, the problem seems to be that the message hasn’t got down through the chief executive’s office.” Councillor Jackie Cowell told Mr Harrison: “We’ve seen time and time again actions not taken, you can do the best work in the world but if they don’t pay attention to it, nothing will change.”

The committee decided to write a letter to the council’s general manager requesting a response to the report before the next meeting.