The meeting of Bristol City Council’s Audit Committee on Friday to sign off the authority’s accounts for the year 2007-08 will soon be the trigger for a very handy piece of legislation indeed for you dear reader, citizen and voter.
The legislation in question is sections 14, 15 and 16 of the Audit Commission Act 1998 as amended. And here’s roughly what it says:
Your right to inspect the accounts:
The ACA 1998 – section 15(1)
At each audit under this Act, other than an audit of of a health service body, any persons interested may:
(a) inspect the accounts to be audited and all books, deeds, contracts, bills, vouchers and receipts relating to them, and
(b) make copies of all or any part of the accounts and those other documents.
And what this means dear reader, citizen and voter is that for a period of twenty days the city council must release every receipt, invoice and scrap of paper relating to any aspect of their accounts on request.
And, what’s more, dear reader, citizen and voter there are NO LEGAL EXEMPTIONS to this. That means no hiding behind ‘commercial confidentiality’, personal privacy or legal privilege for the city council. Everything must be released!
And what that means dear reader, citizen and voter is that you are entitled to find out in glorious technicolour detail what those profligate jackasses at the Council House have spent our money on.
That’s anything from wages, salaries, expenses, redundancy payments and sickness pay to how much they’ve really handed to First Bus and Sita Services. You can find out the real value of fees paid to their endless merry-go-round of consultants. You can see their receipts for hospitality, catering, hotels, transport and gifts. Or you could enquire how much that glossy leaflet full of lies cost to put through you door.
And of course you can also find out their real income from fees such as parking, library fines, recycling charges, council tax collection charges, care charges or any of the other charges that they now seem to be introducing on a weekly basis.
What an opportunity! Enjoy.