Audit Commission slams Pickles for inaccuracies


9:45 am - August 17th 2010

by Sunny Hundal    


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The head of the Audit Commission yesterday published a letter challenging media reports – pushed by Eric Pickles – for ‘factual inaccuracies’.

The chair Michael O’Higgins said that he was “disappointed and dismayed at misleading press reports”, which were pointed out in the letter:

The Commission was not reluctant to disclose its spending:
The Chairman wrote to the Secretary of State on 9 June offering to publish its own £500+ spending data from July. The Commission was asked by the Department of Communities and Local Government to delay publication to meet CLG’s own timetable for disclosure, on 12 August 2010. The Commission has always favoured openness, accountability and disclosure, being among the first to publish the expenses of its Chairman and Chief Executive online.

The Commission’s spending details do not show ‘days at the races’:
The Commission made payments to Newmarket racecourse for meeting and conference facilities. These were briefings for local government and NHS bodies on technical issues the might arise from the current programme of audits. The dates were not race days. Racecourse facilities often offer good value for meetings compared to hotels or conference centres. The £8,000 payment to Newmarket was for three events training 90 officers from local authorities and the NHS – around £67 a head. And not a horse in sight!

The Audit Commission did not hire a PR firm to ‘lobby’ against shadow ministers:
The Audit Commission did not pay a public affairs company to lobby shadow ministers. In January 2009, it asked Connect Public Affairs to undertake a specific piece of work called a Perceptions Audit and Influence Map, to help staff better understand the expectations of the forthcoming Comprehensive Area Assessment. This report cost £9,000 and was an assessment of views among opinion leaders across the political spectrum. It was used by communications staff and not seen by senior managers or members of the Commission Board. Neither Connect, nor any other business, has ever been asked by the Commission to ‘lobby’ anyone on its behalf.

The Commission has not forced councils to adopt fortnightly bin collections:
The Commission has only ever encouraged local authorities to review their waste management plans and rubbish collection arrangements. It is the Commission’s duty to push for maximum value for money in local services. But it holds strictly to the view that it is for local elected members to decide their own policies, which includes the frequency of bin emptying.

A report in the Financial Times today says in fact that the move was “ideological” and “the culmination of a bitter feud” between Pickles and the Commission.

In the 1980s the Audit Commission uncovered the “homes for votes” scandal, which was being run by Tory councils.

Yesterday Accountancy Age also reported that the ACCA body, which represents 13,000 workers, said the benefits of scrapping the Audit Commission would be “short-lived”.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


The Audit Commission did not pay a public affairs company to lobby shadow ministers. In January 2009, it asked Connect Public Affairs to undertake a specific piece of work called a Perceptions Audit and Influence Map, to help staff better understand the expectations of the forthcoming Comprehensive Area Assessment.

I don’t think that’s quite the allegation is it?

The Sunday Times has seen five reports written by Connect for the commission, including a six-page briefing on how a Conservative government might operate. The Tories want council services to be vetted at a local level, not by regulators based in Whitehall.

One Connect report advised the commission on how to “build support for CAA, and protect it from a potential change of government”.

It advised the watchdog to foment a rebellion in the Tory grassroots: “Many Conservative local authority leaders do not follow national party lines. Therefore there is a good opportunity for the commission to exploit any potential differences in opinion.”

It also urges the commission to put up a “strong local lobbying response in order to mitigate and combat the activities of Eric Pickles”.

Someone’s being a touch economical with the actualite…

“A report in the Financial Times today says in fact that the move was “ideological” and “the culmination of a bitter feud” between Pickles and the Commission.”

A report? Not an editorial without, so far as I could see, even naming the author?

Poor show.

3. David Boothroyd

It’s not quite the case that the Audit Commission uncovered the homes for votes scandal (which involved Westminster only, so far as I know), but they did do a great deal to help stop it and to make sure the courts held it to be illegal.

It is very odd to find the Conservatives abolishing the Audit Commission, a body created by the Thatcher government in 1982 as a way of making sure local authorities delivered value for money. Read the book ‘Follow the Money’ which is the official history of the Audit Commission for more details.

It’s not hard for me to believe that Pickles did something sneaky and dishonest.

Bear in mind this is just Pickles getting his own back. The audit commision criticised him and his regime at Bradford and now its payback time…


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Audit Commission slams Pickles for 'factual inaccuracies' http://bit.ly/aAsnio

  2. Thom Townsend

    RT @libcon: Audit Commission slams Pickles for 'factual inaccuracies' http://bit.ly/aAsnio

  3. B Latif

    RT @libcon: Audit Commission slams Pickles for 'factual inaccuracies' http://bit.ly/aAsnio

  4. joe rose

    RT @libcon: Audit Commission slams Pickles for 'factual inaccuracies' http://bit.ly/aAsnio

  5. Nick Winstone Cooper

    Enjoying Audit Commission throwing toys out of pram arguing with Pickles! http://tinyurl.com/33tkb2m Pleased my letter in The Times today

  6. yorkierosie

    Audit Commission slams Pickles for ‘factual inaccuracies’ | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/q77kiTP via @libcon

  7. yorkierosie

    RT @libcon: Audit Commission slams Pickles for 'factual inaccuracies' http://bit.ly/aAsnio

  8. Full Fact

    A couple of fact-based controversies on our radar this morning: http://bit.ly/9oIdHk and http://bit.ly/c7IzNy

  9. Tony Parkin

    RT @alanmills405: RT @yorkierosie: Audit Commission slams Pickles for ‘factual inaccuracies’ | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/q77kiTP

  10. tonyparkin

    ?????????????????HD?????????CATHERINE(?????)??PS3?Xbox360?????? http://j.mp/bB9Eo9 ????????(???)

  11. fifeman58

    #Pickles with Pork Pies. Or Pork Pies from #EricPickles http://j.mp/9iBCDl

  12. Naadir Jeewa

    Reading: Audit Commission slams Pickles for ‘factual inaccuracies’: The head of the Audit Commission yesterday pub… http://bit.ly/aqNCMN

  13. SEAN

    Audit Commission slams Pickles for ‘factual inaccuracies’ | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/rrNwsjr via @libcon

  14. Dale Bassett

    The Audit Commission hits back http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/08/17/audit-commission-slams-pickles-for-factual-inaccuracies/

  15. Nicholas Ripley

    Audit Commission slams Pickles for inaccuracies | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/Umq1nZg via @libcon





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