The woman appointed to check Shaftesbury Town Council’s books, paperwork and procedures has commended the authority follow its recent changes.
In a letter to the Town Hall, Internal Auditor Eleanor Green wrote, “The Council is now on a sound footing to help the residents and electors of the parish.” She added, “I must compliment the officers and members of the Council for the significant, positive changes that have been effected over the last year.”
Town Clerk, Claire Commons explained that all local councils undertake both an internal audit and external audit. These exercises ensure that staff and councillors are acting within local government rules relating to governance, finances and record keeping. The process could be compared with a school Ofsted inspection, Claire says.
“In the past there have been times when it has been a stressful undertaking knowing that the auditor is coming in,” Claire explains.
Eleanor Green has worked with Shaftesbury Council over the past 3 years. Her latest report has highlighted some areas for improvement. The Council has most of its money held in a current account. Claire says that staff will now look to invest it ‘more wisely’ in order to increase the financial return. “Eleanor always picks up something we can improve upon and we learn from it, so it is a constantly improving trend,” says Claire.
Councillors publicly praised Claire’s recent work when the auditor’s letter was shared in the council meeting. Claire says it was ‘very kind of them,’ but she believes that the success is ‘very much a team effort,’ adding that ‘the whole council has made this change. I couldn’t do what I am doing here without the support of the councillors. I am hoping that the councillors, wouldn’t be able to do it without the direction and vision of the officers,” she says.
Claire says that this recognition has been a career highlight. Her goal is to have Shaftesbury Town Council recognised as an ‘exemplar council.’
Shaftesbury Town Council’s success will soon be in the spotlight within local government circles. Claire has been asked to share her experiences of restructuring the council’s operations with her counterparts across the country.
She has been asked to write an article for a local government journal. The Town Council has introduced ‘lead’ councillors. Individual members cannot act on behalf of the authority, but they can draw in specific expertise from the within the community. “We have restructured to make us more accessible,” says Claire.
Her article will appear in the September edition of the Clerk magazine, which is published as a reference for town clerks.