An audit conducted last month at Cambridge City Council has revealed that a significant sum of money in the organisation’s finances has been left unaccounted for.
The financial review, which was undertaken by the firm Ernst and Young, was ordered by Chief Executive Antoinette Jackson, who asked the company to investigate the council’s funds after suspecting a serious problem in the Finances department at the beginning of December. Her doubts were confirmed when it was discovered that the council budget was short by £2,300,000.
The news that the budget forecasts for the coming year require being altered by more than two million pounds will mean that the council will have to make economic cuts for 2013. These savings will come at a difficult time, as they arrive at the same time as proposed cuts by the Liberal Democrats, who intend to make savings of £7 million over the next four years.
The external assessment has also forced the Council to delay the publication of a report outlining its financial package for 2013. The budget plan, which would normally be made available several days before Christmas, has been delayed due to the ongoing investigation, which aims to shed light on the circumstances surrounding the catalogue of financial errors that have beset the Council. In the coming weeks, the auditors hope to uncover what caused the loss of the money, the impact of the loss and whether any lessons can be learned from it to protect the Council in the future.
Cllr. Lewis Herbert explained that the Council “has to make the right financial and council service decisions for residents. Labour Councillors will oppose any attempt to rush through a quick fix budget or one which doesn’t address all the issues fully. The budget process has already been delayed by three weeks to allow Ernst and Young to investigate the serious financial problems, and we are determined that sufficient time must be given to their implications and will strongly challenge all short-sighted measures including excessive raids on council reserves.”
Emily Handley – News Reporter