By Myles Cook
During the Audit Committee meeting at the Civic Offices last night, the issue of the report into the cost of care proceedings, which amounts to approximately £2 million, was discussed.
Questions raised about the apparent wastage of money due to, amongst other things, incomplete or missing paperwork were answered with explanations of the need for speed in emergency cases meaning staff were unable to cope with the bureaucracy in order to protect the interests of the child or children involved.
Vice Chair, cllr Martin Healy, pointed out that the report talked of lawyers “tripping over each other” and asked why this was the case. The reply was the surprising admission of high staff turnover.
Chair of the committee, cllr Tunde Ojetola, also posed questions about the apparent overspend regarding care proceeding cases. The response given was that the overspend was due to an increase in the need for the service, a picture reflected nationally and particularly in southeast England.
The high cost of cases in the period 2010/11, a massive £613,014 spent on just 28 cases, was put down to the complexity of the cases that year including the increased need for expert witnesses which drove up costs.
Discussion was had around the necessity for portfolio holders to be made aware of the contents of reports, such as the one presented, as they are the people who would ‘carry the can’ should anything go wrong.
The committee was informed that the portfolio holder was indeed in full possession of the contents and recommendations. Cllr Diana Hale, however, wondered why the portfolio holder was not on the distribution list for the report and was told that it was not actually standard procedure.
Cllr Terence Hipsey commented that he would have liked to have seen a paragraph from the portfolio holder included with the report.