Tories quit Audit Committee in row over 'blocked investigations'

St Albans councillor Roger Butterworth

Conservative councillor Roger Butterworth, chairman of St Albans Council's Audit Committee, has quit alongside the rest of his group, claiming investigations were being blocked. - Credit: St Albans Council

Four Conservatives have quit St Albans district council’s audit committee, claiming investigations ordered by councillors were being blocked.

Tory leader Mary Maynard resigned alongside Julian Daly, Mark Beashel and chairman Roger Butterworth.

They claimed audits into the council’s dealings with the Business Improvement District (BID) were repeatedly blocked by officers and said they were “muzzled” over an alleged fraud.

Cllr Maynard said Cllrs Daly and Beashel in particular felt unable to continue.

“They are both chartered accountants,” she said.

“They have a code of practice with very strict rules and both said they couldn’t operate in an audit committee which is clearly breaking the rules.”

Cllr Maynard claimed Lib Dem councillors had failed to show up for audit training sessions.

The council, asked by the Herts Ad whether this was true, did not answer.

Most Read

Cllr Maynard said Tories met the chief executive on Tuesday, September 28, and made four requests: the appointment of a full-time audit manager; that an external, independent member join the committee; that all members attend mandatory training; and that officers not interfere with councillors' plans.

But Cllr Maynard claimed the council had asked for two months to consider the requests, by which time two of the remaining three meetings this political year would have already been held - so her group quit.

A council spokesperson confirmed a meeting was held between Tories, officers and representatives from two external bodies.

They said: “The issues raised by the councillors included the way that reporting of fraud should operate, the setting out of the committee’s work plan, the training of new members, a possible audit of St Albans BID and the finalising of the minutes of meetings.

“We agreed a number of actions that are now being undertaken. We will keep the audit committee and any other interested councillors informed of our progress.

“The council’s operations are audited according to our legal obligations and we aspire to high standards of governance, accountability and transparency. We are always happy to consider any suggestions for improvements.”

Lib Dem council leader Chris White last month called the Tories' threat to quit the committee "childish" and said a formal complaint would be submitted over their criticism of impartial officers.

For more, read:

Councillors threatening to quit committee say they are being 'muzzled' over alleged fraud