Council progress but still underlying issues
Berwick Town Council is making progress but more needs to be done as it moves on from its problems of the past.
That is the view of clerk Gareth Davies in an update to Northumberland County Council’s standards committee.
Regular feedback was a recommendation of the Hoey Ainscough report looking into the culture and operation of the town council.
The report covered councillor conduct and issues such as the keeping of records, management of meetings and the quality of decision making.
Mr Davies says that many of the issues have been addressed, such as the focus on decisions being made on the basis of written reports and the insistence on minutes being an accurate record of decisions made.
“It is important not to overlook the substantial progress council has made; an annual audit was successfully completed, and two lawful budgets have now been set, with increasing levels of public consultation and openness,” said Mr Davies. “Council is able to conduct its business in public, in an atmosphere where members of the public routinely contribute to debates.
“Similarly, council has moved to a much clearer and more transparent system of accounting, setting aside previous practices that meant substantial sums of income were not reported or accounted for in an appropriate fashion. Council has resolved to undertake a review of its financial regulations in order to make them more fit for purpose, and fitting to the size of the organisation.”
However, he notes many features that contributed to previous difficulties remain.
“The feeling that Berwick is overlooked by remote governance structures is still commonplace, and founded in some part on experience,” reports Mr Davies. “It is hard not to sense that some of the fractious nature of civil society in Berwick in the period 2013-16 was rooted in a justified sense that power was remote, diffuse, and not responsive to the needs of the town.”