After tossing and turning for the last twelve months grappling with the possibility that something was not right in the subterranean world of Reading Borough Council’s (RBC) accounts department, the council’s audit & governance committee have woken up with a start. Things are not getting better; they are getting worse.
Courtesy of the “Reading-on-Thames Festival“, which is sadly a misstatement when clearly Reading’s whole history is based on the River Kennet, came free culture in the form Reading Between the Lines Theatre Company’s play The Life and Death of Reading’s King. For the lucky 700 ticket holders on the night of 15 September this was a history making moment.
When I was a child, my mother once smacked me for throwing a piece of orange peel out of the car window. Smacking children has long since been banned but littering (and even worse, fly tipping) is now endemic in the UK. Say what you like about Europe, but you’d be hard pushed to find cities and countryside on the other side of the channel that are as rubbish-strewn, unsightly and unloved as their British counterparts.
By John Dearing.
Early in 1980 I wanted to move from Maidenhead to Reading, where houses were cheaper. I contacted an estate agent and one Saturday in May I collected details of four properties, three of which were in Katesgrove. After the usual laborious process of house purchase, I moved to Sherman Road in October 1980. By 2015 more than half my life had been spent at this address.
Reading Full Council Meeting
28 March 2017
I will try to succinctly sum up this meeting, drawing out any local interest matters to our readers on Katesgrove Hill. All resolutions and motions were accepted unanimously except one. I will start with the most fascinating agenda item.
Anyone growing up in Katesgrove, Whitley & Tilehurst will be aware of the Reading accent, even though the accent has been bred out of most of Reading folk to be replaced by Thames mockney. These three areas retain some of the country burr and poetic rolling vowels of the Reading brogue often used when ordering larrrdy cake !
Curtain up at Reading borough’s council meeting and the cast, chorus and audience stood for the entry of the mayor. As the mace-bearer struggled to balance his apparently weighty (4.5kg) ceremonial insignia, stagehands scurried hither and thither to find the right props to support it before the performance could start. This council meeting was a dress rehearsal for the opening of Reading Borough Council’s (RBC’s) 2017/18 season and ‘the best we can do in the circumstances’ had not started well.
Reading Borough Council (RBC) was one of 16 local authorities where auditors were unable to give an opinion on accounts by the statutory deadline of 30 September 2016. This information is given in a report issued by Public Sector Audit Appointments (PSAA), the body responsible for appointing auditors to local authorities (LAs) and other public bodies.
Last week, Reading Borough Council’s (RBC) interim finance director Rachel Musson warned of the inadequacy of the council’s reserves and the need to take urgent action to reduce spending in 2018/19 and 2019/20. If steps were not taken by the deadline set, she would be required to issue an ‘s114’ report; a serious process which prevents all but RBC’s finance director from authorising new council commitments. A ‘written recommendation’ from the auditors to the council has been published this week.
The MP for Reading East, Rob Wilson, voted in parliament in February to give the prime minister power to trigger ‘article 50’ that begins the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. There was the briefest of Twitter storms at about the same time whether the Reading East constituency had voted to leave or to remain in the EU, and whether Rob Wilson was representing his constituents.
Some years are defined by great songs, some by great personalities, some by great tragedies. This year has been alarming both nationally and internationally, but on the oft-ignored local level, the year was defined by the sound of the tide going out on civic society. The world clearly has bigger problems than the damage wrought by the tortured thrashing of Reading Borough Council as it gets strangled by central government, but one can only be dismayed at the prospect of more of the same next year, exacerbated by the council’s difficulty in controlling its finances.
A Whitley Pump opinion
Much was made by the audit & governance committee on 18 November of the problems caused by the transition from the previous auditors, KPMG, to the new ones, Ernst & Young, who were appointed by the Audit Commission to audit Reading Borough Council (RBC) for the next three years.