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Audit Commission

Volume 553: debated on Monday 12 November 2012

2. What progress his Department has made on developing proposals to reform the Audit Commission. (127612)

The Government are abolishing the Audit Commission. I am aware that in the past my hon. Friend has raised cases—and there are others—of where the auditor’s costs have been high in relation to the objections raised. That is why we have included provisions in a draft Bill to make it absolutely clear that the auditor has discretion to reject

“frivolous, repeated or vexatious objections.”

I am sure that my residents in Swettenham will be relieved to hear the Minister’s reply. Will he confirm that, under the new approach, there will be a role to play for local district auditors in better holding council expenditure to account?

Yes. Importantly, with local district auditors, we have clear, local accountability to ensure that scandals such as Labour-run Corby’s £47 million Cube simply do not go unnoticed by residents.

Is the Minister aware that the Audit Commission has fine, dedicated staff, many of whom have laboured under the uncertainty of not knowing whether they would have employment in future? What are we doing to look after those very good staff? Is he not aware that local auditors are very often more prone to corruption? How will he deal with that?

That is an extraordinary comment to make about local external auditors, who have already shown local council savings of around 40%, which is part of the savings we can see for local councils, which they need to make. I met the new chairman of the Audit Commission recently. He is working with the teams, which are working well, towards the wind-down that will save this country around £650 million.