By David Brownsey-Joyce
I feel like it’s an end of season clearance sale. Everyday it’s a new story on department cuts and job losses across the country and now we have the Audit Commission added to the quango bonfire, as the Coalition Government seeks to balance the books by making tough cuts.
The Comprehensive Spending Review isn’t published until October and until then we won’t know exactly how bad the cuts are going to be and where but in the meantime we have local authorities taking the lead in announcing job losses across the board, with the exception of frontline services.
At the end of the day it’s a delicate balancing act, as though the entire country were walking a tightrope, too much one way or the other and we fall.
During these unpredictable times the Government needs to come up with some creative solutions to the problems that it faces, and the axe seems to be the weapon of choice for this Government. They are not holding anything back in their search for solutions to financial problems and a small £50 million could be saved by the abolishing of the Audit Commission, according to the Government.
The loss of the Audit Commission, which will be wound up by the end of 2012, could be a masterstroke or it could be a complete disaster. Ultimately it is time that will tell and unfortunately local authorities and those that they serve will be the ones to find out.
The decision by Eric Pickles, the Minister for Local Government to announce the abolition of the Audit Commission brings to an end an organisation that, while not perfect, was one that led individuals to strive to make their authorities better; authorities should not need a bogeyman to force them to do this but that’s what the Audit Commission was.
You could probably see the writing on the wall for the Audit Commission after Eric Pickles vetoed the £240,000 pay deal for the new chief executive earlier in the year and then followed that up by announcing that Monitor’s responsibilities in the healthcare sector would increase, thereby taking it away from the Audit Commission.
Now instead the auditing of local authorities will be put out to tender and applications will be welcome from the private sector, the National Audit Office will be in charge overall for auditing. Could this lead to more competition and the best auditing companies taking over? That’s what Eric Pickles is hoping, and with the Audit Commission’s latest accounts showing it received more than £175 million in audit fees that would certainly suggest that the private sector would be interested.
Now that the Audit Commission has been put to the sword it is time for Eric Pickles to swing the axe again as he and the rest of the coalition look to continue in their race to create a form of Government at rock bottom prices. Michael Gove is clearly in the lead with his axing of the £55 billion Building Schools for Future programme but there are plenty of other areas still to consider. We can all only hope that they don’t get too carried away and do something we will all live to regret.