Councillors slam cabinet member over late accounts filing, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter
The councillor in charge of finance has faced renewed calls to quit after it was revealed late accounts are set to cost Enfield Council an extra £100,000.
Opposition groups criticised Mary Maguire, the cabinet member for finance, for failing to show up to a committee meeting to face questions on the accounts, which are now several months overdue.
But council leader Nesil Caliskan defended her colleague, saying cabinet members are not required to attend the meeting – and accused Conservative councillors of “trying to score weak political points”.
The Tories first called on Cllr Maguire to step down in November after learning the accounts would be late for the third year in a row. At last week’s general purposes committee, it was revealed the 2019/20 accounts have still not been fully audited – costing the council an extra £100,000 in fees.
Photos posted on social media appeared to show Cllr Maguire out campaigning ahead of local elections last Thursday evening.
Tory leader Joanne Laban said: “The fact that the cabinet member for finance could not be bothered to turn up to be held to account for her department’s failings really shows this Labour administration’s arrogance, because quite frankly she should resign for this appalling record.”
Dino Lemonides, a former cabinet member for finance who later quit Labour to join opposition group Community First, said he would have been asked to step down from his role if he had “presided over such a debacle”.
Enfield Council’s 2019/20 accounts were originally due to be signed off by the end of August 2020, but the government extended the deadline to November because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A council report states that more than half of local authorities failed to meet the November deadline, and almost one-in-three have still not had their accounts signed off.
Cllr Caliskan said: “No cabinet member is a member of the general purposes committee and therefore not required to attend.
“The Conservative councillors know this full well and are simply trying to score weak political points.”
An Enfield Council spokesperson said: “Enfield Council places the highest possible importance on delivering quality financial reports backed up by robust independent audits.
“Our draft statement of accounts for the 2019/20 financial year was completed well before the statutory deadline for submission to the external auditors and was published on our website in July.
“Since the original publication of the draft accounts back in July 2020, the council has worked closely with our external auditors to support the audit of the accounts process is completed, and the council has submitted the final updated accounts to the general purposes committee on [Thursday] 22nd April.
“Our external auditors have commented that we are taking the right approach, support our endeavours to address previous years’ issues, and improve the quality of key systems.
“There are some unforeseen staffing challenges to completing this final stage of the audit. However, subject to successful resolution of outstanding audit areas, they expect to be able to issue of an unqualified opinion on the accounts and on value for money when the audit is formally completed.”