Croydon Council has agreed its action plan to meet the recommendations of the Report in the Public Interest (RIPI) on the refurbishment of Fairfield Halls.
The RIPI, issued by the council’s external auditor last week, highlighted concerns around the council’s historic actions during the project, from 2016-2019. The report included 12 recommendations for the council, of which seven are statutory, and many of these are already complete or underway as part of the council’s renewal and improvement plans.
Since September 2020, the council has made major changes to the way it operates and strengthened its financial management and governance, including around Brick by Brick, with the council’s auditors noting ‘considerable improvements’ since the time referred to in the RIPI.
The council has now correctly accounted for the cost of the Fairfield Halls refurbishment so that it comes out of the council’s capital budget – which is money set aside for one-off investments such as construction projects. In addition, the council’s revenue budget also already includes the annual interest and repayment costs associated with the borrowing that funded the Fairfield Halls refurbishment.
At an extraordinary council meeting last night, members accepted the external auditor’s report and findings in full and approved an action plan to ensure that all the recommendations would be met.
The Fairfield RIPI action plan, which is available in full here, includes:
- Strengthening governance around all reports that go to cabinet for decision, ensuring that legal and financial advice is given in public, and clearly recorded to provide members with the proper assurance around all decisions, particularly major projects
- Reviewing the council’s constitution, looking at who makes decisions and how, to ensure the proper processes are followed and recorded with oversight from council committees
- Review of the council’s procurement processes to ensure they are in line with UK law
- Building on the wide-ranging work already underway through the Croydon renewal and improvement plan, to improve the culture of the organisation in relation to openness, transparency, accountability and challenge. In particular, to facilitate constructive from challenge from members, residents, officers and each other.
“Since raising concerns about the management of this project in 2020, we have improved our financial management and governance across the board.
“These significant changes we have made mean that the historic failings highlighted in our auditor’s report could not happen now – the council we were then, is not the council we are today.
“We have already addressed many of the auditor’s recommendations through our renewal plans. Our action plan sets out further measures to ensure that sound legal advice and strong governance is at the heart of all our decisions and that in everything we do, we achieve the value for money our taxpayers deserve and expect.”
Councillor Hamida Ali, leader of the council