CONCERNS have been raised over a lack of audit staff at West Berkshire Council (WBC) being unable to ‘see in every shadowy corner’.

The results of the council’s internal audit were discussed on July 29 at a meeting of the governance and ethics committee. 

Councillor James Cole (Con, Hungerford & Kintbury) said: “It has gone from 10 to five to four. I would be very unhappy if we were to drop from four to three.”

Cllr Cole said he had already highlighted the importance of preventing reducing the number of audit staff two years ago. 

He said: “I personally would be extremely unhappy if it dropped again.” 

Andy Walker, head of finance at WBC, said: “We have to make the best use of our limited [resources]. We would try and cover what we deem the higher risk areas.”

Cllr Steve Masters (Green, Newbury Speen) said: “That’s only going to get worse if there’s fewer staff. Surely, there should be pressure from this committee to increase staff. 

“A few years down the line and there’s potentially a major scandal — staff aren’t going to be able to see in every shadowy corner what’s going on.

“We should be putting upward pressure on the executive.” 

Jenny Gillhespey, the council’s audit manager, said she had suggested recruiting an additional person to the team, to go from four staff members to five. 

Ms Gillhespey wrote in a report to the committee that audits are taking longer, and may have to less frequent due to the lack of staff.

She said: “The reduction of the team over the last few years has resulted in a longer time frame between audit reviews. 

“If there is no change in the audit resource, this will therefore result in the audit frequencies needing to be revisited and extended.”