A LACK of progress in improving how the council manages its properties has been called ‘very weak’ by auditors. 

How West Berkshire Council manages its properties, like schools and libraries, was previously called ‘very weak’ in 2018.  

That was by Julie Gillhespey, the council’s internal audit manager. She made several recommendations about how the property database and asset management strategy could be improved. 

Recently, the auditors did two follow-up reviews, to check how well those suggestions had been put in place. 

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But Ms Gillhespey said: “Unfortunately, in both cases the follow-up review concluded that unsatisfactory progress had been made to implement the agreed recommendations.”

She made the comments in a report to the governance and ethics committee, which will meet on November 25. The details of those reviews and recommendations have been kept confidential. 

Elsewhere, two other areas of the council have been found to be ‘weak’: purchasing adult social care and Section 106 money. 

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Ms Gillhespey said there was a lack of clear recording in both checking new care providers, and finding suitable accommodation. 

Section 106 money is paid by property developers to local councils to fund improving infrastructure and local public services. 

But it is unclear how effectively the council monitors this money, and there is no specific group who oversees the fund of developer contributions. 

Ms Gillhespey said: “We are reliant on developers informing us when contributions are due, rather than being proactive with carrying out site visits.” 

Other recent audits, which were found to be good include: unaccompanied asylum seeking children, public transport and Theale primary school. 

A recent freedom of information request —asking for the audits on unaccompanied asylum seeking children, Theale primary, and procurement cards — was refused on the controversial Section 36 grounds. 

This is because disclosure would ‘likely prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs and inhibit the giving of open and honest advice to the auditors’. 

The council’s refusal letter said: “Disclosure of the auditor’s detailed findings is likely to identify areas of weakness which could, in some cases, increase the risks to the council.”