THE leader of Reading Borough Council has said she will not be stepping down from a governing committee after auditors warned her membership should be reconsidered.

Jo Lovelock, leader of the council, and Tony Page, deputy leader, sit on the Audit and Governance Committee, contrary to guidance from The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA).

Auditors Ernst & Young wrote to the council warning them of the breach.

"We identified that both the Leader and Deputy Leader are members of the Audit & Governance Committee," they said.

"Guidance issued by CIPFA indicates that leadership of the Council should not be represented on the Committee.

"We recommend that the composition of the Committee be reviewed."

Liberal Democrat Ricky Duveen will put a motion before the council tonight (Tuesday, March 28) calling for the committee membership to be reviewed.

"Having lead councillors sitting on the committee, part of whose job is to scrutinise their own work and decisions, will not be seen by the citizens of Reading as either unbiased or independent in its role of auditing and scrutinising the work of the council," he said.

"In the interests of good governance Lead Councillors should not serve on the Audit & Governance Committee."

Cllr Lovelock said she would discuss the issue with Ernst and Young but had no intention of stepping down.

"I think the auditors are used to cabinet and scrutiny systems but we have a committee system," she said. "Our system is different.

"If I stepped down I could go along and watch but I think I should be able to take part in the debates.

"For me its like the leader for children, or education being banned from those meetings.

"Particularly this year with the change in auditors I have found it valuable to be on the committee."

The audit and governance committee is chaired by Conservative councillor David Stevens. There are no Liberal Democrat or Green councillors on the committee.