Councils merge audit

Three North Yorkshire local authorities are confident of gainingbining teams. external auditing work following the merger of their internal audit services as part of a best value pilot project.

Scarborough borough council and Ryedale and Selby district councils announced last week that their internal audit teams would be combined from April 1999. The scheme is one of six partnership pilot projects under the government’s best value initiative.

The North Yorkshire audit partnership is intended to offer a greater depth of professional expertise and flexibility to cope with budgetary pressures and the introduction of best value at the authorities.

According to Martin Drydale, financial adviser and consortium spokesman for Scarborough council, the partnership will be able to expand in the future, including a possible move towards undertaking external audit work.

‘We will be looking longer term to work with other authorities,’ Drydale said. ‘Voluntary competitive tendering arrangements could allow us to bid for services in other areas and authorities can come to us to ask for our services. We may even be looking at the private sector and at health authorities.’

There will be no job losses as a result of the merger. About 12 jobs currently exist across the consortium with three posts vacant. It is likely that these vacant positions will remain unfilled as part of the ‘natural wastage’ before any future expansion.

John Patten, Ryedale’s deputy chief executive, said: ‘As one of the smallest districts in North Yorkshire, the partnership will offer us a greater depth of professionalism and flexibility at reduced cost.

‘We are looking forward to the opportunity perhaps to work with other local authorities in the area. There is obviously an opportunity to help out other councils and maybe even undertake external auditing for other organisations.’

Speaking at the launch of the schemes, local government minister Hilary Armstrong, said: ‘I want to create conditions where the private and voluntary sectors can work with local government to deliver quality services at a competitive price.

‘The best value pilots and the partnership networks will together play a valuable role in shaping the framework to ensure just that.’

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