Porter bill tops £3m

The ten-year Westminster homes-for-votes scandal has cost the taxpayer £3.45m to date, more than a quarter of which was incurred during the past financial year, the Audit Commission revealed this week.

In its annual report and accounts, published on Tuesday, the commission said £850,000 had been spent in the last financial year by district auditor John Magill.

In addition, the commission has carried forward its litigation reserve of £936,000 ‘in view of uncertainties over the outstanding and future legal costs’.

Although the amount in the reserve has remained unchanged in the past year, carrying over the balance is a signal the commission is concerned about escalating costs for the on-going Westminster investigation.

Magill has also taken up leave to appeal to the House of Lords after former Westminster council leader Dame Shirley Porter was cleared in May by the Court of Appeal for her part in the scandal, along with her former deputy David Weeks.

Other information in the report highlights that audit fees rose by 3.9% for the year with an additional 1% increase for ‘principal’ local authorities which is intended to rebuild the commission’s local government reserves.

The National Audit Office has also published its annual report and accounts.

The Whitehall watchdog has saved the public £1.2bn over the past two years, according to its head Sir John Bourn.

The NAO audits around £600bn across 620 financial statements and has a self-imposed performance target of saving £7 for every £1 the office costs to run.

In a public sector that increasingly focused on outcomes, Sir John said it was essential that the NAO could demonstrate the impact it has by providing the taxpayer with confidence in the value for money delivered by the audit process.

Accordingly, the watchdog has now raised its target for future years to £8 for every £1 spent.

‘The NAO has had a successful year. We have provided parliament and the organisations we audit with a wealth of information on the performance of public services,’ Sir John said.

He added that the NAO had kept pace with change in the government and is well prepared to play its part in the further reforms ahead.

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