A city MP who has been looking into funding arrangements for Bristol’s European Green Capital, and who sits on the Parliamentary committee that oversees value for taxpayers, says rules used to ensure accountability for public funding need to be re-written to make them more robust.
Over recent months, as Bristol South MP and Public Accounts Committee (PAC) member, Karin Smyth MP, has been probing the arrangements that were used to spend Bristol Green Capital funding, following local concerns about a lack of transparency.
“I have been asking questions about Bristol Green Capital funding directly of the Council’s Chief Executive, and of the directors of the company that was established to administer Green Capital, and I have been dismayed at the responses I have received,” she says.
“I have also been in direct contact with the National Audit Office to raise the concerns about Green Capital funding that many Bristol residents have expressed.
“I am not suggesting there has been any breach of rules, but it has become clear to me that long-standing existing arrangements to monitor accountability for public money have become outdated, and need to be re-written to make them more robust and fit-for-purpose.
“The Public Accounts Committee is responsible for following the taxpayer’s pound wherever it ends up, regardless of the route it has taken.
“The Committee’s recent report Accountability to Parliament for taxpayers’ money has highlighted the need for regulation on these matters to keep pace with the changing times,” Karin Smyth added.
Amongst the conclusions and recommendations of the report, published on 4 May 2016, were that:
Accountability to Parliament for the use of public funds has been weakened by the failure of the government’s accountability arrangements to keep pace with increasingly complex ways of delivering policies and services. The growing use of complex delivery methods, such as devolution to local areas, outsourced contracts, government companies and cross-cutting initiatives, has often not been accompanied by clarity over accountability arrangements.
Chair of PAC, Meg Hillier MP, added: “Taxpayers are entitled to know how their money is spent and whether they are getting good value, and Karin Smyth has raised Bristol Green Capital funding with me as an example of the sort of complex arrangements now used to deliver and administer services.
“This increasing complexity is undermining Parliament’s ability to hold the Government to account, and accountability is important because taxpayers’ money is taxpayers’ money wherever it originates and wherever it ends up.”
Karin Smyth added: “Taxpayers across Bristol will join me in welcoming new mayor Marvin Rees’ announcement of a review of the arrangements used for Bristol Green Capital.”