Evan Davis was on good form during this morning’s Today Programme while quizzing Bob Neill, local government minister, over the scrapping of the Audit Commission.
In particular, his questioning over whether private auditors – who are set to take on the function of the AC – would not also provide “bagels” at meetings was a joy.
(The commission has been taken to task for its apparent extravagence in recent weeks, including an annual £40,000 on bagels).
Neill said he was confident that costs will fall as a result of introducing more competition. In particular there would no longer be a 5 per cent surcharge on audit fees which currently goes to the AC’s central “corporate” costs.
But how will members of the public know if and when it becomes cheaper? (Let alone whether it is more or less rigorous?)
At present, according to page 11 of this document, there is a charging structure with 12 different tiers imposed by the commission. For example:
District councils are charged £133,000 plus 0.011 per cent of planned gross expenditure. For Met boroughs it’s £200,000 plus 0.019 per cent. Et cetera.
Are the private audit firms (and possibly a privatised Audit Commission) going to break down their costs in exactly the same way so they can be contrasted precisely? Besides which one would be comparing apples and pears given that the commission’s central running costs will no longer exist.
So who is going to compare the before and after costs? It’s obviously not going to be the Audit Commission, is it? Anyone else? The LGA? The NAO? No one?