Reputational damage issue to the fore as opposition again question £800,000 spend on accountants with no guarantees

By Nub News Reporter

30th Nov 2023 | Local News

Reputational damage: Was council leader Andrew Jefferies right to back PwC on the basis of its accounting performance record?
Reputational damage: Was council leader Andrew Jefferies right to back PwC on the basis of its accounting performance record?

THE leader of Thurrock Council has been mocked by political rivals for his continued backing of plans to spend £800,000 on experts from accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) – particularly over his latest claim that the company would not fail Thurrock because of their fear of 'reputational damage'.

A cursory search of social media and news websites offsets that believe as PwC have a significant history or mistakes and botched accounts filing against their name.

That's a fact picked up today (Thursday, 30 November) by Labour opposition members who has issued a statement renewing their concern that the money spent on PwC is too much – and is being handed over with no guarantees.

It says: "Once again management of the public purse is questioned as Thurrock Council, under the Conservative Party's control, has opted to funnel a staggering £800,000 into PwC's coffers for a mere 22 weeks of service.

"This decision comes as the council grapples with the task of unearthing £5.2 million in savings for the impending 2024/2025 budget.

"Despite a year-long liaison with PwC, the council seems unfazed by the exorbitant price tag attached to their services.

"A whopping £800,000 has been pledged for an undertaking with no guaranteed success, leaving a bitter taste of financial imprudence."

Thurrock Labour have questioned why the Thurrock Conservatives has resorted to external entities like PwC rather than relying on its own members and officers to identify necessary savings?

At yesterday's full council meeting, Labour's Cllr Martin Kerin, chair of the council's corporate overview and scrutiny committee, challenged the Tory Leader of the Council, Cllr Andrew Jefferies on the issue.

He asked: "Can the portfolio holder could shed light on the rationale behind selecting PwC to assist the council in identifying savings? Is there confidence that this represents genuine value for money?"

In response, Cllr Jeffries said: "I think PwC are doing a good job. They're coming forward with some sensible savings for us. We're putting in place monthly checks being monitored by officers with actions if slippage starts.

"We are upskilling staff leaders for the future so they can learn from what PwC have recommended moving forward."

Cllr Jefferies concluded by saying he believes there would be considerable reputational damage to PwC if they fail to find savings.

However, Labour have pointed out PwC is not a stranger to reputational damage.

PwC is no stranger to damning headlines over the quality of its work.

Its statement continues: "Over the last couple of years PwC not just in the UK has been under scrutiny for its accounting and auditing failures.

"We have seen this failing across both the public and private sector.

"This failure to provide a coherent rationale, his evasion only strengthened the scepticism shrouding this decision."

Cllr Kerin added: "After grilling the Conservative Leader, Thurrock's residents will have heard that there is no guarantee that PwC will provide the £5m of savings still required for the 2024/25 budget.

"Despite shelling out £800k for 22 weeks work, Thurrock Council could still be left in the position of having a savings shortfall. 

"Thurrock's residents deserve certainty - it appears that this expensive contract falls far short of that!" 

     

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