Match day car parks reports published
Liverpool City Council has published historic internal audit reports from 2015 and 2019 into the operation of match day car parks and the collection of charges.
The car parks were located on council land and operated by third party organisations.
The publication follows a decision by the Information Commissioner, who ruled that it is in the public interest to disclose the documents.
For transparency, the council is also publishing two further documents:
1: The results of an Internal Audit review in 2017, into whether the Beautiful Ideas Company (BICo) was being operated in accordance with a properly constituted Council decision. It followed a complaint from a Councillor about the use of the Walton Breck Road site as a car park.
2: A summary of the findings of the 2017 review, sent to Cllr Nick Small as the council’s representative on BICo and a Director.
A number of recommendations were made by Internal Audit. The findings and recommendations of the Internal Audit reports are indicative of general issues regarding how areas of the council operated at this time, subsequently highlighted by the Best Value Inspection in March 2021.
Since this time, the council has implemented an organisation-wide Strategic Improvement Plan and is taking significant steps to deliver the necessary improvements to strengthen governance and control arrangements and also be more transparent about its past failings.
The matters raised in the reports are those that came to Internal Audit’s attention during the course of their work. While every care has been taken to make sure the information is as accurate as possible, Internal Audit can only base their findings on the information and documentation provided to them, and the sample evidence tested, at that time. In line with standard audit practice, Internal Audit undertakes sample testing and aims to provide reasonable assurance about risk management, governance and control processes. Its findings are not intended as a comprehensive statement of all the weaknesses that existed, or of all the improvements that may be needed. These reports were produced solely for the internal use and benefit of Liverpool City Council.
2015 report, which the ICO has required we disclose
This report looked at the control measures in place around the collection, storage and accounting of income for the car park on Priory Road and the governance arrangements for the use of any income received.
- Acceptable controls and compliance for the processes for collecting and recording income
- Acceptable controls and compliance relating to accounting methods to ensure that income was identifiable
- Limited controls and good compliance of the governance procedures to authorise the use of income
- Good controls and compliance in the use of governance procedures in relation to money received
It made a series of recommendations, including:
- Improvements to the recording of the banking of cash
- Financial system changes
- Annual review of governance procedures
- Extending access to banking records
- Introduction of clear guidance for the approval of award funding
- Ensuring council staff working in the car park declare it as an interest
Read the 2015 report: https://liverpool.gov.uk/media/1361789/report-1-anfield-car-park-investigation-july-2015_redacted.pdf
2017 report and separate summary sent to Cllr Nick Small, which we are disclosing voluntarily
This report looked at whether the Beautiful Ideas CIC was being operated in accordance with a properly constituted council decision relating to accounts of and records of its revenue and expenditure in relation to the Walton Breck Road car park, and how the funds were reinvested for the benefit of the local community.
It made a series of recommendations, including:
- Obtaining regular financial and performance information
- The introduction of formal records related to pay and expenses for staff
- Introducing processes such as numbered tickets to demonstrate that all match day income had been collected
Read the 2017 report: https://liverpool.gov.uk/media/1361791/audit-memorandum-2017.pdf
Read the 2017 summary, sent to Cllr Nick Small: https://liverpool.gov.uk/media/1361792/audit-memorandum-to-cllr-nick-small-2017.pdf
2019 report, which the ICO has required we disclose
This report looked at car park income, investments and governance by BICo. It found that almost all of the recommendations relating to the audit in 2015 had been implemented. The only outstanding issue was related to record keeping relating to the collection of match day income, but as the car parks were no longer operating it was no longer required.
It identified the following matters for consideration:
- The governance and monitoring relationship between the Authority and BICo was limited.
- It is recommended that the Council considers ensuring that there are sufficient policies and procedures in place to ensure that any such future relationships are appropriately monitored, and that any nominated representatives from the Council (either officers or Members) are fully aware of their responsibilities.
- Some of the income earned from use of the Walton Breck Road Car Park has not yet been invested in social enterprises by BICo as agreed with the City Council in July 2015. The Council should consider whether it wishes to request the return of funds that have yet to be invested, and take appropriate legal advice should this be the case. For further information, please see FAQs.
- It is recommended that the Council explore all potential options with regards to the running and management of the site post the completion of the tender exercise for the management of the site until the completion of the current football/ concert season in June 2019. Advice should be sought from all relevant departments including Legal Services, Parking Services and PAMS (Property Asset Management Service).
- Lessons learned from the above should be applied where relevant to ensure the outputs from such car park sites are in line with the Council’s overarching aims and objectives and relevant monitoring and feedback to the Council on the requirements of any lease or licence agreements.
- Should the Council enter into similar arrangements in the future, consideration should be given to the aims of such investments/ awards and due to the nature of target recipients, consideration should be given to the criteria to be applied.
Read the 2019 report: https://liverpool.gov.uk/media/1361790/report-2-beautiful-ideas-compant-draft-v10-260619-no-comments_redacted.pdf
Frequently Asked Questions
What happens now?
The car parks have now closed and the Council understands that BICo is in the process of being wound up. The council does not have any jurisdiction to do anything further in relation to the other external parties named in the reports.
The council’s Monitoring Officer will review whether any further action under the Code of Conduct for Members, is appropriate including consideration of any previous action taken.
What do I do if I have further questions about the BICo?
The BICo is a separate entity to Liverpool City Council. Any questions need to be directed to the organisation itself, or related governing bodies and funders.
Did Liverpool City Council seek to reclaim the £53,347 from the Walton Breck Road car park, identified in the 2019 report?
The council was in ongoing dialogue in relation to unallocated balances held. However, having sought legal advice on the licenses held between the Council and BICo for the running of the car park, it was identified that recovery of any balances held would not be possible. Further, the Regulator of Community Interest Companies has confirmed that upon winding up of a CIC, any assets must be transferred to a “similar” organisation. For these reasons, the council is not able to reclaim funds.
Why did you not publish the reports when requested under the Freedom of Information Act?
Generally, organisations do not routinely publish internal audit reports. We accept the ICO’s decision however in this case and are complying with the ruling and additional documents referenced in the reports to promote transparency.
Moving forward, we plan to bring a summary of the findings of recent internal audit reports to meetings of the Audit Committee.
Why did you not publish the reports immediately following the ruling?
We have complied with the statutory timescale of publishing within 35 days. We used this period to follow the Commissioner’s guidance in relation to redacting some parts of the reports and identify if it would be appropriate to disclose further documentation. Given the public interest in the reports, we have given organisations and individuals named a reasonable opportunity to view them before publication.