Publication of Part 2 documents


Friday, 19 January, 2024

On 25 May 2023, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities announced an intervention package and a set of Directions to ensure that Woking Borough Council was able to comply with its Best Value Duty under Part 1 of the Local Government Act 1999.  

In response to the Secretary of State’s intervention, the council established an Improvement and Recovery Plan (IRP) that identified five key themes:

  1. Financial Recovery
  2. Commercial
  3. Governance and Assurance
  4. Organisation and Service Design
  5. Housing Improvement Programme

The strategic aim of Theme 3, Governance and Assurance, is to “Ensure risk is managed and decisions are made transparently and safely, improving future decision making”.

As part of this theme, the council has undertaken a review of all Part 2 reports and documents dating back to 2016. Part 2 documents are confidential, often because they contain commercially sensitive information, as defined in Part 1 of Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972.

Normally the press and public do not have access to these documents. However, the review set out to make as many of these documents as possible publicly available in the interests of increasing council decision-making transparency and in line with the Improvement and Recovery Plan.

This review is now complete, and the council is in a position to publish these reports and documents. However, the council must have due regard to Grant Thornton’s Value for Money (VfM) review when determining publication of this information.

In June 2023, the council asked its incoming auditor, Grant Thornton UK LLP, to conduct an independent Value for Money review into governance arrangements that relate to its historic investment decisions and strategy. It is important that the council understands the decisions and actions of the past that have significantly contributed to the financial challenges it faces today.

The Grant Thornton review is currently considering the council’s governance arrangements and processes for making effective decisions in relation to investments made in the past; how risks were assessed and managed; and how decisions were scrutinised at the time those decisions were made.

Joanne Brown, Lead Engagement Partner (from the 2023-2024 financial year), Grant Thornton UK LLP, said: “We have now concluded the fieldwork for our VfM governance review and are progressing finalising the report.

“Due to the nature of our reporting, we need to undertake various consultations with interested parties before the report can be finalised and published, in line with our obligations under the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014.

“The report will be made public when it has been finalised, which is now likely to be in March 2024. We appreciate that this may be frustrating for residents of Woking, the council and other stakeholders who are keen to see the report’s findings, but the approach we are following is both important and necessary.

“We support the council’s approach to improve transparency on decision making, including publishing historic Part 2 documents, and that the timing of their publication should align to the publication of our VfM governance review report.”

Grant Thornton’s Value for Money review report and the Part 2 reports and documents will be made publicly available on the council’s website.