Four years ago I was asked to chair the City Hall audit panel. The committee comprises just four members and meets quarterly to review the authority's risk register and the audit plan that arise from it. We also examine each audit report and question departmental managers on the steps they take to improve processes and resolve any recommendations the auditors make.
It's an important but rather low key role, not attracting any publicity and with very little political disagreement - a good example of different parties working together. The committee also sees good examples of shared services saving the authority money. Procurement for City Hall is now handled by TfL, as are our legal services. Our payroll is operated by the Fire Authority, and audit itself is now done by the Metropolitan Police. No trumpet blowing, but we just quietly get on and save money for Londoners.
So we were surprised to receive a visit from protesters at the final meeting of the panel yesterday afternoon. Around a dozen earnest young people trooped in as we were reviewing the hospitality register, one carrying a guitar. The odd chord was strummed as we considered the gifts declared by members and staff (Jenny Jones received a mounted truncheon from the police, Kulveer had been given a smart new shirt). The meeting drew to a conclusion.
As I thanked staff and members for their work over four years, and the public for their attendance, one young man got to his feet and denounced Haringey Council for cutting youth services. A decision that he claimed had led to the August riots. The assembled auditors and accountants looked a touch bemused.
I closed the meeting and told colleagues they were free to leave. The monologue continued as we departed. I am sure their concerns spread further than Haringey but the protesters were at the wrong meeting in the wrong place. Perhaps they will return for Mayor's Question Time this morning...