Here are the latest updates from Research for Action.
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Fanny, Joel and Vica
NEWHAM CITIZEN DEBT AUDIT
Cuts and contempt – experiences of austerity and council democracy in Newham
We recently published a report on Newham residents’ experiences with council services, cuts and democracy. You can read it here on our website.
The results paint a worrying picture of unaccountability: only a third of our respondents felt that their needs were met by the council, and most felt that the council’s spending priorities did not reflect their needs. Many felt severely let down and did not even find it meaningful to contact the council for the support they needed.
The report is part of our evidence gathering for a citizen debt audit of Newham. You can read more about the project here.
Roundtable on debt audits in Europe
In March, we organised a roundtable on experiences from debt audits in Europe since 2011. It was a very informative and insightful discussion with speakers from Madrid, Barcelona, Greece and London. You can watch a a video of the talk on our website. We thank LetMeLookTV for the recording.
OTHER NEWS ON LOBO LOANS
Newham Chair of Scrutiny questions RBS on LOBOs
RBS, which is among the banks that sold Newham LOBO loans, had its AGM on the 30th of May. At the AGM, Newham Councillor and newly appointed Chair of Scrutiny Committee John Whitworth questioned RBS Chairman Sir Howard Davies on the LOBO loans Newham took out from RBS in 2010 and for which the council pays an interest rate of 7.6 per cent. You can read the transcript of the question on Debt Resistance UK website and coverage of it in the Scottish media CommonSpace. You can watch a video of the question here.
CIPFA advises auditors on LOBOs
The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) has announced it will issue further advice on the treatment of LOBO loans in local authorities’ accounts. The Municipal Journal reports that the announcement comes after audit firms expressed concerns on councils’ accounting of LOBO loans. This is a result of objections to LOBO loans submitted by residents across the country with the support of Research for Action and Debt Resistance UK. It also contradicts the position taken by the auditors in the objections where they state on more than one occasion that LOBO loans cannot be considered to have characteristics similar to derivatives.
Local Government Finance Officers Conference to Discuss Audit Findings related to LOBOs
On the 20th of September, the tenth anniversary meeting of council treasury managers and section 151 officers will be held at the London Stock Exchange, sponsored by CCLA with Barclays, ICAP and CAPITA in attendance. The panel will discuss the findings of audit objections into LOBO loans (refer to page 7).
End The Debt Trap
We are part of a recently launched coalition that is calling on the cost cap that was imposed on payday lending in 2015 to be extended to all forms of consumer lending. Household debt is a serious and growing problem for millions of household in the UK: 7.6 million people are spending more than a quarter of their income on debt payments.
The coalition consists of five organisations: New Economics Foundation, Jubilee Debt Campaign, Centre for Responsible Credit, Toynbee Hall and Research for Action. It was launched on the 31st of May in response to the the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)’s review on high-cost credit.
If you would like to support or find out more about the campaign, please get in touch.
It is time to inspect local authority accounts!
Every summer, the public can inspect local authorities’ draft accounts for the previous year, and residents can raise objections to spending they believe is not in the public interest. For most councils in England, this 30-day window is now open until mid-July.
Check out our guide on how to inspect, raise a question or file and objection to the Council’s accounts under the 2014 Local Audit and Accountability Act, and get in touch if you would like support with objecting to LOBO loans with your local authority. You can find out if your council has LOBO loans here.
Workshop on local government
On the 4th of June, we hosted a workshop on local government finance as part of a course on data-driven community journalism, organised by the Centre for Investigative Journalism. The presentation is a good overview of local government finance and data sources – you can view it here. Do get in touch if you would like us to run a similar workshop for your organisation or local group.