Dear friends of Research for Action,
2022 has been a year of major growth and change for us.
We grew our work on public interest and audit, began a project with groups in Sheffield and Glasgow on democratising governance and deepened our work with the European Municipalist Network.
We have developed as a worker co-op, adding a new member, Gloria Dawson, and a board member, Tim Joubert. We have also developed our mission, vision and values as well as the policies and procedures we need for our co-op to reflect our values, and we are proud of the progress we have made to show that another workplace is possible.
Read on to find out what we’ve done and where we are going next!
Public Interest and Audit Reform
In July, we started work on exploring the role of public interest in local audit in England. As we outlined in our 2021 research, members of the public who engage in the inspection rights in the Local Audit and Accountability Act (2014) rarely get recognition of their public interest concerns. We are digging deeper into some of the legislative, theoretical and cultural issues around local audit. We will publish our findings in Spring 2023.
Nearly a year ago, Fanny was one of signatories to a letter (here) in City A.M. warning about the economic and human costs of delays to planned audit reform, expressing concern over the government’s slow progress and lack of ambition to clean up the scandal-ridden audit industry. At the time of writing, there is very little indication of when draft Audit Reform legislation will be presented in Parliament, or what the Government’s response to this is, and there are still many issues with local audit delivery, not least the fact 91% of 2020/21 local authority audited accounts were not published by the 30 September 2021 deadline. Luckily, there is increasing interest beyond government and industry in making local audit more accountable and democratic. This month Gloria participated in a round table on ‘Audit in Crisis’ at the University of Sheffield’s Centre for Research into Accounting and Finance in Context, who are launching a new Audit Reform Hub early next year.
Citizen Auditor Network
In the spring, we established a Citizen Auditor Network to bring people together to share skills, support each other and find commonalities in the issues we are all working on. In September, we published a report on ‘Citizen Auditors: investigating local government’s accountability gap’ . This shows the ways in which local groups and individuals are scrutinizing their local authorities, challenging poor governance and decisions they believe are not in the public interest. We’ve held regular online meetings with a growing collection of people who are differently involved in audit and scrutiny of local services, centering most meetings around a particular topic such as inspection rights or health services. In 2023 we have funding to continue to work and learn together, including some training sessions. If you’d like to be part of the Network, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
We also launched a collaboration with organisers from Sheffield and Glasgow, looking at making governance more democratic in local authorities. Since September, we have been working with Solidarity Against Neoliberal Extremism (SANE) in Glasgow and members of It’s Our City! In Sheffield. We’re aiming to find out what strategies local campaigners in the two cities are using to challenge the way local governance works and create new alternative spaces for democratic engagement; to what extent they share common demands; and what the prospects are of working together and building links and solidarity for better democratic gains.
So far, we have had four co-learning conversations with community groups and local activists. The events have been insightful and we can’t wait to develop the findings in the new year. We are working together with a brilliant visual artist called Reece to create something that looks quite different from our usual reports – so watch this space!
As is the way these days, we have joined Mastodon and you can also still find us on Twitter. Our general email is still email@example.com.
We send you best wishes and see you in 2023! ?
Gloria, Megan and Fanny