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District 'doesn't understand fees'

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A troubled district which protested over a 17.8% jump in audit costs has been told it does not understand the Audit
Commission's fee system.

Richmondshire DC has seen acrimonious disputes between factions of councillors and
officers that culminated in the departure of chief executive Harry Tabiner and four other
senior managers (LGC, 19 April). There is still no acting chief executive.

The north Yorkshire council's audit bill for 2006-07 was£125,587, up from£106,563 the previous year.

Councillors asked auditor Mark Kirkham for a full breakdown of his staff's visits, the hours they worked and the hourly rate for their services.

Mr Kirkham replied the commission's charges were based on "outputs", not staff time, and invited Richmondshire to contact him again "if I can help you improve your knowledge of the nature of the fee regime".

He said auditors had extra work following a "breakdown in relationships" at the council and had to respond to many letters from the public about the authority's affairs.

The council has a minority Conservative administration and four separate opposition groups.

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