A Merseyside council’s computer systems were described as ‘s***’ last night, as they produce slow and incorrect numbers.
Wirral Council’s officers faced a stern interrogation from Tory councillor Kathy Hodson, at last night’s audit committee.
Cllr Hodson said: “The system at the moment is s***,” because the council could not say how much money they had spent without going through the proper purchase order (PO) process.
In November, Wirral Council admitted it had paid out almost £30m over a six month period without POs in place.
But the council is not able to give figures for earlier years, because going through a manual process would take too long.
This comes at a time when Wirral Council is facing cuts of over £30m in the next financial year and has a ‘spending freeze’ in place, a time when every penny counts.
To address this, the council is setting up a new, more modern IT system.
But Cllr Hodson wanted assurances about what this would deliver.
She added: “This new system, when it comes, will it be able to pinpoint at the click of a button the information that I requested [on POs] that you couldn't provide?”
Officers said the new system will be able to provide almost real time updates on the council’s finances, a major step forward.
Cllr Hodson said such steps were needed, giving a stark warning of what may happen if they were not implemented.
She said: “The bottom line is if we can't control Wirral Council’s finances because the computer systems are that bad that if you press a button and a report comes out and it could be accurate and it could not be [but] it probably isn’t, then you’re never going to get within budget.
“On cost benefit, Wirral Council will cease to exist and be a proper functioning body if it doesn’t have a computer system that’s fit for purpose.”
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Council officers were able to commit to much better financial reporting in the future, but said the new system would not enable them to trawl through the records from years gone by, as Cllr Hodson requested.
Fellow Conservative councillor Jeff Green said the council should always remember people do not have a choice over whether to pay their tax, they just have to pay.
Therefore, the council has a duty to spend in the most careful way and deliver value for money.
Wirral Council’s cabinet will debate the budget for the next financial year on February 17 at Wallasey Town Hall.