CALLS have been made for greater clarification in future council finance reports.

It comes after Herefordshire Council’s audit and governance committee met on Monday to note an auditor’s findings relating to an error in a finance report.

The Hereford Times has previously reported how one councillor had questioned the accuracy of the reported spend on the Hereford City Link Road project.

Inconsistencies were noted between the spend in prior years reported in the 2015/16 medium term financial strategy (MTFS) approved by council in February 2015, and that reported in the 2016/2017 MTFS approved in February 2016.

Following a review of the relevant tables, it was found that the figures in the “spend in prior years” column of the 2015/16 MTFS had inadvertently included projected spend as well as spend to date.

A corrected table was published on the council’s website for clarification but for additional reassurance, the council’s internal auditors South West Audit Partnership (SWAP) carried out a review of the accuracy of spend figures relating to the link road project.

It confirmed the total actual expenditure up to March 31, 2015, was £10,658 which matched the figure given in the MTFS February 2016.

There were sub-total differences found against the reported categories “fees” and “archaeology” but these did not alter the figure reported in the MTFS.

The capital programme planned spend (including future years) totals £40.6 million as originally reported but the table in the MTFS lists the Hereford City Link Road and Hereford city centre transport package as two separate line entries with planned spend as £27 million and £13.6 million respectively.

It has been recommended there is a more clear explanation of the link between the two projects and the overall programme.

Councillor Bob Matthews said he believed the error was “glaringly obvious” and he was due to meet with a council director to further discuss the issue next week.

Cllr Anthony Powers said: “I understand the explanation that has now been given to all members and to this committee about the errors that have been made at the time.

“However, the point I want to make is that I think this is indicative of a very longstanding problem for all of us, members, officers and members of the public, which is that these schemes and projects keep taking on different names and different forms and morph from being called something into something different which is in itself confusing.”

The committee heard that SWAP’s remit was to provide “independent reassurance”.

But it is still unclear what the future holds for the council’s director of resources, Peter Robinson, who has been absent from meetings since the issue was first raised. His name was not mentioned at all in Monday’s meeting.

Councillor John Stone added: “I am a great believer in the confusion theory of politics rather than conspiracy theories. I think there has been a lot of confusion here.

“Considering these road schemes are among the most controversial and difficult it’s unfortunate this has happened.

"I think it’s very important to get it right. I know we can’t go back over past history but think it’s important to get back on track over this matter because we do need accurate information.”