The Government has backed a proposal from the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) to lead the national procurement of audit for parish and town (local) councils and other smaller bodies from 2017.
In one of his first acts since becoming local government minister, Marcus Jones MP has rubber stamped plans by NALC to set up a ‘sector-led body’ to procure audit for smaller public sector bodies, working in partnership with the Society of Local Council Clerks (SLCC) and the Association of Drainage Authorities (ADA).
The minister’s decision was discussed during his first meeting with NALC chairman Cllr Ken Browse and since followed up in a letter to the umbrella body for England’s 9,000 local councils.
The move follows the abolition of the Audit Commission in April of this year and is an early show support by the new government for NALC and an increasingly sector-led approach to supporting and promoting good governance in the parish sector, who have been described as England’s ‘localist powerhouse’ and are responsible for spending hundreds of millions of pounds of public money each year.
NALC has been calling for a move to a sector-led approach to appointing auditors since the former secretary of state for communities and local government, Eric Pickles MP – who was recently knighted by the Queen – announced plans to abolish the Audit Commission after the 2010 general election.
Throughout the passage of the Local Audit and Accountability Act – the legislation which closed down the independent public corporation which had existed for 33 years – NALC argued the process would be complex and costly if small public bodies such as parishes had to procure auditors themselves, proposing a self-financing body be set up to handle these responsibilities and also overseeing the quality and timeliness of auditors' work.
NALC has been working closely with the previous and new government on the future of audit for local councils, Internal Drainage Boards and Port Health Authorities, with the creation of one single body central to delivering shared objectives for increased transparency and a cost effective and quality audit regime.
Marcus Jones MP, minister for Local Government, said: “I am pleased to announce the appointment of NALC to lead a consortium creating a Sector Led Body for Smaller Local Authority Audit Appointment that will consist of NALC, SLCC and the ADA.”
Cllr Ken Browse, chairman of NALC, said: “I’m delighted with this news and the government’s backing for our proposal to lead a new sector-led audit body.
‘We remain fully committed to promoting and supporting good governance and financial accountability in local councils and the smaller bodies’ sector.
“Our proposal for a sector-led body has received strong support from local councils and other smaller bodies, who want to see high quality and cost-effective audit that promotes transparency and reduces the burden placed on local councils and taxpayers.
“The creation of this sector-led body by NALC and our partners will deliver a streamlined and cost-effective national procurement service and save smaller bodies from footing the bill for setting up and running an independent auditor panel to procure an auditor themselves.”
In March this year, NALC secured a multi-million pound package of funding from Government to help smaller parish councils meet new audit and transparency rules."