Parish and town councils are improving accountability for public money according to a new report by the Audit Commission.
The Commission’s Auditing the Accounts report – which provides an assessment of compliance with the audit regime by local government bodies – shows there has been a general improvement in accountability by small bodies such as parish and town councils.
Audited accounts are the principal means by which public bodies discharge their accountability for the stewardship of public money. Publishing timely audited accounts, with an unqualified audit opinion, reflects well on bodies' financial management arrangements and is a fundamental feature of good governance.
Key features of the report include:
By 30 September 2014, auditors had issued the opinion and certificate on the 2013/14 annual return at 99 per cent of parish and town councils, an improvement on 2012/13 which was 98 per cent
For the second consecutive year, there are no small bodies that have failed to prepare and publish audited accounts for the last three years
The number of public interest reports issued has decreased dramatically, from 47 in 2011/12 down to 5 in 2013/14
One town council was among the eight bodies credited for early completion four or more times since the report was published in respect of the 2008/09 audits
The work of the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) and Society of Local Council Clerks is cited as a contributing factor in improvements
Cllr Ken Browse, chair of NALC said: “NALC is committed to promoting high standards of governance and financial accountability in local (parish and town) councils.”
“We are encouraged by today's Audit Commission report, which summarises the audit of over 9000 local (community, neighbourhood, parish, town and village) councils who between them were responsible for around £500m of public money. Almost all of this money was raised from local people to act on local priorities, as unlike principal authorities, local councils receive no funding from central government.”
“The report quite rightly highlights how local councils have improved the timeliness of their financial reporting. However, we will continue to work closely with our network of county associations and important partners like the Society of Local Council Clerks to offer training and guidance to reduce the number of councils receiving a qualification on their accounts.”
View Auditing the Accounts 2013/14: Local Government Bodies Report