NALC has been chosen by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to administer a £4.7m fund to support the transparency legislation, which is now in effect. Funding and guidance is available to assist smaller local councils with complying with the code, which is now compulsory.
The Smaller Authorities Transparency Code came into force on 1 April 2015 and requires the online publication of certain information which the Government requests, to provide taxpayers with a clear picture of the authority’s activities, spending, and governance, and will improve the ability of communities to hold local public bodies to account. This includes any information on joint committees. All smaller authorities must make sure they are compliant.
NALC had lobbied for the Code to be introduced from 2016 in order for necessary support to be put in place to help smaller parish councils to comply, and for adequate financial provision to be made to enable councils to meet the new burden.
At the end of March 2015 we announced that the Department for Communities and Local Government had agreed £4.7m of funding for a new Transparency Fund, administered by NALC over a three-year period, delivered on a county basis by County Associations of Local Councils and the Association of Drainage Authorities, and targeting local needs.
The programme has been in place since October 2015. To March 2017 the grants team has approved 3200 applications totalling 2.3 million GBP to be released to smaller authorities.
IMPLICATIONS FOR LOCAL COUNCILS
Under the Transparency Code, from April 2015 smaller authorities, including town and parish councils with a turnover of less than £25,000 are required to publish the following information online:
All items of expenditure above £100
End of year accounts
Annual governance statement
Internal audit report
List of councillor or member responsibilities
The details of public land and building assets
Minutes, agendas and meeting papers of formal meetings
For further details including yearly publication deadlines, please refer to the Transparency Code, which can be accessed here.
The purpose of the Transparency Fund is to cover the extra burden resulted from compliance with the Transparency Code, aiming to promote democratic participation and make smaller authorities more transparent by giving electors access to financial information with ease.
Compliance with the Transparency Code is compulsory for all smaller authorities with a turnover of less than £25,000, whether or not they received funding from the Transparency Fund.
Funding is still available to help cover the costs of complying with the new Transparency Code. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to access funding to help your council meet its legal requirements.
HOW IS THE FUND ADMINISTERED?
NALC is administering the Transparency Fund over three years (2015-2018) to assist smaller authorities to comply with the Code. The fund was opened in September 2015 and applications are being considered on a monthly basis, while funding remains available.
The fund will be administered through the County Associations of Local Councils and the Association of Drainage Authorities (ADA) who will be dealing with both member and non-member authorities.
Oversight of the programme is from NALC’s Smaller Councils Committee and the DCLG Local Audit Delivery Board.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE?
The Transparency Legislation applies to local councils and internal drainage boards with a turnover of less than £25,000.
Local councils or internal drainage boards with a turnover exceeding £25,000 may still be eligible to apply, provided that they do not exceed the turnover limit three years in a row. For further information on eligibility, please contact your County Association or the ADA.
If your turnover is greater than £25k or you are a parish meeting, you are not eligible to apply for funding.
WHAT IS FUNDED?
Funding can be used to purchase items that the authority does not already possess in order to allow them to comply with the Transparency Code. For example, councils will need access to a computer to upload documents to a website – the Fund can provide up to £350 (ex VAT) to purchase a computer. Other items that are covered by the fund include a scanner, a website, training, and the extra time a clerk needs to upload the documents.
HOW TO APPLY
To apply, authorities must contact their county association or the ADA to request guidance and an application form. NALC are handling applications on a monthly basis while funding remains available.
Please refer to the guidance notes when filling in the application form. They provide further details about what the Fund can cover, maximising the chances for a successful application.
If your turnover is greater than £25k for more than three years in a row, or if you are a parish meeting you are not eligible to apply for funding.
You can have your own website or space on a partner organisation’s website.
If you have spent money since the legislation has been in force to meet the requirements you should be able to make a claim through your County Association or ADA, i.e. you may apply for funding to cover any expenses your authority has incurred as a result of complying with the Transparency Code starting with April 2015.
Once you receive the funding, make sure to keep records and evidence on how the grant funding was spent. You may be contacted by NALC or DCLG as part of the DCLG mandated monitoring to review how the grant has been spent and if it has resulted in the authority becoming compliant with the Transparency Code.