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How councils should answer questions raised after annual account inspection?

0 votes
1:- What procedures/rules/regulations govern how a parish council should respond to issues raised by an elector within the legal deadline after inspecting the council's annual accounts? ie are they set down somewhere in the LGA1972 Act?

2:- Should the issues regarding the annual account raised by an elector be published in full by the council for tax payers to view prior to the council responding to them? ie as stand-alone or agenda supporting documents etc?

3:- Should the matter be decided upon by councillors meeting in private, or included as an agenda item to be addressed and resolved n the open, transparent setting of a convened council meeting at which members are present and voting?

4:- What is the role of the internal auditor when issues about the annual accounts have been raised in this manner?

5:- What is the role of the clerk/legal/financial officer when issues of this sort are discussed and decided upon by the council present and voting on the matter at a meeting?

6:- Who is ultimately responsible?

7:- Is there a set time for the council to respond to the elector who raised the issues?

8:- What course of action is open to the elector if they are not satisfied by the council's response to the issues raised about the council's annual accounts?
by (580 points)

2 Answers

0 votes
An elector can only raise issues and questions about the annuals accounts during the public rights notice period which is about a month, your Council will have set the dates.  The issues raised should be sent by the elector to the internal auditor, RFO and external auditor, they will then question the RFO - the electors send them not the Council.  It doesn’t need to be discussed at council, it just needs to be noted that an elector raised issues during the period and has notified such and such.  The internal auditor and external auditor will then ask questions from the RFO and will expect quick answers, this is done before they write their final report, the issues raised will be included in their final report which is a public document.  If the elector has only written to the Council, it is not up to you to forward them on to the external auditor and internal auditor, I would expect an answer within a suitable time, don’t forget if it was an FOI request you only have 20 days so I wouldn’t want to keep them waiting any longer but it depends on what questions they asked.  Again this is not discussed at Council the RFO would just note that they have received a request and deal with it.  If issues have been raised it will be noted on the internal and external auditors report and it is then up to the Council to put procedures in place to rectify them.  If the elector is not happy with the response they should be asked to raise a complaint and then you would have to go down the complaints procedure which is a whole different ball game.
by (3.2k points)
Was just going to add that in the past my council has had a particularly difficult resident question various aspects of the annual accounts with the external auditors who did not support his complaints and said so in their final report.  The whole business, however, is a costly one as the external auditors charge for every letter etc. and it cost the council a serious amount of money for a complaint that was considered petty and inconsequential.   If I remember rightly, the complainant suggested that one very small item of expenditure was not for the benefit of the parish so he felt it was an illegal payment.
0 votes

This part of the first answer is actually incorrect:

“...An elector can only raise issues and questions about the annuals accounts during the public rights notice period which is about a month,..”

Anyone can raise a concern with EA at any time. That there is a defined period of right to inspect does not preclude the obvious logic of being able to raise a concern at any time. 

Both the question (in parts) and the 2 responses (in parts) are rather disappointing since they seem to give the impression that public interest is something to be treated as a nuisance or an intrusion. 

If only PCs would embrace a more overt engagement and disclosure attitude as the default rather than what seems to be the prevalent attitude of dissemble. 

by (4.4k points)
I certainly do not consider the exercise of public rights to be a nuisance!  But you need to be aware that there are two issues here.  The exercise of public rights is a statutory process which is linked to the Annual Accounts process and instructions about how and when issues can be raised within that process are laid down.  I do not believe external auditors will respond to issues raised outside of that laid down process and timescale but am happy to be proved wrong.  The point I raised is that everyone should be aware that investigation by external auditors is an expensive process paid for by the parish rather than the individual raising the issue so needs to be budgeted for.  It is not cheap.
Of course queries can be raised directly with the council at any time outside of that process but this is a separate procedure from that set out in the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 and the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015.
EA will accept and may, but not obliged to, respond to any comment at any time of the year from anyone - provided the query / enquiry / statement is worthy of record / investigation.
The clue is in the name - auditor. They have a duty to pay attention to any report which is made to them provided it has sufficient gravity and is not frivolous.
The charge to a PC (last year) was £350/hr.
I know this because I’ve done it myself - outside of the public rights period.

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