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The Council's Financial Regulations state that payment approval should be made by the "relevant" Committee.  At a recent Finance Committee meeting, payments were approved for items that were to paid out of another Committee's budget.  The arguments put forward by councillors were:

- if payments were delayed by needing to wait for a meeting of the Committee holding the budget, this could delay the payment

- "we've always done it like this"

- the expenditure for the item has already been approved by the Committee with the budget;  the payment is just approving the resulting invoice

My argument is that the Committee with the budget has not been given the opportunity to debate whether the delivery of the item has met their expectations;  by taking away their approval, scrutiny of an item's delivery (quality, value for money) has been denied to the Committee.   And this is why the Financial Regulations specify that the "relevant" Committee should approve payments.  Are my arguments valid?  If yes, what can I do?
by (1.5k points)

1 Answer

0 votes
It would I assume revolve around the Committee's terms of reference. The Committee would not have approved the budget as this would have been for the full council to approve and authorise the committee to work within budgetary parameters without returning to council for authorisation. Variations would have course have to be approved at council. The clerk under their powers can make payments to alleviate such quoted payment hardships etc but should be requested to do so by the relevant committee.

Any "crossovers" with other committees budgets and conflicts should be defined in the terms of reference or cleared at council. A committee acts as a" mini council" within the definitions of its terms which means that they must meet to carry out their specified duties and not use " that it was in the budget" as a mantra as they also have a duty of care regarding the spending of taxpayers monies and obtaining best quality for best price.
by (27.0k points)
You may have misinterpreted my statement.  One Committee which had been assigned the budget by Council had agreed the expenditure to have a report produced by a third party.  Then, following the invoice from the third party, a separate Committee (the Finance Committee) agreed to pay the invoice without the Finance Committee reviewing the contents of the report for adequacy, quality etc.  The payment that the Finance Committee authorised was allocated against the original Committee's budget (i.e. not against the Finance Committee budget).  There was no "payment hardship" - the original Committee had the funds to pay the invoice in their budget.  The Finance Committee does not appear to have applied their "duty of care" to the payment of the invoice resulting from production of the report.

The original Committee that agreed the expenditure does not appear to have had the opportunity to scrutinise the contents of the report to ensure it was adequate in terms of meeting the original purpose, of adequate quality or whether it was value for money.  The Council's Financial Regulations talk of payments being authorised by the "relevant Committee" - to me this means the Committee that has been assigned the budget and that agreed the original expenditure.

There was no suggestion that the Council felt a need to spend money purely because it was in budget.

According to Council's website, the Finance Committee's terms of reference are:
To oversee the management of:
- all Financial matters (including Risk Assessment)
- ensure audit requirements are met
- to oversee matters relating to Code of Conduct
The answer I gave  reflected your reference to reasons given. The only people to authorise payments would be the committee appointed to manage the budget for their particular area. The finance committee had no authority to be involved other than as a result of the committee informing them of the amount paid and how it fitted into their budget requirement and this would have to be done by information from the committee in question. Its a matter of communication to the finance committee and the clerk. No one else should have had any involvement until the committee had satisfied themselves that the works ordered had been completed and to an acceptable standard and passed it for payment by that committee..
Apologies for the misunderstanding
No worries.  Any suggestions on how I can get this rectified for future payments?  It was the Mayor that made the comment "we've always done it like this"!!  I feel like a lone voice again a sea of indifference!
All you can do is quote the terms of reference of the committee and point out that the committee has been given authority by council and as such no one can change that or circumvent it.

Unfortunately too many people think that the rules are for others and don't apply to them
Agreed.  The same people only see the reason for the rules when something goes seriously wrong.

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