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Does the clerk decide how to present budget?

0 votes
'The RFO determines, on behalf of the council, the accounting system and the form of their accounting statements and supporting accounting records.'

The above is in the Governance & Accountability Guide for Wales. Could anyone tell me exactly what it means? Our clerk has taken it that she decides everything regarding financial reports including in what format things are presented to the council. She has very little bookkeeping skills.  I am very dissatisfied with the budget report, as are several other councillors now. We are a medium sized council with a fair sized precept. Our budget reports only include a few headings with several different types of expenditure lumped under one heading. I am trying to address this issue. I have prepared a budget report that follows the guidelines and gives councilors the information they should have in order to see where our money goes. I have tried to do this slowly and gently, the clerk is aware of what I am doing.

I got as far as presenting by proposed budget format to the Finance Committee. Most of the members like it. But the clerk actually stated that 'she decides how financial things are done and she will not change the way she does the budget.' She often quotes "the RFO will determine all accounting procedure and financial records in accordance with the Accounts and Audit Regulations". This is in our standing orders. Does seem to miss out the bit that says 'on behalf of the council' !

As several councillors are now backing my plan for a better budget and budget report I feel I must press on. But to do that I need to understand what exactly the Clerk can decide on herself without council approval.

Thank you.
asked by (810 points)

2 Answers

0 votes

Well I would suggest that the the Accounts and Audit regulations https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2015/234/contents/made, relate to accounts and not necessarily a budget statement are to be made!  And that she is doing that in the hope that members will think she knows what she is talking about.

answered by (20.8k points)
The RFO is appointed to look after the council's financial affairs not produce budgets. This is the decision of the council(or finance group). Once formulated (including headings for tracking) it is the RFO's job to ensure that the accounts meet the criteria set in the budget. Whilst the clerk can decide which accountancy practices they use the reporting must meet whatever the council lay down as required after all the are the employer of the RFO. The RFO, as should the clerk, meet the needs of the council not the other way round
+1 vote
From what you've said, it appears that your RFO does have the power to determine the format, however, as the purpose of the document is to provide clarity in the management of your finances, it makes no sense to adopt a format that fails to provide you with the information you require. This is one for gentle negotiation and common sense, rather than quoting from the rule books.

I have been working with a council that maintained two sets of accounts, one relatively straightforward and operated by the Clerk/RFO and the other, far more complex and detailed, provided by the Chairman. Unnecessary duplication, but otherwise harmless.
answered by (29k points)
Thank you DtC, unfortunately your reply contradicts Mentormans reply. I have been down the road of gentle nudges and negotiation to absolutely no avail. Hence my having to resort to the official rule book.
As I have bookkeeping experience I could indeed supply a second version of the budget myself and am in fact doing this but only intended to have to do it once.  I was under the impression this is what we pay the RFO for! I already have a lot of work on my plate, which unlike the RFO I don't get paid for.
My point was that the rule book doesn't help you. There is no rule that says that the council shall determine the format of the budget. If the RFO "determines, on behalf of the council", then the council has delegated this responsibility to the RFO.

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