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AUTHORISING PAYMENTS

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My PC has  a S137 grants policy which inter alia will not award grants for something which has already been paid for (because of the word will in S137).  Recently I applied for some expenses for goods purchased for footpath maintenance  and the Chairman of the Highways Committee said we will put your request to the Finance Committee who "authorises" payments.   They said  "sorry cant pay you as you have already paid  for it"  i.e. no retrospective payments.  I said "hang about this is not s137 grant  but from a separate budget." So we now into the realms of its a Highways budget payment which Finance are refusing to pay . Their attitude has always been our word in final. Are all budgets held by Finance and is their authority to pay absolute or is their role to pay as instructed by the "responsible budget holder".?
asked by (1.4k points)
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2 Answers

0 votes
It all depends on what the terms of reference which should have been agreed by council before any powers were passed to the committee. A list of what the committee can and cannot do has to be agreed by council. It will also be worth examining whether such powers are available under the financial regulations, again adopted by council. Reimbursing councillors for their paying for items and being reimbursed by council used to be quite common in councils but as it could be (but never proven) open to abuse was warned against by NALC in their ever advancing control of what councils should and should not do( confusing their advisory position with sometimes dictatorial stance). What they forget to remind councils is that councils are free to make whatever decisions they feel correct but need to be aware of fielding whatever outcome occurs
answered by (6.8k points)
You are indeed correct Mentorman  in that our Financial Regs read re expenditure authority levels " the Clerk, in conjunction with Chairman of Council or Chairman of the appropriate committee, for any items below £1000". In our case we have a senior Councillor who is chairman of the Finance whose "word stands" . I believe they were  party to this decision. Time for a letter to the Chairman I believe. Incidentally I assume re the above that  the Committee chairman has the casting vote and the Clerk advises purely as the RFO
0 votes
Under whose authority did you purchase the items?
answered by (26.4k points)
Good question Dave . Here are the exact circumstances. I am a expert on PROW so I wrote the the PC saying look this footpath keeps on flooding due to problems with encroaching vegetation  so I want to clear it and lay some ballast to solve the problem. PC inspect during a  dry period and say it isn't flooded now so go away. Next week it floods again so I tackle the problem and post it on local forum and get overwhelming  public support .  Chairman of PC and Highways budget holder also post and say well done we write to Finance and ask that they repay your expenses. Finance says no we cant refund expenses retrospectively .   I say that such a provision is only included in the S137 grants policy where it is for grants which will be bring benefit. i.e. in the future. I say and this is the important bit such a policy does not apply to every budget i.e. the  budget holder has discretion.   So we are  now in the area of what is role of Finance.  I argue that budget  holder makes a decision and puts it Finance and the clerk to check and pay. They can give advice to the budget holder  but he/she   alone makes final decision and has discretion .   Finance say no our decision is final and we can overrule budget holder . All a storm in a teacup but to me important budgetary principles. And all over £30. Would be interested in comments.  I accept the principle that they could say you did not get authority but that is not what they are saying. they are saying they cannot pay retrospectively
You know what I'm going to say! The PC said don't do it, but you went ahead anyway...

On the more general point, all expenses are reimbursed retrospectively, but all expenditure should be approved before being incurred. Whether or not the budget holder has discretion would depend upon the wording of your Finance Regs and scheme of delegation for your committees. All options are possible. I presume that you have the minutes of the meetings at which your expenses were discussed/agreed/rejected? It isn't clear from your wording whether you are talking about individuals or committees, but obviously only the latter can have powers to spend.

Check the paper trail and see what you find.
Dave I absolutely get the points you are making .  The situation was having done the job both Chairman and budget holder indicated that they would recommend paying . However before it got to the Finance meeting the message came back from Clerk  that it could not be paid retrospectively . Payment was rejected purely on those grounds . I have challenged that. The RFO has come back quoted the bit from the regs which refers to ensuring orders are within powers. That has nothing to do with it.  But I agree it now comes down to what the written guidelines are between the Committee/Clerk/Finance . Trouble is there  aren't any so they are relying on the retrospective bit for small 137 grants which I am saying are  power specific
This has nothing to do with Section 137 and the Clerk is being a jobsworth. Do you have the minutes of the meeting where this decision was made, bearing in mind the fact that the clerk can't decide? The role of the clerk is to advise members, but the decision must be theirs and in a formal meeting. I suggest you go back to the local forum and tell everybody that the council refused to reimburse your thirty quid over a petty technicality.

Are you saying that there are no terms of reference for the finance committee? That would be a recipe for disaster.

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