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Are councillors supposed to see detailed financial accounts pertaining to their committee?

0 votes
As a Parish Councillors I have assumed that I am responsible for spending the precept wisely,  involved with this is surely being "allowed' to see accounts without being accused of phishing or causing 'problems'. Are there any laws allowing councillors access? I ask laws because Standing Orders are not sufficient to allow access.
asked by (1.9k points)

5 Answers

0 votes
The first and most obvious answer to this is that it is for the committee to decide what information it requires the clerk to provide and when, although I presume from the way the question is worded that you may not have the unanimous support of the members of the committee in seeking this information. It is difficult to see how a committee might perform its function as custodian of public money without being told how it is being spent. Financial regulation 4.8 of the NALC model states:

4.8. The RFO shall regularly provide the council with a statement of receipts and payments to date under each head of the budgets, comparing actual expenditure to the appropriate date against that planned as shown in the budget. These statements are to be prepared a least at the end of each financial quarter and shall show explanations of material variances. For this purpose “material” shall be in excess of £100 or 15% of the budget.

This may not provide you with exactly what you are seeking, but it's a starting point.

I simply cannot comprehend the attitude of clerks who seek to restrict access to this information. I operate an open door policy, not just for members of my councils, but for parishioners and anybody else who cares to ask. When somebody requests detailed information, I simply ask myself "if this was a Freedom of Information request, would I provide it?" If the answer is yes, I provide it. It's public information about public money.
answered by (32.8k points)
Our Financial Regulator;lations have been changed to The RFO shall regularly provide the POLICY AND FINANCE COMMITTEE with a statement of receipts. Surely the Clerk cannot just report these issues to ONE committee? I cannot find any minutes showing when this change has taken place and wondered if it is even legal.
It sounds like DavetheClerk has given you the answer.
Put in a FoI request - preferably using the website here...
www.whatdotheyknow.com
It will probably annoy the clerk no end, but it might make the point.
It has worked for me in the past.
You can attend the Policy and Finance Committee as a councillor, and see all information provided to it.
We have been told that when we attend committees to which we are not officially
 assigned, it is as a parishioner only.
Our clerk makes us move to the public seats if we are not on that particular committee!
It is correct that if you are at a committee meeting, but are not a member, that your right to participate is equal to that of a member of the public.  However, you are still a councillor, and remain under the various rules and conditions that relate to being one.     It is up to the  committee and its chair to manage the meeting - not the clerk.  As a committee chair, I always welcomed other council members to committee meetings and valued their input.
Thanks. That is how our two neighbouring councils do things - a most sensible and pragmatic approach I think.
0 votes
Yes (if they want to)

I have to say it 3 times otherwise the answer is too short for the ‘bot!’
answered by (4.9k points)
0 votes
As councillors are jointly and severally liable for the council finances and must vote to agree the council finances to the auditors then they have a right to see accounts and request information on matters they are not happy with or require information on.
answered by (8.9k points)
As usual I agree with Mentorman but the problem is that there is no Law or Statute that you can use to force the issue

Unfortunately Clerks like Dave appear to be few and far between
Residents are forced by Law to pay the precept, Councillors are elected by those same residents to ensure the money is spent effectively they should be given free access to any information regarding the running of the Parish Council without question
One thing that impresses me about Borough Councils is the Councillors power to scrutinise anything they want and call witnesses
0 votes
Yes. If your Clerk claims otherwise, ask him or her what legislative provision they believe justifies their refusal to disclose the information and report the Clerk's response  to the Monitoring Officer & the external auditor.  The AGAR has several questions about sound financial control. Of the clerk prevents you seeing the financial info, they could potentially be making a false declaration on it.
answered by (22.4k points)
I was under the impression that the Monitoring Officer was for Councillors only not clerks.
AGAR is the Annual Governance and Accountability Return and it should be agreed by all cllrs before being sent to the external auditor. If the clerk's refusal to supply financial information to all cllrs is endorsed by some of the cllrs, then this potentially becomes a code of conduct issue, meaning some cllrs are not complying with 5.1 I do not bring my role or local authority into disrepute.  Those who proposed and endorsed the financial regulations should be able to produce a minutes resolution, and should not have sneaked it through without involving the whole council.  In light of that the code of conduct says with respect to them

As a Councillor, you are trusted to make decisions on behalf of your community and your actions and behaviour are subject to greater scrutiny than that of ordinary members of the public. You should be aware that your actions might have an adverse impact on you, other councillors and/or your local authority and may lower the public’s confidence in your or your local authority’s ability to discharge your/its functions. For example, behaviour that is considered dishonest and/or deceitful can bring your local authority into disrepute.

You are able to hold the local authority and fellow councillors to account and are able to constructively challenge and express concern about decisions and processes undertaken by the council whilst continuing to adhere to other aspects of this Code of Conduct.
Thank you for your very informative replies.
0 votes
You may find that if you request the information the clerk may be able to supply you a redacted invoice / statement covering themselves over GDPR

All spending should have gone to full councils so unless you are a new councillor you probably have a good idea of whether the councillors have discussed and voted on financial outgoings.
answered by (4.7k points)
But this implies that Councillors should maintain and calculate their own budgets, surely this is part of the RFO's job?
No as part of the discussion about spending, the effect on a budget should be discussed and regular budget monitoring reports (normally in line with your meetings) supplied by the clerk over the course of the year.
Thank you, I misunderstood.

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