Audit Commission urges rethink on parish audit regulations

18 Jul 14

Proposed audit regulations for England’s 10,000 parish councils are overly complex and ‘close to impenetrable’, the Audit Commission has warned.

 

Responding to the government’s consultation on local audit regulations, the commission said they would place a much greater burden on parish councils and their clerks than ministers intended.

Currently, all parish council accounts are audited by an auditor appointed by the Audit Commission, but following the commission’s abolition next year, parishes would appoint their own auditors.

However, at parishes below a certain size and meeting certain other criteria, auditors would not carry out any work unless questions or objections were lodged by members of the public. Instead, these parishes would have to publish specified information on their websites, of on the website of the district council.

Audit Commission chair Jeremy Newman said the commission did not wish to challenge the government’s policy intentions, but called for the proposals to be rethought.

‘The government wants high-quality and cost-effective assurance that promotes transparency,’ Newman said.

‘It is trying to reduce the burden on authorities, but its proposals will do the opposite.

‘The government needs to either keep the current assurances arrangements in place, or accept that the small spending levels of these bodies, coupled with their closeness to their communities, means that external audit is disproportionate.’

The commission added that the regulations making provisions for all procurement possibilities were ‘close to impenetrable’. It noted that any collective procurement body administering audit arrangements for parishes would need to keep track of 10,000 bodies and their preferred audit arrangements.

‘We will respond to the consultation in due course as we continue to drive forward these important changes to ensure local appointment of auditors in 2017.’

  • Vivienne Russell

    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and publicfinance.co.uk

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