Guide to the Legislation
The rules governing the public's rights to view and copy local authority files are profiled in this section.

England

The Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014
BRIEFING ORIGINAL

The Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015 (England)
BRIEFING ORIGINAL

The Local Audit (Public Access to Documents) Act 2017
BRIEFING ORIGINAL

Wales

The Accounts and Audit (Wales) Regulations 2014
BRIEFING ORIGINAL

Scotland

The Local Authority Accounts
(Scotland) Regulations 2014
BRIEFING ORIGINAL

Northern Ireland

The Local Government (Accounts and Audit) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2015
BRIEFING ORIGINAL

Links to Council Websites
LOCAL AUTHORITY WEBSITES: FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT LINKS

LOCAL AUTHORITY WEBSITES: PUBLIC NOTICES OF AUDIT INSPECTIONS
It's Your Right to Know


Download our handy PPT presentation here


The Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015



The English regulations provide the most generous time period for local electors, taxpayers and journalists to inspect and copy the accounts of a local authority in the UK.

The regulations require councils to post
online alerts to local taxpayers and voters, informing them of their statutory rights to inspect and copy contracts, expenses claims, invoices and documents authorising payments.

Regulation 14 requires principal councils to place a copy of the statutory notice advertising the public inspection period on the authority's own
website, at least two working days before the public may examine the documents and files.

For information about journalists' rights to inspect documents, check out our briefing on the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2017 on the left hand panel.

The financial records (which include contracts, invoices, bills, receipts and deeds) must be open for public inspection "at all reasonable times" for
thirty working days. This period must include, in the case of the majority of English and Welsh councils, the first ten working days of June each year.

Failure to provide online details of the dates for the public inspection (plus the location and types of files, the times for inspection, details of the external auditor and rights to raise questions and objections) renders the authority open to judicial review, and the risk of the authority having to re-run the public inspection process.

The public inspection period and the time available for local electors to question the local auditor about items of expenditure must be completed by the end of July each year, unless the local auditor intervenes in the process.



The regulations compel councils to disclose payments to
highest earning staff, by attaching a note to the accounts, giving details of (total) amounts paid to any council chief officer receiving more than £150,000 per annum, in several sub-categories.

These are: (1) salary, fees and allowances;
(2) bonuses; (3) expenses; (4) severance payments; (5) pensions, and; (6) any other financial benefits.

The regulations require councils to list (by job title but not by name) all
employees receiving more than £50,000 per annum.

The regulations therefore discourage
confidentiality deals being struck, for staff earning more than £150,000 (or an equivalent pro-rata income for part-time senior officers, worth more than £50,000 per annum).

The 2009 regulations (which have now been revoked) made it clear that councilswere not to treat
elected councillors as 'employees', and thereby deny taxpayers access to expenses claims or other financial payments to elected councillors.

Since this provision has been revoked, and does not reappear in the subsequent regulations, the position is now unclear as to whether councils may treat elected politicians as 'employees' given that they receive special allowances and expenses.

However, the Local Government Act 2000 (as amended) requires councils to keep copies of
expenses claims and payments to councillors available in a public register, free of charge, all year round.

For further guidance, contact ONB.



Key Court Rulings



The Veolia and Nottinghamshire County Council court cases (2009/10)
BRIEFING ORIGINAL

The ONB and Lincolnshire County Council court hearing (2005)
BRIEFING  

The HTV and Bristol City Council court case (2004)
BRIEFING  

Exernal Reference Materials
DCLG GUIDE TO CHECKING COUNCIL EXPENDITURE

NATIONAL AUDIT OFFICE GUIDE TO CHECKING COUNCIL EXPENDITURE

AUDIT SCOTLAND GUIDE TO CHECKING COUNCIL EXPENDITURE

AUDIT WALES GUIDE TO CHECKING COMMUNITY COUNCIL EXPENDITURE

AUDIT NORTHERN IRELAND GUIDE TO CHECKING COUNCIL EXPENDITURE

THE PUBLIC SECTOR AUDIT APPOINTMENTS BOARD