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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.
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.
In light of the Covid-19 situation, the UK government instructed councils to postpone the public inspection period for 2019/2020 accounts to the autumn, meaning that inspections for English authorities will begin on 1 September 2020.
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
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
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
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.