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


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The Local Audit (Access to Documents) Act 2017



The Act extends the public inspection rights to "any journalist", without any restriction of residence in a particular local authority area.

A journalist living anywhere is entitled to inspect and copy documents regardeless of whether he/she is employed by a news organisation. There does not appear to be any nationality requirement which means the journalist does not have to be a British citizen, or reside in the UK.

The definition includes citizen journalists and bloggers, as was made clear during the Parliamenary passage of the legislation which was introduced as a Private Members' Bill with government backing.

However, journalists residing outside the area of the local authority do not enjoy the same legal rights as the general public living in the area.

Local electors and tazpayers have a statutory right to question the local auditor about the accounts at the end of the inspection period, and to lodge formal objections to any item of expenditure. However, this right does not extend to journalists from outside of the relevant local authority area.

Unlike local electors and tazpayers, journalists residing outside the local authority area have limited scope to object to what they may view as
unreasonable redactions of information, particularly in relation to protecting "commercial confidentiality".

Journalists faced with obfuscation and/or
'blanked out' financial records have no recourse to appeal to the local auditor for assistance. Instead, journalists must rely on the courts to order disclosure of material withheld unreasonably.

Details of payments to council staff earning in excess of £50,000 per annum are available in the relevant authorities' annual statements of accounts.

All of the material, including detailed
contracts, invoices and bills, listed in the table above are available during the statutory public inspection period.


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