It's Your Right to Know

The Public Audit (Wales) Act 2004

This legislation has the same effect as the Audit Commission Act 1998 in England, and governs the access to accounts concerning councils, police authorities, national parks and port authorities.

The rules were amended by statutory instrument in March 2010, requiring councils and police authorities to publish total earnings, expenses, bonuses and pension payments of
highest-earning staff.

While English authorities are required to list (by job title but not by name) employees receiving more than £50,000 per annum, in Wales the tariff is

Otherwise the Welsh and English regulations are identical. Heads of paid service (mainly chief
executives and chief constables) who earn more than £150,000 will have their financial packages released to the public.

Councils and police authorities are obliged to attach a note to the accounts, listing their (total) salaries, fees and allowances,
bonuses, expenses, severance packages, pension contributions and any other payments in separate sub-headings.

As in the case in England, there will be no disclosure this year of any payments where relevant contracts contained valid
confidentiality clauses, providing those contracts were in force before 1 April 2010.

Section 30 of the 2004 Act gives local electors and taxpayers rights to
inspect and copy all files - except details of payments to employees or ex-employees earning less than £150,000. Restrictions on the disclosure of accounts which contain the identities of any other individuals, introduced in the 2007 English statute, have similar effect in Wales.

As in England, councils and police authorities must have the
permission of external auditors to 'redact' such information from the accounts.

The 2004 Act enables 'interested persons' to question an auditor, and section 31 enables local electors to lodge formal objections to the accounts.

The Accounts and Audit (Wales) Regulations 2005 require the files to be open to public inspection for
20 working days.

For guidance, contact Orchard News Bureau Ltd.