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 Acccountability Act 2014
BRIEFING ORIGINAL

The Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015
BRIEFING ORIGINAL

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

Wales

The Public Audit (Wales) Act 2013
BRIEFING ORIGINAL

Scotland

The Local Authority Accounts
(Scotland) Regulations
BRIEFING ORIGINAL

Northern Ireland

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

News Links
VEOLIA LOSES APPEAL TO PREVENT PUBLIC DISCLOSURE OF MULTI-MILLION POUND P.F.I. DEAL

COUNCILS ORDERED TO REVEAL PAY, BONUSES & EXPENSES OF HIGHEST-EARNING STAFF


It's Your Right to Know

News Items, Investigations & Exposés




22 July 2011:
Richmond London Borough Council has re-scheduled its public inspection period after ONB queried its failure to advertise the public rights on the authority's website in time.
New regulations in force since March 2011 compel authorities to post a notice on local govt websites, detailing times and locations, and rights to question the district auditor. The rules say information must be given at least 14 days before the start of viewing by the public.
A spokesperson told ONB: "Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention. To ensure the Council fully complies with the requirements of the 2011 regulations we have revised the inspection dates and republished the notice online and in the Richmond and Twickenham Times."

13 July 2011:
A Norfolk authority has provided local taxpayers with more time to scrutinise spending, after ONB queried the absence of information on the council website.
The Kings Lynn/North Norfolk Borough Council has agreed with its external auditor to extend its public inspection period by a further week (to 26 Aug), after Orchard News Bureau Ltd alerted the authority to its failure to post an online notice of public rights to hold the authority to account.

29 October 2010:
The Court of Appeal today ruled that taxpayers and voters are entitled to examine local authority contracts and invoices - but that councils and contractors are entitled to protect legitimate 'trade secrets'.
Lords Justice Rix, Jackson and Etherton today said the Audit Commission Act 1998 (a law which permits the public to trawl through local govt accounts each summer) requires councils and police authorities to disclose files to local taxpayers and voters except where there is a 'strong public interest' against disclosure.
More here.

July 2010:
The Court of Appeal has been tasked to decide whether UK taxpayers and voters (including journalists) are free to view, copy and then publicise details of Town Hall finances.
Lords Justice Rix, Jackson and Etherton are to judge whether the Audit Commission Act (a law which permits the public to trawl through local govt accounts each summer) must be tightened up, to enable councils and consultants to keep 'confidential' contracts and invoices out of public view.
The court is also to rule whether taxpayers and voters (including journalists) should be prohibited from disclosing any information inspected and copied to any individual or organisation other than a nominated district auditor - who will determine what information can be made public.

More details of court submissions here.

October 2009:
Veolia appeals High Court ruling
Waste management firm Veolia ES Nottinghamshire has lodged a formal appeal against a High Court ruling ordering disclosure of financial details of a multi-million pound PFI incinerator project.
The company, which took judicial review proceedings to stop Nottinghamshire county council releasing parts of a contract and monthly invoices to local campaigner Shlomo Dowen (pictured below), has filed papers with the Court of Appeal.
It is understood that the company intends to argue that commercial confidentiality interests over-ride the taxpayers' rights to peruse the disputed accounts. Mr Justice Cranston rejected Veolia's case in the High Court hearing earlier this month, and ordered the council to provide Mr Dowen with access to the files.
An appeal hearing date is pending.

October 2009:
High Court rules against Veolia on 'commercial confidentiality deal'
The High Court has rejected an attempt by environmental company Veolia to keep details of a major PFI deal under wraps.
The company, which is operating an incinerator site near Sherwood Forest, Notts, has been told it can not prevent Friends of the Earth campaigner Shlomo Dowen (pictured) from inspecting last year's PFI invoices and contracts at his local county council.
Veolia argued that its commercial interests would be damaged if there was disclosure, as part of the recent annual public audit of accounts. But Judge Cranston said Parliament had established a clear right for the public to view such files.
For a summary of the judgement, click here.

August 2009:
High Court hearing on 'commercial confidentiality deal'
Judgment is pending over an attempt by environmental firm Veolia to stop a council releasing details of a PFI deal which cost £21m last year.
The company issued legal proceedings after Nottinghamshire taxpayer and campaigner Shlomo Dowen (pictured above) requested access to financial files, using his audit act inspection rights.
At a hearing earlier this week, Veolia argued its contract and monthly invoices were not covered by legislation requiring accounts to be opened to public inspection.
The company also argued that its itemised fees were commercially sensitive and confidential, and should not be disclosed to taxpayers, sub-contractors or rival firms.
Mr Justice Cranston is reserving his decision.
For a summary of Counsels' submissions at the hearing, click here.

This web page is updated periodically.
Please check back for additional information.

For guidance, contact Orchard News Bureau Ltd.


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  

ONB Briefings


Click here for links to C.I.J. slideshow & video briefings