August 13, 2012
Audit Commission Act 1998, Sections 15 and 16, and the Accounts and Audit (England) Regulations 2011 (SI 2011/817)
1. Date of announcement: 13 August 2012
2. Each year the Partnership’s Annual Return is audited by an auditor appointed by the Audit Commission. Any person interested has the right to inspect the accounts and make copies of the Annual Return and all books, deeds, contracts, bills, vouchers and receipts relating to the accounting statements. For the year ended 31 March 2012 these documents will be available on reasonable notice on application to:
Head of Strategy and Accounting
Kingston upon Thames KT1 1EU
Tel: 020 8547 5572
commencing on 27 August 2012
and ending on 21 September 2012
3. Local Government Electors and their representatives also have:
4. The audit is being conducted under the provisions of the Audit Commission Act 1998, the Accounts and Audit (England) Regulations 2011 and the Audit Commission’s Code of Audit Practice. Your audit is being carried out by:
Mazars LLP, Regency House, 3 Grosvenor Square, Southampton SO15 2BE
5. This announcement is made by Jeremy Randall – Head of Strategy and Accounting
The basic position
By law any interested person has the right to inspect the council’s/meeting’s accounts. If you are entitled and registered to vote in local council elections then you (or your representative) also have the right to ask the appointed auditor questions about the council’s accounts or challenge an item of account contained within them.
The right to inspect the accounts
When your council has finalised its accounts for the previous financial year it must advertise that they are available for people to inspect. Having given reasonable notice of your intentions, you then have 20 working days to look through the accounts and supporting documents. You will be able to make copies of the accounts and most of the relevant documents from your council. You will probably have to pay a copying charge.
The right to ask the auditor questions about the accounts
You can only ask the appointed auditor questions about the accounts. The auditor does not have to answer questions about the council’s policies, finances, procedures or anything else not related to the accounts. Your question must be about the accounts that they are auditing. The auditor does not have to say whether they think something the council has done, or an item in its accounts, is lawful or reasonable.
The right to object to the accounts
If you think that the council has spent money that they shouldn’t have, or that someone has caused a loss to the council deliberately or by behaving irresponsibly, you can object to the external auditor by sending a formal ‘notice of objection’, which must be in writing to the address below. You must tell the auditor why you are objecting. The auditor must reach a decision on your objection. If you are not happy with that decision, you can appeal to the courts.
You may also object if you think that there is something in the accounts that the auditor should discuss with the council or tell the public about in a ‘public interest report’. Again, you must give your reasons in writing to the auditor at the address below. In this case, the auditor must decide whether to take any action. The auditor will normally, but does not have to, give reasons for their decision and you cannot appeal to the courts. Your rights are summarised, and a helpful flowchart and objection pro forma are available from the Audit Commission website (see contact details below).
You may not use this ‘right to object’ to make a personal complaint or claim against your council. You should take such complaints to your local Citizens’ Advice Bureau, local Law Centre or your solicitor. You may also be able to complain to the Standards Committee of your local authority if you believe that a Councillor has broken the Code of Conduct for Members. For further information about the local standards framework, contact: Standards for England, Fourth Floor, Griffin House, 40 Lever Street, Manchester, M1 1BB, telephone 0161 817 5300 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The Standards for England website is at www.standardsforengland.gov.uk/.
What else you can do
Instead of objecting, you can give the auditor information that is relevant to their responsibilities. For example, you can simply tell the auditor if you think that something is wrong with the accounts or about waste and inefficiency in the way the council runs its services. You do not have to follow any set time limits or procedures. The auditor does not have to give you a detailed report of their investigation, but they will usually tell you the outcome.
A final word
Councils, and so local taxpayers, must meet the costs of dealing with questions and objections. When the auditor decides whether to take your objection further, one of a series of factors they must take into account includes the costs that will be involved. They will only continue with the objection if it is in the public interest to do so. If you appeal to the courts, you might have to pay for the action yourself.
Who should you contact?
Copies of the Audit Commission publication Councils’ Accounts – Your Rights are available by calling FREEPHONE 0800 502 030 and quoting reference LCM3351 or download from the Audit Commission website at http://www.audit-commission.gov.uk/SiteCollectionDocuments/Downloads/councilsaccounts202006.pdf
If you wish to contact your Council’s appointed external auditor please write to:
3 Grosvenor Square
SOUTHAMPTON SO15 2BE