Transparency Code

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Transparency Code

INTRODUCTION

The Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 set out a new audit framework for local public authorities previously covered by the Audit Commission regime.

Under the new audit framework smaller authorities, including parish councils, with an annual turnover not exceeding £25,000 will be exempt from routine external audit. In place of routine audit, these smaller authorities will be subject to the new  requirements laid out in the Transparency Code.

This Code is issued by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government  under section 2 of the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980 as amended by section 38 of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 as recommended practice for the publication of information.

The Data Protection Act 1998 does not restrict or inhibit information being published naming councillors, members or senior local authority officers who have taken certain decisions, because of the public interest in the scrutiny of such senior individuals and decision makers. The Data Protection Act 1998 also does not automatically prohibit information being published naming the suppliers with whom the authority has contracts, including sole traders, because of the public interest in accountability and transparency in the spending of public money.

The Government has not seen any evidence that publishing details about contracts entered into by smaller authorities would prejudice procurement exercises or the interests of commercial organisations, or breach commercial confidentiality unless specific confidentiality clauses are included in contracts. Smaller authorities should expect to publish details of contracts newly entered into – commercial confidentiality should not, in itself, be a reason for smaller authorities to not follow the provisions of this Code. Therefore, smaller authorities should consider inserting clauses in new contracts allowing for the disclosure of data in compliance with this Code.

INFORMATION WHICH SHOULD BE PUBLISHED

A. All items of expenditure above £100
B. End of year accounts
C. Annual governance statement
D. Internal audit report
E. List of councillor or member responsibilities
F.  Details of public land and building assets
G. Minutes, agendas and meeting papers of formal meetings.

INFORMATION TO BE PUBLISHED ANNUALLY not later than 1st July following the accounting year to which it relates.

A. All items of expenditure above £100:
a. date the expenditure was incurred,
b. summary of the purpose of the expenditure
c. amount, and
d. VAT that cannot be recovered.

Copies of all books, deeds, contracts, bills, vouchers, receipts and other related documents do not need to be published, but should remain available for inspection during the specified inspection period set out under regulation 14 of the Accounts and Audit (England) Regulations 20116, or under any equivalent regulations made under section 32 of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014. The right to inspect can be exercised on giving reasonable notice.

B. End of year accounts.

Smaller authorities should publish their statement of accounts according to the format included in the Annual Return form. Publication of the relevant page of the completed Annual Return form will meet this requirement. The statement of accounts must be approved and signed by the Responsible Financial Officer and the Chairman of the meeting approving the statement of accounts.

The statement of accounts should be accompanied by:
a. a copy of the bank reconciliation for the relevant financial year,
b. an explanation of any significant variances (eg more than 10-15 percent in line with proper practices) in the statement of accounts for the relevant year and previous year, and
c. an explanation of any differences between ‘balances carried forward’ and ‘total cash and short term investments’ if applicable.

C. Annual governance statement

Smaller authorities should publish their annual governance statement according to the format included in the Annual Return form. Publication of the relevant page of the completed Annual Return form will meet this requirement. The annual governance statement should be signed by the Chairman and Clerk of the smaller authority.

D. Internal audit report

Smaller authorities should publish their annual internal audit report according to the format included in the Annual Return form. Publication of the relevant page of the completed Annual Return form will meet this requirement. The internal audit report should be signed by the person who carried out the internal audit.

E. list of councillor or member responsibilities

Smaller authorities should publish a list of councillor or member responsibilities. The list should include the following information:
a. names of all councillors or members of the authority,
b. committee or board membership and function (if Chairman or Vice-Chairman) of each councillor or member, and
c. representation on external local public bodies (if nominated to represent the authority or board) of each councillor or member.

F.  Details of public land and building assets

Parish councils should publish details of all public land and building assets. Where this information is included in the authority’s asset and liabilities register, this register may be published in its entirety or as an edited version displaying only public land and building assets.
Parish councils should include the following information in relation to each land and building asset:
a. Description (what it is, including size/acreage),
b. location (address or description of location),
c. owner/custodian, eg the authority or board manages the land or asset on behalf of a local charity,
d. date of acquisition (if known),
e. cost of acquisition (or proxy value) and
f.  present use.

MORE FREQUENTLY PUBLISHED INFORMATION

G. Minutes, agendas and meeting papers of formal meetings.

Smaller authorities should publish the draft minutes from all formal meetings (i.e. full council or board, committee and sub-committee meetings) not later than one month after the meeting has taken place. These minutes should be signed either at the meeting they were taken or at the next meeting.

Smaller authorities should also publish meeting agendas, which are as full and informative as possible, and associated meeting papers not later than three clear days before the meeting to which they relate is taking place.

METHOD OF PUBLICATION

The data and information specified in this Code must be published on a Website which is publicly accessible free of charge. For example, one way that this requirement could be achieved could be by publishing the data on the smaller authority’s website or that of the billing authority in its area (district or London borough or unitary council).