The government has today (8 September 2020) published the results of an independent review into the effectiveness of local authority financial reporting and audit regimes in England, led by Sir Tony Redmond.
The review, launched in July 2019, examined whether the reporting regimes are robust enough to spot early warning signs, such as risks from commercial investments, to protect public funds and better serve taxpayers.
Sir Tony Redmond recommends improvements in the way that councils communicate with taxpayers, to empower local people and improve transparency and accountability. This includes a simplified statement of costs, to allow taxpayers to measure performance against the council’s achievements.
Secretary of State for Local Government, Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said:
A robust local audit system is key to delivering transparency and value for money for taxpayers, and for sustaining public confidence in our systems of local democracy.
I would like to thank Sir Tony for undertaking this comprehensive and important review over the last year.
I will consider the findings and recommendations carefully and remain committed to strengthening the local audit system so that it works more effectively for taxpayers and councils.
This government remains committed to a locally-led audit regime, alongside robust local scrutiny and local accountability by the press and public.
Sir Tony Redmond said:
I am grateful for the opportunity to undertake an independent review of local audit and the transparency of local authority financial reporting.
I have been guided by the need to see more accountability and transparency in the local audit system and my proposed recommendations reflect these principles.
Sir Tony is a former local authority Treasurer and Chief Executive. He has also worked as a Local Government Boundary Commissioner and held the post of Local Government Ombudsman, along with a number of non-executive positions in the public and third sectors.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government will carefully consider the recommendations proposed, which will play an important strategic role in strengthening the overall framework for local accountability.
See the full report.
A call for evidence was opened last year seeking views from practitioners who work in the local government sector, the audit community, representative bodies and other relevant or interested parties.
Councils in England are responsible for 22% of total UK public sector expenditure.
The responsibilities for local authority audits and how they are conducted is set down within the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014.
The 2014 Act gave effect to government manifesto commitments to abolish the Audit Commission and its centralised performance and inspection regimes and put in place a new localised audit regime, refocussing local accountability on improved transparency.
The abolition of the Commission centralised audit regime and its top down inspection was estimated to save taxpayers £1.2 billion over 10 years.