The Governance and Accountability document details the statutory position of local councils to apply ‘proper practices’ to the management of finances. The 2023 edition of the guide has been updated by Joint Practitioners’ Advisory Group (JPAG).
Sections 1, 2 and 3 of the guide represent the ‘proper practices’ referred to in statute. They set out the appropriate mandatory standard of financial and governance reporting. Section 4 sets out best practice guidance relating to internal audit, which parish & town councils are required to take into account. Section 5 contains information and practical examples to support finance and proper officers in complying with proper practices to complete the Annual Governance and Accountability Return (AGAR) Form 2 or Form 3 submissions.
You can check out the changes made to this latest version of the guide, here.
The Transparency Code (Smaller Authorities) replaced the requirement for parish councils with turnover less than £25,000 to undergo external audit. The Code requires the on-line publication of information that the government considers will provide taxpayers with a clear picture of the council’s’ activities, spending and governance, improving the ability of communities to hold local public bodies to account.
A town or parish council may borrow funds but will normally require the formal written approval of the Secretary of State. Any local council in Somerset that wishes to borrow funds must contact SALC to discuss the proposal and obtain the application form for the approval.
The funds borrowed must be for a specific, generally capital expenditure, with the purpose detailed on the application form and within a report to the council. Loans are usually applied for from the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) at competitive rates of interest, but money may be borrowed from any source, including interest free loans from individuals. Whatever the source, an approval is required and no mortgage or charge on property is allowed.
The council will be required to demonstrate to the Secretary of State that the repayments are affordable and that the project costs being supported exceed £5 per elector. The Council will also be required to provide evidence that it has consulted with residents on the proposed project, on the intention to borrow, and on any proposal to increase the council tax precept to meet borrowing costs (where applicable). A formal decision to apply for funds, and to exercise a borrowing approval, has to be made by the full council meeting and not by a committee.
If your council intends to apply to borrow funds, the clerk and chairman should contact SALC as soon as possible. After an initial discussion with SALC, the documentation and the application form will be supplied. See below for model documents and guidance on borrowing.
This is a resource of information about Somerset Council’s discussions with parish and town councils concerning the potential devolution of discretionary assets and services. We will update this section with information as we receive it.
SALC recognises and respects that not all local councils will want to, or be able to, take on further responsibilities. However, should any of our member councils decide to take on responsibilities devolved from Somerset Council, we will endeavour to provide assistance to those councils.
Please note that Somerset Council has stated that parishes must submit the precept demand by the final deadline of 5pm on 2nd February 2024.
Councils can refer to the Somerset Council’s land and property assets links, below (via Somerset Council sharepoint) to establish what assets and services exist in their areas.
For further information, to report an error on the lists, and to express an interest in any of the listed items, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
For additional information and updates issued by Somerset Council, please visit the Somerset Council website.
Nalc has published A Practical Guide to Devolution, which has been written to share the experiences of local councils that have taken on assets or services devolved from a principal authority. The document addresses some common questions and includes contact details of clerks who have been through the process.