The Commission has today published Interpreting the Accounts: A Review of Local Government Financial Ratios 2007/08 to 2012/13, describing changes in the ratios for English councils during a period of considerable change for local government finance, and is calling on local government to compile its own financial ratios data for comparison after the Commission closes in March 2015.
The number of children in the care of councils in England rose by 7,210 (12 per cent) over a four year period ending on 31 March 2013. 68,110 children were in care on this date, including 42,228 in care as a result of abuse or neglect. Councils in England spent a total of £3.4 billion caring for these vulnerable young people, who represent 0.6 per cent of all children in England under the age of 18.
The timeliness and quality of NHS trusts’ financial reporting improved for 2013/14 according to the Commission’s report Auditing the Accounts 2013/14: NHS Bodies. In their first year, Clinical Commissioning Groups submitted their accounts on time but experienced some issues with quality. There is rising concern from the Commission’s appointed auditors for the financial resilience of NHS trusts, with a significant increase in the numbers of both qualified conclusions on value for money arrangements and statutory reports to the Secretary of State for Health.
The Audit Commission has today written to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to express its concerns about the complexity of the government’s new arrangements for parish council audit. Responding to DCLG’s consultation on local audit regulations, the Commission suggests they will place a much greater burden on parish councils and their clerks than the government intends. The Commission has been expressing its concerns in private for some time.
78 per cent of councils’ claims to the grant-paying body for housing benefit subsidies for 2012/13 were challenged by the Audit Commission’s appointed auditors. Auditors issued a qualification letter in 35 per cent (360) of the 1,023 claims and returns made by councils for 2012/13 in respect of seven schemes for grants or subsidies. 255 of the 360 (71 per cent) qualifications related to claims for housing and council tax benefit subsidy. In total, these seven schemes transfer £50.5 billion of public money from central to local government.