The Audit Commission’s Auditing the Accounts 2013/14: Local Government Bodies reveals that financial reporting was consistently strong for most types of principal local authority in 2013/14 when compared to the previous financial year. The results for small bodies were however less satisfactory, with 1,015 parish councils (11 per cent) and 19 internal drainage boards (IDBs, 16 per cent) receiving a qualified opinion on their 2013/14 annual return by 30 September 2014. For parish councils and IDBs, the level of qualifications increased from 8 per cent and 9 per cent, respectively.
The Audit Commission has published Council tax and business rates collection: an update (November 2014), using publicly available data from its Value for Money (VFM) Profiles Tool. The update to two previous briefings, examining English councils’ collection rates and costs of collecting council tax and business rates, reveals that £4.55 billion remained unpaid at the end of March 2014. The uncollected £4.55 billion is equivalent to the cost of building close to 300 secondary schools.
Fraud valued at £188 million was detected by England’s councils in 2013/14, a ten-fold increase since 1990. The figure beats all records for the past 25 years, the Audit Commission revealed in its latest report on fraud in local government.
The Audit Commission is reducing audit fees for local public bodies by £30 million from 2015 to 2017, taking total fees to the lowest level since the Commission took on NHS audit in 1990. The announcement came as the Commission launched its final consultation on work programme and scales of audit fees. These relate to the 2015/16 financial year. The fees will reduce by 25 per cent, following the Commission’s successful retendering in March 2014 of the work done under its older contracts. The latest reduction is in addition to the 40 per cent drop in fees made by the Commission in 2012.
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.