Notice of Public Rights to Scrutinise Annual Accounts
By law, any interested person has the right to inspect the accounting records of smaller authorities. If you are a local government elector or registered to vote in the local councils’ elections, then you are able to ask questions about the accounts and object to them.
Published: May 31, 2023
The right to inspect the accounting records
When your council has finalised its accounts for the previous financial year, they must advertise that they are available for people to inspect. You must then provide the council with reasonable notice of your intentions. You can apply to inspect the accounts by contacting the clerk at firstname.lastname@example.org Following this, by arrangement you will then have 30 working days to inspect and make copies of the accounting records and supporting documents. You may be required to pay a copying charge.
The right to ask the auditor questions about the accounting records
If you have any questions regarding the accounting records, you should first ask your smaller authority. This must be done during the 30-day period for the exercise of public rights. You may also ask the appointed auditor questions about an item in the accounting records. However, the auditor can only answer ‘what’ questions, not ‘why’ questions so is limited with their response. To avoid any confusion, it is advised that you put your questions in writing.
The right to make objections
Should you view something as unlawful or believe there are matters of wider concern in the accounts, you may wish to object. If you are a local government elector, you have the right to ask the external auditor to apply to the courts for a declaration that an item is contrary to the law and should be reported as a matter of public interest. This must be done by telling the appointed auditor which specific item in the accounts you object to and why you believe it to be unlawful or think a public interest report should be made about it. You must provide clear evidence to support your objection, and this should be done in writing and the copied to the council.
You should not use the ‘right to object’ to make a personal complaint or claim against your smaller authority. Complaints of this nature should be taken to your local Citizens’ Advice Bureau, local Law Centre or to your solicitor.
A final word
Smaller authorities, and so local taxpayers, meet the costs of dealing with questions and objections. In deciding whether to take your objection forward, the auditor must consider the cost that will be involved. They will only continue with the objection if it is in the public interest to do so. If you appeal to the courts against an auditor’s decision, you may have to pay for the action yourself.