Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014
London Borough of Barnet - inspection of accounts
Your rights: summary
1. The right to inspect the accounts
The London Borough of Barnet prepares its annual accounts by May each year.
By law, the Council must make its accounts available for inspection for a period of 30 working days. The dates appointed for the audit and the specific dates for the inspection are advertised in advance.
If you wish to inspect the council's accounts, which are to be audited and any books, deeds, contracts, bills, vouchers and receipts relating to them, arrangements will be made for you to view them within the council's premises.
You can make copies of the accounts and relevant documents. You may not inspect documents that are not relevant to the accounts or are otherwise legally protected. You may have to pay a copying charge. To inspect the accounts please contact the Chief Finance Officer and S151 Officer, as set out in section 8, 'Contact Us' below.
2. The right to ask the auditor questions about the accounts
By law an elector for the area to which the council's accounts relate (or any representative of his/hers) may request an opportunity to question the auditor about the accounts.
You may only ask the auditor questions about the accounts for the year that they are auditing.
The auditor cannot answer questions about the Council's policies, finances & procedures or anything else that is not directly relevant to the accounts.
3. The right to object to the accounts
If you want to object to the Council's accounts, you must give formal notice of your objection, in writing, to the auditor, Mr Leigh Lloyd-Thomas (Partner), BDO.
The formal notice must include:
- why you are objecting to the accounts and the facts you are relying on
- the details of any item in the accounts that you think is unlawful; and
- what you would like the external auditor to do;
- the details of any matter that you think the auditor should make a public interest report about.
- Confirmation that you are an elector in the authority’s area.
To ask questions of the auditor or raise an objection, please contact:
Mr Leigh Lloyd-Thomas (Partner)
BDO, 55 Baker Street
London W1U 7E
You must also send the Council a copy of your objection. When you are thinking about whether to object, you must appreciate that the Council has the power to decide what they think is the best way to do things. The fact that you may strongly disagree with something the Council has done does not mean that you can challenge that action.
An auditor and a court cannot question the Council's policy or decisions unless these are unlawful. If you do decide to make an objection, and if your objection contains personal or sensitive information, you should mark it appropriately to avoid the risk of the information being seen by an inappropriate person. You may show this by marking the objection and the envelope containing it, 'Private and confidential - for the attention of:
The Monitoring Officer
London Borough of Barnet
North London Business Park
Oakleigh Road South London N11 1NP
The auditor must reach a decision on your objection. If you are not happy with that decision, you can appeal to the courts.
If you are not satisfied with a decision or action by the Council but your objection does not involve anything unlawful or a failure to account for spending or income, your objection can only result in a ‘public interest report’ by the auditor, for consideration by the council. Again, you must give your reasons. In this case, the auditor must decide whether to take any action. The auditor will normally give reasons for the decision, but is not obliged to do so. You do not have a right of appeal to the courts, against the auditor's decision, in this case.
You may not use this 'right to object' to make a personal complaint or claim against London Borough of Barnet. For such matters the Council has its own complaints procedure which can be found on its website or you may take these complaints to your local Citizens' Advice Bureau, local Law Centre or your solicitor.
London Borough of Barnet and so local tax payers must meet the costs of dealing with questions and objections. Auditors will take valid objections but will consider a range of factors in deciding how to deal with them. They must take into account the costs 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, you might have to meet the costs of the action yourself.
Your rights in more detail
5. Your legal position
Your rights are set out in sections 25 and 26 of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014. The detailed regulations that set out how you can exercise these rights are in The Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014. (There is also a link to the National Audit Office website at the end of this page)
6. Your right to inspect the accounts
The Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014- Section 25 (1) relevant authority other than a health service body must ensure that a local government elector for its area may inspect and make copies of—
- the statement of accounts prepared by the authority
- the local auditor’s certificate that the audit of the authority’s accounts including that statement has been completed
- the local auditor’s opinion on the statement of accounts
- any public interest report relating to the authority or an entity connected with it, and
- any recommendation relating to the authority or an entity connected with it
(2) A relevant authority other than a health service body must ensure that a local government elector for its area may have copies of any document within subsection (1) supplied to the elector at the elector’s request on payment of a reasonable sum for each copy.
(3) The relevant authority must ensure that a local government elector may inspect a document within subsection (1) at all reasonable times and without payment.
(4) This section applies in relation to a document only if the relevant authority has prepared the document or it has been made available to the authority.
(5) References in this section to copies of a document include a reference to copies of any part of it.
The Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014- Section 26 Inspection of documents (1) at each audit of accounts under this Act, other than an audit of accounts of a health service body, any persons interested or any journalist may—
- inspect the accounting records for the financial year to which the audit relates and all books, deeds, contracts, bills, vouchers, receipts and other documents relating to those records, and
- make copies of all or any part of those records or documents
In subsection (1) ‘’journalist’ means any person who produces for publication journalistic material (whether paid to do so or otherwise).
(2) At the request of a local government elector for any area to which the accounts relate, the local auditor must give the elector, or any representative of the elector, an opportunity to question the auditor about the accounting records.
(3) The local auditor’s reasonable costs of complying with subsection (2) are recoverable from the relevant authority to which the accounts relate.
(4) This section does not entitle a person;
- to inspect or copy any part of any record or document containing information which is protected on the grounds of commercial confidentiality, or
- to require any such information to be disclosed in answer to any question
(5) Information is protected on the grounds of commercial confidentiality if
- its disclosure would prejudice commercial confidentiality, and
- there is no overriding public interest in favour of its disclosure
(6) This section does not entitle a person;
- to inspect or copy any part of any record or document containing personal information, or
- to require any personal information to be disclosed in answer to any question
(7) Information is personal information if it identifies a particular individual or enables a particular individual to be identified (but see subsection (8)).
(8) Information is not personal information merely because it relates to a business carried on by an individual as a sole trader.
(9) Information is personal information if it is information about an officer of the relevant authority which relates specifically to a particular individual and is available to the authority because;
(a) the individual holds or has held an office or employment with that authority, or
(b) payments or other benefits in respect of an office or employment under any other person are or have been made or provided to that individual by that authority
(10) For the purposes of subsection (9);
- “the relevant authority” means the relevant authority whose accounts are being audited, and
- payments made or benefits provided to an individual in respect of an office or employment include any payment made or benefit provided in respect of the individual ceasing to hold the office or employment
7. Objecting to the accounts
The Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014- Section 27 right to make objections at audit (1) This section applies if, at an audit of accounts under this Act other than an audit of accounts of a health service body, a local government elector for an area to which the accounts relate makes an objection to the local auditor which meets the requirements in subsection (2) and which;
- concerns a matter in respect of which the auditor could make a public interest report, or
- (b)concerns a matter in respect of which the auditor could apply for a declaration under section 28
(2) The requirements are that;
- the objection is made in writing, and
- a copy of the objection is sent to the relevant authority whose accounts are being audited
(3) The local auditor must decide;
- whether to consider the objection, and
- if the auditor does so, whether to take action within paragraph (a) or (b) of subsection (1) in response
(4) The local auditor may decide not to consider the objection if, in particular, the auditor thinks that
- the objection is frivolous or vexatious
- the cost of the auditor considering the objection would be disproportionate to the sums to which the objection relates, or
- the objection repeats an objection already considered
- under this section by a local auditor of the authority’s accounts, or
- under section 16 of the Audit Commission Act 1998 by an auditor appointed under that Act in relation to those accounts
(5) Subsection (4)(b) does not entitle the local auditor to refuse to consider an objection which the auditor thinks might disclose serious concerns about how the relevant authority is managed or led.
(6) If the local auditor decides not to take action within paragraph (a) or (b) of subsection (1), the auditor may recommend that the relevant authority should instead take action in response to the objection.
(7) The local auditor’s reasonable costs of exercising functions under this section are recoverable from the relevant authority.
(8). Items in the accounts that break the law
The Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014- Section 28 declaration that item of account is unlawful.
- If a local auditor carrying out an audit of accounts under this Act, other than an audit of accounts of a health service body, thinks that an item of account is contrary to law, the auditor may apply to the court for a declaration to that effect.
- On an application under this section, the court—
- may make or refuse to make the declaration, and
- if it makes the declaration, may also order rectification of the statement of accounts or accounting records
- A person who has objected under section 27(1)(b) and is aggrieved by a decision of the local auditor not to consider the objection or not to apply for a declaration under this section may—
- within the period of 6 weeks beginning with the day after that on which the person is notified of the decision, require the auditor to provide written reasons for the decision, and
- within the period of 21 days beginning with the day after that on which the person receives those written reasons, appeal against the decision to the court
- On an appeal under subsection (3), the court has the same powers in relation to the item of account to which the objection relates as it would have on an application by the local auditor for the declaration.
- On an application or appeal under this section, the court may make an order for the payment by the relevant authority to which the application or appeal relates of expenses incurred in connection with it by the local auditor or the person by whom the appeal is brought.
- Subsection (7) applies if a local auditor of the accounts of a relevant authority incurs costs in determining whether to make an application under this section in relation to the authority, but the application is not in fact made.
- The local auditor may recover the reasonable costs so incurred from the relevant authority.
- The High Court and the county court have jurisdiction for the purposes of this section.
- In this Act “item of account”, in relation to a relevant authority, means an item in the authority’s accounting records or statement of accounts.
8. Contact Us
If you would like further information or would like to inspect the accounts, please contact:
Director of Finance and Section 151 Officer
London Borough of Barnet
North London Business Park
Oakleigh Road South
London N11 1NP
Barnet Online: www.barnet.gov.uk
9. Useful contacts
Mr Leigh Lloyd-Thomas (Partner)
BDO, 55 Baker Street
London W1U 7E
National Audit Office
157-197 Buckingham Palace Road
Victoria London SW1W 9SP
Telephone: 020 7798 7264
Local Government Ombudsman
Telephone: 0300 061 0614