How are parish councils funded?
A small percentage of your council tax goes to the parish council. This is called the precept. Apart from occasional much appreciated grants from the district and county councils, the precept is all the money the parish council has to carry out its duties. The council’s budget is agreed at a council meeting in January. Then the precept is set at a level so that the council can put its plans into action. Of course the budget includes money set aside for special purposes (reserves) and money set aside for a rainy day (contingencies).
Is the council audited?
Each year, the council’s ways of working and its accounts are audited, both internally and externally. The council must be clear that it is operating within the guidance given by central and local government. This makes sure that any expenditure by the parish council is lawful. Councillors themselves are the first part of this process. A report on internal controls is produced by a councillor and discussed by the full council.
The annual governance and accountability return (AGAR) is the parish council’s statement to the auditors that it has operated appropriately and lawfully.
The AGAR and the council’s accounts are scrutinised by an internal auditor, usually in April or May. This independent qualified person looks at the minutes of a selection of the council’s meetings and all of its accounts. This is to confirm the accuracy of the AGAR statements. (Recently, the council has asked the Suffolk Association of Local Councils to provide an internal auditor.)
Central government has set up a system for external audits. These auditors compare the internal auditor’s report with the parish council’s AGAR statements, the summary of accounts and any explanations of significant changes in expenditure or income year on year.
As well as confirming the accuracy of the AGAR and the accounts, the internal or external auditors may make suggestions for improvements in the way the council works. It is a thorough process!
To see the documents for a particular year, just click on the year in the box below. Remember, a governmental year, like a financial year, goes from April to March