The timeliness and quality of financial reporting for 2016/17, as reported by auditors, remained broadly consistent with the previous year for both principal and small bodies.
Compared with 2015/16, the number of principal bodies that received an unqualified audit opinion by 31 July showed an encouraging increase. 83 principal bodies (17 per cent) received an unqualified opinion on their accounts by the end of July compared with 49 (10 per cent) for 2015/16. These bodies appear to be well positioned to meet the earlier statutory accounts publication timetable that will apply for 2017/18 accounts.
Less positively, the proportion of principal bodies where the auditor was unable to issue the opinion by 30 September increased compared to 2015/16. Auditors at 92 per cent of councils (331 out of 357) were able to issue the opinion on the accounts by 30 September 2017, compared to 96 per cent for the previous year. This is a disappointing development in the context of the challenging new reporting timetable from 2017/18. All police bodies, 29 out of 30 fire and rescue authorities and all other local government bodies received their audit opinions by 30 September 2017.
For the fourth year in a row there have been no qualified opinions on the accounts issued to date to principal bodies. The number of qualified conclusions on value for money arrangements has remained relatively constant at 7 per cent (30 councils, 2 fire and rescue authorities and 1 other local government body) compared to 8 per cent for 2015/16.
The latest results of auditors’ work on the financial year to 31 March 2017 show a solid position for the majority of principal local government bodies. Generally, high standards of financial reporting are being maintained despite the financial and service delivery challenges currently facing local government.
For small bodies, auditors were able to issue their opinion on the annual return by 30 September 2017 at 97 per cent of parish councils and 98 per cent of internal drainage boards. This is consistent with the previous year. The number of qualified opinions issued to parish councils increased from 14 per cent in 2015/16 to 23 per cent and also increased for internal drainage boards from 4 per cent to 10 per cent.
To accompany the report, PSAA has published a spreadsheet which includes:
- a list of the qualified 2016/17 opinions for parish councils;
- a list of the qualified 2016/17 opinions for IDBs;
- the position at 30 November 2017 for the 333 parish councils and two IDBs where an opinion on the annual return had not been issued by 30 September 2017; and
- the updated position at 30 November 2017 for the 301 parish councils and two IDB where no opinion had been issued on the 2015/16 annual return by 30 September 2016.