Telling the story, improving the presentation of local authority financial statements

The Telling the Story Review

CIPFA and CIPFA/LASAAC have undertaken a review Telling the Story, Improving the Presentation of Local Authority Financial Statements (Telling the Story Review).  

This review has taken the form of a review group and a number of consultations culminating in the Telling the Story Improving the Presentation of Local Authority Financial Statements (Telling the Story consultation) in the summer of 2015.  

This consultation built on the messages of previous consultations that the local authority financial statements did not clearly reflect traditional local authority performance, ie the movements on General Fund and Housing Revenue Account balances.

After consideration of the consultation responses, the changes to the 2016/17 Code of Practice on Local Authority Accounting in the United Kingdom (the Code) as a result of the Telling the Story consultation have two main strands:

  • To allow local authorities to report on the same basis as they are organised by breaking the formal link between the Service Reporting Code of Practice (SeRCOP) and the Comprehensive Income and Expenditure Statement. 
  • To introduce a new Expenditure and Funding Analysis which provides a direct reconciliation between the way local authorities are funded and prepare their budget and the Comprehensive Income and Expenditure Statement in a way that is accessible to the lay-reader.

This analysis is supported by a streamlined Movement in Reserves Statement, the changes have replaced the current segmental reporting note.

A more detailed description of the changes to the 2016/17 Code can be found in

Technical Information Note 16 (01).

Understanding Local Authority Financial Statements

CIPFA and CIPFA/LASAAC have published Understanding Local Authority Financial Statements (previously How to Tell the Story) as a part of its programme of changes under the Telling the Story Review.

This publication is intended to help chief finance officers and other senior staff to present the financial statements to members and other key stakeholders by explaining how the formats can be used to convey key information in these areas and covers the main financial statements.

It also features the changed formats of the financial statements from the 2016/17 Code and discusses the new Expenditure and Funding Analysis.

CIPFA and CIPFA/LASAAC are clear that the financial statements have a key part to play in accountability to taxpayers and other stakeholders as to how public money is used.

A key to achieving the aims of the changes brought about by the review will be to use the information not just in the narrative section of the financial statements to explain performance during the year, but more widely to all stakeholders, including elected members as citizens’ representatives, in a range of formats and media to provide a definitive position on financial performance. Local authorities are also urged to look to their balance sheets as a part of this explanation and the key messages that can be drawn out. 

We welcome your views

CIPFA and CIPFA/LASAAC welcome feedback and innovative practices where authorities have achieved effective communications with their stakeholders on the financial statements.  Please contact Sarah Sheen.