The Centre for Public Scrutiny (CfPS) and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) have released a new how-to guide for local authorities in England to support effective financial scrutiny in a post-COVID world.
Research from CfPS has revealed that effective financial scrutiny is not currently the norm within local government – with 51% of respondents to their 2017 annual survey indicating they felt that they did not carry out scrutiny of finance issues effectively.
The Financial Scrutiny Practice Guide provides councils and councillors with insights on how they can integrate an awareness of finance into the way that overview and scrutiny works.
Jacqui McKinlay, Chief Executive of the Centre for Public Scrutiny, said:
"We are delighted to be working with CIPFA to produce the most comprehensive guide to councillor scrutiny of local authority finances in the last decade – at what is a critical time for the sector.
"Councillors can provide a unique perspective on the exceptionally difficult decisions that councils are making to deliver a balanced budget this year, in 2021/22 and beyond. We're keen to see scrutineers – and s151 officers – make immediate practical use of our suggestions."
Rob Whiteman, CIPFA CEO said:
"The impact of COVID-19 on council finances has created massive challenges for the sector. Scrutiny of public finances is of utmost importance to help see us out of this crisis and prepare for what comes next.
"Scrutiny is a crucial part of ensuring that council finances are sustainable, robust and transparent. This publication gives public finance professionals the tools to place much-needed emphasis on scrutiny as we continue forward into an uncertain future."
The publication guides practitioners through how scrutiny fits together with the council's governance and financial management requirements. It also specifies where scrutiny can add most value and outlines the support the councillors are likely to need to ensure that scrutiny plays its part in the budget setting process and when critical decisions are required.
Notes to editors:
CIPFA, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, is the professional body for people in public finance. CIPFA shows the way in public finance globally, standing up for sound public financial management and good governance around the world as the leading commentator on managing and accounting for public money.
CfPS is a national centre of expertise on governance and scrutiny. We passionately believe that better governance and scrutiny leads to more effective decision-making, reduced risk and ultimately improved outcomes. Our work spans corporate decisions impacting on the public, to how taxpayers' money is spent. We focus on behaviours and culture, as well as design and delivery.