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Following consultation with local government finance professionals, a strengthened Prudential Code will be published by the end of 2021, CIPFA has announced today.
The Prudential Code is a professional code of practice that aims to ensure local authorities’ financial plans are affordable, prudent and sustainable. Over 100 participants responded to the consultation earlier this year which set out CIPFA’s proposals for a revised Code.
The key changes being brought forward are to paragraph 45 of the Prudential Framework, which currently states that ‘authorities must not borrow more than or in advance of their needs purely in order to profit from the investment of the extra sums borrowed.'
The revised Code will include clarification and examples of what is and is not classified as prudent borrowing activity. These added principles are intended to protect the public purse and avoid misinterpretation of the Code’s provisions.
CIPFA CEO Rob Whiteman said:
“We are tremendously grateful to everyone who took the time to share their thoughts with us throughout this consultation process.
“CIPFA is committed to maintaining a principles-based system that gives local authorities the freedom and protection to invest in their communities. It is the actions of a minority of outlying authorities that are putting those freedoms at risk of further government intervention into the Prudential Framework.
“We are confident that the proposals we will be implementing will put an end to actions that either push the boundaries of the Prudential Code or intentionally misinterpret its provisions.”
CIPFA’s full response to the Prudential Code consultation can be found here.
CIPFA’s full response to the Treasury Management Code consultation can be found here.
The proposals followed on from the National Audit Office report into local authority commercial investments (Feb 2020), as well as recommendations by the Public Accounts Committee (Jul 2020) that the Prudential Framework should be reviewed.
The consultations took place from 1 February to 12 April 2021.
Local authorities are required by regulation to have regard to the Prudential Code when carrying out their duties in England and Wales under Part 1 of the Local Government Act 2003, in Scotland under Part 7 of the Local Government in Scotland Act 2003, and in Northern Ireland under Part 1 of the Local Government Finance Act (Northern Ireland) 2011.
Since the Prudential Code’s last review in 2017, over three years (2016/17 – 2018/19), £6.6bn was spent by councils on commercial property, with £2.3bn of that on retail acquisitions. This represents 14.4 times more spend on commercial property acquisitions when compared with the preceding three years.
The Prudential Code was developed as a professional code of practice to support local strategic planning, asset management planning and proper option appraisal for local authorities when developing their programmes.
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.