CIPFA continues to meet with MHCLG, the LGA and ALATS on a regular
basis regarding the response of local government to the COVID-19
Councils are telling us the largest pressures are being felt across
social care, homelessness, the surge in universal credit, and incomes
losses from fees and charges. Many finance staff are being re-deployed to
support front-line efforts to support the vulnerable, keep key services
going and get government grants out to local businesses.
Using the data we’ve gathered through the CIPFA survey, and our
ongoing conversations with the sector, we will continue to lobby
government for the support the sector needs. So please do continue to
talk to us about the financial issues you’re facing on the front
I’d like to take this opportunity to assure you that colleagues from
across CIPFA are in daily conversation with central government
stakeholders such as MHCLG, HMT, BEIS and other departments, as well as
the LGA. This is being done on both a strategic and operational level,
with technical staff being asked to provide their expertise.
We will continue to keep you informed via this newsletter and through
other channels. To that end, do take a look at a recent interview with
Don Peebles, CIPFA’s Head of Policy and Technical, on streamlining of
accounts for Public Finance magazine:
Interview with CIPFA's Head of Policy
accounts preparation timetable
Final regulations are due to be made this week to extend the statutory
audit deadlines for 2019/20 for all local public authorities, apart from
health service bodies.
It is proposed that:
• the publication date
for final, audited, accounts will move from 31 July for Category 1
authorities and 30 September for Category 2 authorities to 30 November
2020 for all local authority bodies.
• to give local
authorities more flexibility, the requirement for the public inspection
period to include the first 10 working days of June (for Category 1
authorities) and July (for Category 2 authorities) has been removed.
Instead, local authorities must commence the public inspection period on
or before the first working day of September 2020.
This means that draft accounts must be approved by 31 August 2020 at
the latest, though may be approved earlier where possible.
Authorities must publish the dates of their public inspection period
this year. It is recommend that they provide public notice on their
websites (where available) outlining when the public inspection period
would usually commence, explaining why they are departing from normal
practice for 2020.
2019 / 20
Accounting Code of Practice
On Monday, CIPFA/LASAAC considered radical proposals to streamline the
2019/20 accounts, in an effort to alleviate the pressure on budget
holders and finance teams that have been diverted from their normal
However, from extensive discussions over the last week, it is clear
that the simplification and reduction we proposed is not acceptable to
regulators and auditors. Separately, HM Treasury has advised us that some
of CIPFA’s proposals arguably might not provide the information still
necessary for whole of government accounts (WGA).
CIPFA has consistently been briefed by local government CFOs that the
workload associated with minor changes only would outweigh any benefits
for stretched finance teams. Therefore, in order to create certainty for
both the preparers and auditors of accounts, the CIPFA/LASAAC Board
resolved that in the absence of regulator and audit support, full
application of the 2019/20 Code will be required.
The risk that 2019/20 reporting deferrals will impinge on 2021/22
budgeting this autumn is still live. Councils and their finance teams
will be grappling with reduced income, higher service costs and planned
savings proposals that have to be reappraised. We will continue to do all
we can to assist finance teams and councils with this difficult position.
Last week we sent a survey to all directors of finance. We are
grateful to everyone that has taken the time to respond. I know you are
extremely busy, but your responses will allow us to shape our work on the
streamlining of the 2019/20 Accounting Code.
Feedback to date shows that your top three areas for consideration are
issues around audit, valuations and disclosure notes. We will supply a
more detailed summary next week. Your insights will be vital in informing
our daily discussions.
You will have seen from my article in the LGC that I am concerned
about the vulnerability of local authorities at this time. The steps
being taken by local authorities to ensure vital services continue to be
delivered could have unintended consequences, such as triggering the
issue of a Section 114 notice. Local authorities should make direct
contact with MHCLG to initially explore what options are available if
this situation arises. CIPFA will continue discussions with MHCLG and
engage with the sector to understand what the most appropriate solution
to this problem would be. No decisions have been or will be made without
Update from our
Grants: These grants are estimated to be worth up to
£12.3bn and, in order to ensure local government suffer no impact on
their cash flow position, central government have paid an allocation to
each local authority in advance of payments being made to businesses.
Government is conscious that the allocations are an estimate of the
likely cost of the grant scheme for each authority and therefore the
position will be monitored on a weekly basis and additional funds made
available if required. As the final amounts required will not be known
until after all grants have been paid to business, it is the government’s
intention to carry out a reconciliation exercise at some point in the
future to ensure that each authority has been allocated the correct
amount of funding with balancing payments being made to/from authorities
additional council tax hardship support arrangements:
This funding is for the 2020-21 financial year and will be distributed
using details of local authorities’ working age council tax support
caseload at Quarter 3 of 2019/20. The intention of this scheme is that
local authorities will use their allocation from the £500m hardship fund
to deliver additional support to council tax payers in their area,
primarily through local council tax support schemes.
Local authorities however, will already have established their local
council tax support schemes for 2020-21 and legislation prevents them
from introducing further changes now that they have been finalised. The
only flexibility that authorities have is through using s13A(1)(c) to
provide discretionary additional support. The government therefore expects
that billing authorities will primarily use this new grant allocation to
reduce the council tax liability of individuals in their area, using
their discretionary powers to provide additional hardship support under
s13A(1)(c) of the Local Government Finance Act 1992. The bulk of this
grant funding should therefore be used to supplement the budget made
available for such discretionary hardship awards.
The Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panels (Coronavirus)
(Flexibility of Local Authority and Police and Crime Panel Meetings)
(England and Wales) Regulations 2020 came into force on 4 April 2020.
They apply to all meetings taking place before 7 May 2021. The
regulations enable local authorities to hold meetings remotely, including
by teleconferencing, video conferencing, live webcast, and live
interactive streaming. The regulations also remove the requirement for
local authorities to hold annual meetings, and enable the requirements
for public and press access to meetings and documents to be complied with
via remote means and website access.
The threat of fraud during emergency situations is higher than at
other times. Right now, with the increased number of personnel
self-isolating or sick, and the increased strain on services like public
health and social care as confirmed cases of coronavirus reach their
peak, the threat increases on a daily basis. CIPFA’s Head of Counter
Fraud Operations Marc McAuley recently wrote an excellent article on this
subject for the Municipal Journal:
Article by CIPFA's Head of Counter Fraud Operations
CIPFA’s code of practice on managing the risk of fraud and corruption
outlines key principles, including acknowledging the risk of fraud in the
first instance. All public bodies should be attuned to the risks facing
their organisations and the public sector at large. Public bodies can
reduce the threat of widespread fraud by integrating low-friction
controls into payments where possible, and carrying out post-event
portal for local authorities
Essential guidance for local authorities on all aspects of coronavirus
support can be found on the GOV.UK website. It is being regularly updated
and should act as the definitive reference point for councils: COVID-19 guidance for local government
Frequently Asked Questions
Please share any questions or issues you’re experiencing to Joanne
CIPFA Local Government Policy Manager: email@example.com