LOCAL AUTHORITY ACCOUNTS: A SUMMARY OF YOUR RIGHTS Please note that this summary applies to all relevant smaller authorities, including local  councils, internal drainage boards and ‘other’ smaller authorities. The basic position The   Local   Audit   and   Accountability   Act   2014    (the   Act)   governs   the   work   of   auditors   appointed   to smaller   authorities.   This   summary   explains   the   provisions   contained   in   Sections   26   and   27   of   the   Act. The   Act   and   the   Accounts   and   Audit   Regulations   2015     also   cover   the   duties,   responsibilities   and rights    of    smaller    authorities,    other    organisations    and    the    public    concerning    the    accounts    being audited. As   a   local   elector,   or   an   interested   person,   you   have   certain   legal   rights   in   respect   of   the   accounting records   of   smaller   authorities.   As   an   interested   person   you   can   inspect   accounting   records   and related   documents.   If   you   are   a   local   government   elector   for   the   area   to   which   the   accounts   relate   you can   also   ask   questions   about   the   accounts   and   object   to   them.   You   do   not   have   to   pay   directly   for exercising   your   rights.   However,   any   resulting   costs   incurred   by   the   smaller   authority   form   part   of   its running   costs.   Therefore,   indirectly,   local   residents   pay   for   the   cost   of   you   exercising   your   rights through their council tax. The right to inspect the accounting records Any   interested   person   can   inspect   the   accounting   records,   which   includes   but   is   not   limited   to   local electors.   You   can   inspect   the   accounting   records   for   the   financial   year   to   which   the   audit   relates   and all   books,   deeds,   contracts,   bills,   vouchers,   receipts   and   other   documents   relating   to   those   records. You    can    copy    all,    or    part,    of    these    records    or    documents.    Your    inspection    must    be    about    the accounts,   or   relate   to   an   item   in   the   accounts.   You   cannot,   for   example,   inspect   or   copy   documents unrelated   to   the   accounts,   or   that   include   personal   information   (Section   26   (6)   –   (10)   of   the   Act explains   what   is   meant   by   personal   information).   You   cannot   inspect   information   which   is   protected   by commercial   confidentiality.   This   is   information   which   would   prejudice   commercial   confidentiality   if   it was   released   to   the   public   and   there   is   not,   set   against   this,   a   very   strong   reason   in   the   public   interest why it should nevertheless be disclosed. When   smaller   authorities   have   finished   preparing   accounts   for   the   financial   year   and   approved   them, they   must   publish   them   (including   on   a   website).   There   must   be   a   30   working   day   period,   called   the ‘period   for   the   exercise   of   public   rights’,   during   which   you   can   exercise   your   statutory   right   to   inspect the   accounting   records.   Smaller   authorities   must   tell   the   public,   including   advertising   this   on   their website,   that   the   accounting   records   and   related   documents   are   available   to   inspect.   By   arrangement you   will   then   have   30   working   days   to   inspect   and   make   copies   of   the   accounting   records.   You   may have    to    pay    a    copying    charge.    The    30    working    day    period    must    include    a    common    period    of inspection   during   which   all   smaller   authorities’   accounting   records   are   available   to   inspect.   This   will   be 2-13   July   2018   for   2017/18   accounts.   The   advertisement   must   set   out   the   dates   of   the   period   for   the exercise   of   public   rights,   how   you   can   communicate   to   the   smaller   authority   that   you   wish   to   inspect the   accounting   records   and   related   documents,   the   name   and   address   of   the   auditor,   and   the   relevant legislation that governs the inspection of accounts and objections. The right to ask the auditor questions about the accounting records You   should   first   ask   your   smaller   authority    about   the   accounting   records,   since   they   hold   all   the details.   If   you   are   a   local   elector,   your   right   to   ask   questions   of   the   external   auditor   is   enshrined   in   law. However,   while   the   auditor   will   answer   your   questions   where   possible,   they   are   not   always   obliged   to do    so.    For    example,    the    question    might    be    better    answered    by    another    organisation,    require investigation   beyond   the   auditor’s   remit,   or   involve   disproportionate   cost   (which   is   borne   by   the   local taxpayer).   Give   your   smaller   authority   the   opportunity   first   to   explain   anything   in   the   accounting records   that   you   are   unsure   about.   If   you   are   not   satisfied   with   their   explanation,   you   can   question   the external auditor about the accounting records. The   law   limits   the   time   available   for   you   formally   to   ask   questions.   This   must   be   done   in   the   period   for the   exercise   of   pubic   rights,   so   let   the   external   auditor   know   your   concern   as   soon   as   possible.   The advertisement or notice that tells you the accounting records are available to inspect will also give the