period   for   the   exercise   of   public   rights   during   which   you   may   ask   the   auditor   questions,   which   here means   formally   asking   questions   under   the   Act.   You   can   ask   someone   to   represent   you   when   asking the external auditor questions. Before   you   ask   the   external   auditor   any   questions,   inspect   the   accounting   records   fully,   so   you   know what   they   contain.   Please   remember   that   you   cannot   formally   ask   questions,   under   the   Act,   after   the end   of   the   period   for   the   exercise   of   public   rights.   You   may   ask   your   smaller   authority   other   questions about their accounts for any year, at any time. But these are not questions under the Act. You   can   ask   the   external   auditor   questions   about   an   item   in   the   accounting   records   for   the   financial year   being   audited.   However,   your   right   to   ask   the   external   auditor   questions   is   limited.   The   external auditor   can   only   answer   ‘what’   questions,   not   ‘why’   questions.   The   external   auditor   cannot   answer questions   about   policies,   finances,   procedures   or   anything   else   unless   it   is   directly   relevant   to   an   item in   the   accounting   records.   Remember   that   your   questions   must   always   be   about   facts,   not   opinions. To avoid misunderstanding, we recommend that you always put your questions in writing. The right to make objections at audit You   have   inspected   the   accounting   records   and   asked   your   questions   of   the   smaller   authority.   Now you   may   wish   to   object   to   the   accounts   on   the   basis   that   an   item   in   them   is   in   your   view   unlawful   or there   are   matters   of   wider   concern   arising   from   the   smaller   authority’s   finances.   A   local   government elector   can   ask   the   external   auditor   to   apply   to   the   High   Court   for   a   declaration   that   an   item   of   account is   unlawful,   or   to   issue   a   report   on   matters   which   are   in   the   public   interest.   You   must   tell   the   external auditor   which   specific   item   in   the   accounts   you   object   to   and   why   you   think   the   item   is   unlawful,   or why   you   think   that   a   public   interest   report   should   be   made   about   it.   You   must   provide   the   external auditor   with   the   evidence   you   have   to   support   your   objection.   Disagreeing   with   income   or   spending does   not   make   it   unlawful.   To   object   to   the   accounts   you   must   write   to   the   external   auditor   stating   you want   to   make   an   objection,   including   the   information   and   evidence   below   and   you   must   send   a   copy to the smaller authority. The notice must include: confirmation that you are an elector in the smaller authority’s area; why you are objecting to the accounts and the facts on which you rely; details of any item in the accounts that you think is unlawful; and details of any matter about which you think the external auditor should make a public interest report. Other than it must be in writing, there is no set format for objecting. You can only ask the external  auditor to act within the powers available under the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014. A final word You   may   not   use   this   ‘right   to   object’   to   make   a   personal   complaint   or   claim   against   your   smaller authority.      You   should   take   such   complaints   to   your   local   Citizens’   Advice   Bureau,   local   Law   Centre   or to   your   solicitor.   Smaller   authorities,   and   so   local   taxpayers,   meet   the   costs   of   dealing   with   questions and   objections.      In   deciding   whether   to   take   your   objection   forward,   one   of   a   series   of   factors   the auditor   must   take   into   account   is   the   cost   that   will   be   involved,   they   will   only   continue   with   the objection   if   it   is   in   the   public   interest   to   do   so.   They   may   also   decide   not   to   consider   an   objection   if they   think   that   it   is   frivolous   or   vexatious,   or   if   it   repeats   an   objection   already   considered.   If   you   appeal to   the   courts   against   an   auditor’s   decision   not   to   apply   to   the   courts   for   a   declaration   that   an   item   of account is unlawful, you will have to pay for the action yourself.
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For    more    detailed    guidance    on    public    rights and   the   special   powers   of   auditors,   copies   of the    publication    Local    authority    accounts:    A guide   to   your   rights    are   available   from   the   NAO website.
If   you   wish   to   contact   your   authority’s   appointed external    auditor    please    write    to    the    address    in paragraph   4   of   the   Notice   of   Public   Rights   and Publication    of    Unaudited    Annual    Governance    & Accountability Return .