Audit deadlines extended 2019/20 local public authorities England and Wales
Publication deadlines are extended for 2019/20 audited accounts for local public authorities, except health service bodies, in England and Wales.
New regulations, the Accounts and Audit (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 No. 404 and the accompanying explanatory memorandum have been published and will come into force on 30 April 2020.
Given the unprecedented situation across the UK relating to COVID-19 and the need to reduce the pressure on authorities to comply with legal deadlines, these regulations provide authorities with additional time to complete the audit of their accounts for 2019/20.
This applies to relevant authorities as defined in Schedule 2 to the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014.
Although the territorial extent of the regulations includes Wales, there are also separate regulations covering Welsh authorities. Scottish and Northern Irish devolved administrations are subject to separate arrangements.
Key changes include:
- 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 or may be approved earlier, wherever possible.
Authorities must publish the dates of their public inspection period this year, and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government recommends that they provide public notice on their websites (where available) when the public inspection period would usually commence, explaining why they are departing from normal practice for 2020.
In relation to the meetings needed to approve draft and final accounts, separate regulations (The Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panels (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of Local Authority and Police and Crime Panel Meetings) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020) have been made to enable meetings to be held remotely, and to hold and alter the frequency and occurrence of meetings without the need for further notice.