Local government accountability and transparency is a thread that runs through all our work so far. Our latest project focuses on this area from two perspectives: local audit and public interest, aiming to increase accountability in local government through advocacy and action research.
Building on our previous work on local audit and using the opportunity of planned legislative changes, we will influence the government’s proposals for audit reform to ensure that public interest is upheld when shaping the new regulator. We will also broaden our work on how local authorities protect public services and funds: with a focus on the financial impact of Covid, we will look at councils’ internal scrutiny arrangements, identifying weaknesses and disseminating best practice.
The first part of this project is focused on public interest advocacy. This will focus on influencing the shaping of the new audit regulator: the Audit, Reporting and Governance Authority (ARGA). Our previous work has identified serious failures in the local audit regime, which is undergoing significant changes. We see this as a crucial opportunity to ensure local audit does not continue to be subsumed in the wider corporate audit reform agenda and will campaign to engage with the legislative processes leading to the creation of ARGA. This will include building a stronger presence in civil society networks to generate and contribute to wider debates on audit and local government.
As part of this, we are conducting a piece of research into the challenges and possible solutions in putting public interest at the heart of local audit, which will be published in Spring 2023.
The second part of the project is a piece of research on council scrutiny. This is focused on speaking to and facilitating conversations between councillors. We know that within the sector there are increasing concerns about financial sustainability, the reduced quality of audit and accountability deficit. We will speak to elected members and those working in local government to identify best practice, and facilitate a skillshare to spread it. We will also continue to use information rights to research and monitor local government funding; both in the future and the accountability implications of Covid grants in 2020-21.
Image Credit: jeff_golden using CC BY-SA 2.