On the money: the scrutiny of local government finance - 2nd Edition £9.00 plus PP+VAT
This new guide from CIPFA, CfPS and LGIU provides advice both for councillors and the finance officers whose job it is to provide information to them, on scrutiny of finance and the budget. April 2011
The second edition has been fully updated and revised (April 2011)
Councillors have a vital duty to scrutinise and challenge their council's use of public money. This duty to local council taxpayers is at the heart of their role and mandate as local elected representatives. Yet local government finance is famously opaque and we know from surveys of councillors that they find scrutiny of the council budget the most challenging element of their scrutiny role.
This new guide from CIPFA, CfPS and LGIU is therefore both important and timely, as we know that pressures on council finances are likely to increase in coming years, requiring ever closer scrutiny to ensure value for money and efficiency. Uniquely this guide provides advice both for councillors and the finance officers whose job it is to provide financial information to them.
It draws on good practice from local government and elsewhere, providing practical tips and the key questions on which to focus to get to the heart of the councils' financial issues. Most importantly it stresses the importance of not leaving budget scrutiny until the formal budget-making process gets fully underway late in the year. Finance is not just about numbers - policy reviews and scrutiny of all the council's priorities need to consider the financial implications and this needs to happen throughout the year if councillors are to have a real impact.
We hope it adds clarity and practical advice to both officers and members to help make both their jobs easier in carrying out this vital task. We recommend it as a must-read for all scrutiny councillors, not only those with direct responsibility for budget scrutiny, and would encourage all councils to draw on its messages in supporting scrutiny of their finances in an open, challenging and transparent way.