Advancing closure: the benefits to local authorities

With new regulation bringing forward the required publishing date for accounts local authorities must consider the areas needed to accelerate financial reporting

In February 2015, regulations were laid before parliament confirming proposals to bring forward the date by which local authority accounts must be published in England. From 2017-18, authorities will need to publish their audited financial statements by 31 July, with Wales seeking to follow a similar approach over the next few years.

Many local government bodies are already experiencing the benefits of advancing their financial reporting processes and preparing their accounts early, including:

  • raising the profile of the finance function within the organisation and transforming its role from a back office function to a key enabler of change and improvement across the organisation
  • high quality financial statements as a result of improved quality assurance arrangements
  • greater certainty over  in-year monitoring arrangements and financial outturn position for the year, supporting members to make more informed financial decisions for the future
  • improved financial controls and accounting systems, resulting from more efficient and refined financial processes
  • allowing finance officers more time to focus on forward looking medium term financial planning and transformational projects, to address future financial challenges

While there is no standard set of actions to achieve faster close there are a number of consistent key factors across the organisations successfully delivering accelerated closedown of their accounts, which our report explores in further details:

  • Enabling sustainable change requires committed leadership underpinned by a culture for success
  • Efficient and effective systems and processes are essential
  • Auditors and other external parties need to be on board and kept informed throughout

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