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Audit Office report highlights need for ‘fundamental review’ of community councils

Welsh Conservatives are calling for a “fundamental review” of community councils.

The calls come as the Auditor General for Wales published a report highlighting the need for significant improvements to financial management and governance at community council level.

The report calls for improvements to budget setting arrangements; particularly with the impending transfer of additional services and facilities from unitary authorities to community council level.

It also highlights significant sums of public money handled by community councils:

  • In 2015/16 community councils received over £43m in income, and incurred over £40m in expenditure
  • Community councils in Wales manage reserves worth over £32m, and long term assets worth over £188m.

Worryingly, many councils do not follow the basic procedural requirements set out in law.

Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Local Government, Janet Finch-Saunders, wants to see a “fundamental review” but praised the vital work of community councils – all on a voluntary basis.

Commenting on the report, she said:

“The findings in this report are alarming and we want to see an urgent and fundamental review of the entire community council structure.

“Community Councils play a hugely important role, and work extremely hard on an entirely voluntary basis, but they must be more accountable and more responsive to local needs.

“They are handling significant sums of taxpayers’ money, and it is clear from this report by the Auditor General that there needs to be further improvement in terms of financial management and governance.

“Ultimately, the Welsh Government must take responsibility for driving forward those improvements – particularly in terms of financial probity and transparency.

“Some years ago, Leslie Griffiths promised a review of community councils but like so many Labour pledges that commitment turned to dust.

“This report puts this issue back on the agenda and I look forward to working with the Cabinet Secretary to address these issues.”

 

Notes to Editors:

https://www.wao.gov.uk/publication/financial-management-and-governance-community-councils-2015-16