Finance and budgets

Statement of Accounts

The Statement of Accounts is a statutory document and provides information on the transactions relating to the provision of services by Harlow Council.

External Audits

These reports by the Council's independent auditors provide the opinion of the auditor on the Statement of Accounts.

Statement of Accounts - Public Inspection

Local authorities spend public money. The money comes from national and local taxes as well as charges to service users. Local authorities must tell local residents and taxpayers how their money is spent. They do this by publishing yearly accounts and details of their spending.

Any local resident or interested person has certain legal rights in respect of the accounts of local authorities. They can inspect the accounts during what is termed “the inspection period”, which includes but is not limited to local electors. Local electors have further rights, which are not open to interested persons, to ask the Auditor questions about the accounts and to object to them.

Full details are contained in the National Audit Office (NAO) guide: “Local authority accounts: A guide to your rights", which is available to view on the NAO website.

When the Council has finished preparing the draft accounts for the previous financial year, usually towards the end of June, we advertise that they are available for electors to look at. This advertisement is placed on this website immediately prior to the inspection period. The notice gives details of a period of 30 working-days during which you may exercise your statutory right to inspect the accounts. You can download the draft statement of accounts or ask us for a paper copy (a reasonable fee applies). You can also obtain copies of any relevant documents, although there may be a copying charge. The NAO guide explains limitations to what you may inspect or copy. If you are entitled to vote in local elections for members of Harlow Council you can also:

  • Ask the External Auditor questions about the accounts for the year that they are auditing; however, the Auditor does not have to answer questions about anything that is not relevant to the accounts. The NAO guide explains how you can do this.
  • Object to the accounts: if, in your view, you consider there is an item in the accounts that is unlawful, there are issues relevant to the authority’s arrangements for securing value for money or that are referred to in an authority’s annual governance statement, or there are matters of wider concern arising from the authority’s finances you may wish to object to the accounts. The notice of inspection period gives details of who you should send your objection to.

Further information: If you need more detail you should refer to the NAO guide. As well as describing your rights in relation to the statement of accounts it also explains actions you may take if you have concerns about something other than the accounts.

Budget Books

Budget books are the proposed spend for the provision of services by Harlow Council for the next financial year.

Budget monitoring

The Joint Finance and Performance Reports include information on projects, performance indicators and the Council’s finances.

Fees and charges

The Council obtains income from fees and charges levied for providing some services. The Government determines some of these charges but there are a number of areas where the Council has discretion as to whether to levy a charge, and, if it decides to do so, the level of that charge.

Grants

The provision of grant aid provides core funding and supports organisations that receive it to undertake work aligned to the Council’s priorities. More information on grants to the voluntary community and social enterprise sector.

Medium Term Finance Strategy

Each year Full Council approves The Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS), which provides the parameters for the Council’s revenue spending and capital investment plans for the next five year period.

Treasury Management

The Treasury Management Strategy is approved by full Council each year at the same time as the Council’s budget is set. The strategy contains plans for how the Council will carry out its investment activities in such a way that its cash balances are kept as safe as possible, remain available when required and can earn some income to help the Council to deliver its services. The Council’s borrowing plans are also set out in the strategy, which are required to provide funding for spending on capital projects.

The Council is required to follow a professional code of practice and regulations set out by the government. The code of practice originates from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) and the regulations are issued by the Department for Communities and Local Government. The Council conducts a mid-year review of its Treasury Management Strategy, and these are also available as a supplement to the main strategy.

Internal Audit

The Council’s Internal Audit service is provided by a small team of in-house auditors led by an audit manager shared with Broxbourne Borough Council. The Internal Audit service is a key element of the Council’s governance framework, providing an assurance function on the Council’s control environment. The annual work programme is developed through applying a risk based assessment to the Council’s activities and consulting with the management team and External Audit. The Internal Audit Plan is then approved by the Audit & Standards Committee, who monitor the results of this work and receive an annual report. The Internal Audit terms of reference provide details of the scope and objectives of the service along with organisational responsibilities. Internal Audit co-ordinate the submission and analysis of data to support the Audit Commission’s National fraud Initiative

Insurance

If you are thinking of making a claim against Harlow Council due to a personal injury or damage to your property or for incidents involving a Council insured vehicle please see how to make an insurance claim.