Wales Auditor General issues warning to community councils

The Wales Auditor General has urged community councils in Wales to take better measures to improve their financial management.

Wales currently has 735 councils handling over £43 million of public money but according to the Auditor General, only an estimated 30 per cent received qualified audit opinions on their last accounts.

The warning arrives as community councils are inheriting more services from cash-strapped county councils.

Community councils are in control of issuing funding for local community buildings, parks, cemeteries, allotments and toilets.

In its report, the auditor suggested councils should: improve the timeliness in the way they prepare accounts; improve the quality of accounts; and develop and improve financial management and governance, especially in regards to the quality of financial reporting.

Huw Vaughan Thomas, the Auditor General for Wales, warned: “The accountability and scrutiny that comes with the use of public money is growing ever tighter. Community councils are responsible for over £43 million worth of funds and are likely to be devolved more responsibilities."

"I would urge them to undertake an investigation into their current practice to ensure they are compliant with their legal requirements before the 2016-17 audit reviews.

"It is worrying to see that a number of councils have qualified opinions which are easily avoidable."

Nick Ramsay, chairman of the assembly's public accounts committee, said: "It is essential that these councils have robust and effective arrangements in place for financial management and governance.

"While many councils have good arrangements in place, the Auditor General's report shows that there is still much work to do to raise standards of financial management and governance across the sector."