The annual plan would provide taxpayers with a ‘picture’ of local authorities financial plans and performance targets for the financial year, and would be a way to measure actual performance against the ‘best value’ performance framework introduced in April.
Other recommendations included reducing the timescale for producing annual accounts, publishing simplified and summarised financial results and making it a requirement that local authorities report publicly on their adherence to modern principles of corporate governance.
The Audit Commission said local government financial reporting and accountability should match Labour’s modernisation agenda and developments in the private sector. It should also take advantage of the growing potential of reporting on the internet.
While praising some local councils for implementing best value performance plans, the commission said the current framework did not encourage authorities to achieve the best standards possible.
Sir Andrew Foster, controller of the Audit Commission, said there was a need to improve the ‘communication of financial and performance information’.
‘The current framework of external reporting is too complex,’ he said, adding that there was a need to ‘make the framework of accountability more relevant to the needs of stakeholders and improve accountability for the use of public money in the delivery of local services.’
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