Public Sector – Welsh councils miss deadline

Councils in Wales are persistently failing to meet the deadline for publication of annual accounts, according to the Audit Commission.

A report by the public-spending watchdog warned the failed authorities to ‘make suitable arrangements to deal with the problems without further delay’.

But the commission said it was encouraged by the drop in the number of failing authorities, which fell from 25 in 1996 to six last year. Two of the six published their accounts after last year’s 31 March deadline but Caerphilly, Neath, Port Talbot, Rhondda, Cynon Taff and Swansea borough councils remain outstanding.

The commission said it recognised the authorities ‘faced a variety of problems arising out of reorganisation’, but warned: ‘compliance with the deadline was a requirement of the Accounts and Audit Regulations 1996 and an important part of public accountability.’

Steve Perry, Rhondda Cynon Taff’s FD, admitted the 1996/1997 local government reorganisation had caused chaos for Welsh councils.

‘The backlog was created by the reorganisation; we’ve suffered more than most.’ Perry said the authority had not yet published its accounts because of an ongoing investigation of internal charging.

Steve Pugh, spokesman for Caerphilly county borough council, agreed the authorities’ problems were created by the restructuring. ‘1996/1997 was our first financial year after the reorganisation. It caused problems and our financial reorganisation has taken longer than envisaged.’

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