What is Power to Spend
The power to spend for parish and town councils in the United Kingdom is derived from their legal status as local authorities. This power is governed by the Local Government Act 1972 and subsequent legislation, which sets out the powers, duties, and responsibilities of local authorities.
Parish and town councils have the power to spend money on the provision of goods, services, and works that are necessary or desirable for, or in connection with, the exercise of their functions. This includes spending on community facilities, maintenance of public spaces, and provision of services such as parks and open spaces.
The expenditure of parish and town councils must be in accordance with their budgets and financial regulations, and must be authorized by the council's elected members. The council must also ensure that it has sufficient funds available to meet its obligations and maintain its statutory responsibilities.
It is important for parish and town councils to consider their statutory obligations and to ensure that their spending is in line with both their financial regulations and the law. They must also be transparent and accountable in their use of public funds and must keep accurate records of their financial transactions.
What are the powers
The powers available to parish and town councils can vary depending on the region. However, here are som ecommon powers Parish councils in England and Wales have:
- Power to expend money on local facilities and services: This includes spending on things like public toilets, parks, play areas, allotments, cemeteries, bus shelters, and community centres.
- Power to expend money on highways: This includes spending on things like road repairs, signs, and traffic management measures.
- Power to expend money on planning: This includes spending on things like planning applications, objections to planning proposals, and environmental impact assessments.
- Power to expend money on environmental protection: This includes spending on things like litter collection, graffiti removal, and other environmental protection measures.
- Power to expend money on community projects: This includes spending on things like community events, festivals, and local projects that support community cohesion and regeneration.
- Power to expend money on grants: This includes spending on things like grants to local organisations, charities, and community groups.
- Power to expend money on emergency planning: This includes spending on things like emergency planning, emergency response, and emergency evacuation.
These powers are subject to several statutory obligations, including financial controls, reporting requirements, and transparency. The precise nature of these obligations will depend on the legislation that applies to the specific council, as well as the relevant financial and accounting standards.
Common mistakes related to Power to Spend
Common mistakes that Parish clerks & RFOs in England and Wales may make when it comes to spending powers, and guidance on how to avoid them:
- Lack of understanding of financial regulations and procedures: Parish clerks should be familiar with the financial regulations and procedures of the council, including the policies on procurement, budgeting, and record-keeping.
- Inadequate budget planning: The council should have a clear budget plan in place and regularly review its spending to ensure that it remains within budget.
- Failure to obtain proper approvals: Parish clerks should ensure that all spending decisions are made with the proper approvals, such as those of the council or the relevant committee.
- Insufficient record-keeping: Parish clerks should maintain accurate records of all financial transactions, including receipts and invoices.
- Not following proper procurement procedures: Parish clerks should ensure that all procurement is conducted in accordance with the council's procurement policies and guidelines.
- Unauthorized spending: Parish clerks should only spend funds that have been authorized by the council.
- Inadequate monitoring of spending: Parish clerks should regularly monitor the council's spending to ensure that it remains within budget and that the council is not overspending on any particular item.
By following these guidelines, parish clerks can help to ensure that the council's spending is managed effectively and efficiently, and that the council remains in compliance with financial regulations and procedures.
Compliance tips for Clerks and RFOs
Here are some tips for a parish clerk to ensure they are complying.
- Familiarize yourself with the relevant laws and regulations: The powers of parish and town councils to spend are governed by the Local Government Act 1972 and other relevant legislation. Make sure you understand the legal framework in which you operate, including any restrictions on spending.
- Develop and follow financial policies and procedures: The parish council should have clear financial policies and procedures in place that outline the steps for budgeting, spending, and reporting. The clerk should ensure that these policies are followed consistently.
- Maintain accurate and up-to-date financial records: Financial records should be accurate, complete, and up-to-date. This will help the council monitor its spending and ensure that it remains within budget.
- Exercise proper controls over cash and bank accounts: The clerk should ensure that there are adequate controls in place over the council's cash and bank accounts to prevent fraud or misappropriation of funds.
- Seek professional advice when needed: The clerk should seek professional advice from an accountant or lawyer if they are unsure about any financial aspect of the council's operations.
- Report any irregularities: The clerk should report any financial irregularities or suspected fraud to the council's internal audit committee and/or the relevant authorities as soon as possible.
- Ensure that the council's spending is in accordance with the council's responsibilities and functions: The clerk should ensure that the council's spending is in line with its statutory responsibilities and functions, and that the spending is in the best interests of the community.
By following these tips, a parish clerk can help ensure that the power to spend for a parish council is used effectively, efficiently, and in accordance with applicable regulations and best practices.