2020/21 timings and deadlines
In response to the Coronavirus pandemic, the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) issued new Statutory Instruments that affect the limited assurance regime process.
SI2020/392 and SI2020/808
Local authorities were granted permission to allow members, the public and press to attend meetings remotely from 4 April 2020 for all smaller authorities except parish meetings and from 1 August 2020 for parish meetings.
The legislation only permits remote attendance at meetings held before 7 May 2021; hence, if no further legislation is passed, smaller authorities will not be able to hold virtual meetings after this date.
Statutory instrument SI2020/404 extended the statutory deadlines by two months for the 2019/20 reporting season; however, that legislation was specific to the 2019/20 reporting season only. All statutory timings and deadlines for the 2020/21 reporting season therefore revert to those in place prior to COVID-19 as follows:
30 June 2021 – the date by which smaller authorities must approve Sections 1 and 2 of the 2020/21 AGAR.
30 September 2021 – the statutory deadline for publishing the approved Sections 1 and 2 of the 2020/21 AGAR and, for authorities not claiming exemption, Section 3 (the external auditor’s certificate).
All smaller authorities must include the first 10 working days of July within the 30 working day period they set for the exercise of public rights for 2020/21; this requirement was removed for 2019/20.
Further legislation was laid in March 2021 (SI 2021/263) and MHCLG has commented as follows:
“The Accounts and Audit (Amendment) Regulations 2021 were laid on 9 March and come into effect on 31 March 2021.
“These regulations were intended to amend the timing of the period for the exercise of public rights for Category 1 bodies (principal authorities) only, enabling them to commence their public inspection period not later than 1 August for the accounting years 202021 and 202/22. However the way in which the regulations were drafted has inadvertently amended it for all relevant authorities, including category 2 bodies (smaller authorities, such as parish councils).
“This was intended to provide added flexibility for principal councils and their auditors to agree a mutually suitable deadline, given the difficulties experienced by these bodies in closing their accounts over the last 2 years and was implemented as part of one of the recommendations of the Redmond Review. However, the regulations do not prevent any organisation from publishing their draft accounts for public inspection to the original public inspection deadlines, and the recent government consultation encouraged councils to continue to do so as far as possible.
“We are currently exploring the opportunities for correcting the regulations to give effect to the original intention i.e. to apply this change to principal bodies only, and therefore smaller bodies should continue to prepare their accounts for public inspection by 1 July 2021 as they would do normally and approve their 2020/21 AGAR by 30 June 2021.
“We would however like to take the opportunity to publicise a new requirement within these regulations for all bodies to post a notice if they fail to publish their draft accounts by the due deadline as well as the existing requirement to publish an explanatory notice if they fail to publish their final accounts.”
Please refer to our detailed instructions for 2020/21 for further information.
Signing and submitting the AGAR forms
There are no changes in the requirement for wet signatures on the AGAR. Wet signatures need to be added to the AGAR in the same order as previous years and the AGAR will need to be passed between the relevant individuals for signature.
We set a default submission deadline for the receipt of the approved AGAR and supporting documentation or the Certificate of Exemption (as appropriate) – these are not the same as the statutory deadlines.
The default submission deadline for the 2020/21 reporting season is Friday 2 July 2021. If you wish to extend your deadline to avoid receiving a chaser fee for late submission, please contact us – there is no charge to change the submission deadline.
Non-submission by the deadline set for your authority will lead to chargeable chaser letters being issued (£40 plus VAT for all financially active smaller authorities). It is important to note, however, that:
- no submission deadlines will be granted beyond 15 September;
- it will only be possible to extend submission deadlines by a maximum of four weeks at a time, providing sufficient justification explaining the need for the extension is given;
- a statutory recommendation will be issued to all financially active non-responding authorities that fail to submit their documents by 15 September. Statutory recommendations for non-response are charged at the standard fee rate depending on the authority’s expenditure banding and hence give rise to a minimum additional fee of £200 plus VAT.
IMPORTANT: If a financially active smaller authority is issued with a statutory recommendation (and/or a public interest report) for 2020/21, it will not be able to claim exemption from a limited assurance review for 2021/22, regardless of whether it meets all other criteria.
Our Small Body Assurance (SBA) team can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 (0)20 7516 2200.