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CIPFA ASKS NOLAN INQUIRY TO RETHINK SURCHARGE

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In its submission to the Nolan committee, which is currently looking at local government, the Chartered Institute o...
In its submission to the Nolan committee, which is currently looking at local government, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy says that local government already conforms to many of the principles of good governance, and urges a review of the use of surcharge.

The 11-page submission says that local government has a strong framework of control, robust arrangements for monitoring and review, and a high degree of compliance. It is important that these strengths are recognised and built upon.

Cipfa believes that an overall governance framework for local government, consolidating the relevant legislation and professional standards, will provide a sound basis from within which individual authorities can develop their own codes.

Cipfa says that important contributions to good governance in local government are the:

-- impartiality of officers, particularly coupled with the responsibilities of specific statutory posts and high incidence of professionalism

-- division of responsibilities between officers and councillors

-- compliance with requirements for openness and accountability

-- fixed election cycle for councillors

Cipfa believes that the role of the appointed auditor works well and contributes strongly to good governance in local government.

The submission expresses concern about the inconsistency of penalties applicable across the public services, particularly surcharge. In principle, surcharge is a powerful tool in cases of wilful misconduct, but is inappropriate where people have acted in good faith. Surcharge and the penalty applied needs to be reviewed and refined.

David Thomas, head of Cipfa's local government division, said:

'On the whole, local government has a very good system of checks and balances, and it is important for any review to recognise the strengths of what is already there. Surcharge, as one of the sanctions faced by local government, is a very blunt instrument and we need to think carefully about how it is used.'

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