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Spending watchdog confirms fees cut

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The Audit Commission has confirmed plans to decrease its fees for 2011-12, but ignored Local Government Association calls to cut further than was laid out in proposals published in December.

Fees for upper tier councils are to be cut by 10%, while districts will be handed a 5% cut. The watchdog has also agreed, subject to affordability, to make additional rebates in 2011/12.

The announcement follows a two-month consultation period with the sector which prompted the LGA to call on the watchdog to hand back nearly £27m of what it called “surplus funds amassed by charging for inspection”. The Commission said last month such a surplus did not exist.

Commission chairman Michael O’Higgins said fees were the principal source of Audit Commission revenue, and it has a statutory duty to cover its costs, taking one year with another.

He added: “The Commission is continuing to drive down its costs and become more efficient. So it has been able to achieve almost £40m in savings over three years, which are being passed straight back to health, local government and community safety organisations to help them with their own budgeting.”

Costs arising from the abolition of the Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA) and the abolition of the Commission itself will be met by the watchdog’s reserves with any balance funded by the Department for Communities & Local Government, Mr O’Higgins said.

No inflation-related increase will be applied to hourly rates charged by the Commission for certifying grant claims and returns and subject to the timetable for our abolition the watchdog committed to fee reductions of up to 15 per cent in 2012/13 for inspected bodies.

Full Audit Commission documents available here

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