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Unaudited parishes 'should lose spending rights'

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Parish councils that fail to file proper accounts should lose their right to receive and spend public money, the Audit Comission has said.

In a review of parish councils financial records the Audit Comission denounced eight parishes for having failed to provide an audited return for at least three years.

These were: Brasted (Kent), Fillingham (Lincolnshire), Little Ponton and Stroxton (Lincolnshire), Markington with Wallerthwaite (North Yorkshire), Martindale (Cumbria), Newbiggin (Cumbria), South Croxton (Leicestershire) and Wingrave with Rowsham (Buckinghamshire).

The commission’s report said these parishes “did not produce, or provide sufficient evidence to support, the annual return for 2009/10 and the two previous years.

“In some cases, the auditor had also been unable to give an opinion for years before 2007/08.”

Commission chief executive Eugene Sullivan said: “I am concerned about the minority of parish councils who persistently fail to show accountability for their use of public money.

“In the commission’s view, it is unacceptable that parish councils should fail persistently to publish an audited annual return, yet continue to receive and spend local taxpayers’ money.”

Parish councils serve some 15m people and spend around £500m a year in all.

The Government is still to decide how parishes will be audited once the commission is abolished next year.

The National Association of Local Councils said it “did not accept” the commission’s proposal to remove the power to set a precept from parishes that failed to produce adequate accounts.

“This would not be in the best interests of the community and would be to the detriment of a council’s financial recovery and improvement,” it said.

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