The Government has published regulations extending accounts and audit deadlines in England for 2020. The Regulations do not apply to Wales although we expect separate regulations.
The period during which public rights of inspection may be exercised is now a period of 30 days commencing no later than Tuesday 1 September 2020. The rule that the period must include the first ten working days in July is disapplied. This in turn means that sections 1 and 2 of the unaudited AGAR must be approved and published on a freely accessible website, along with a notice advertising public rights, no later than Monday 31 August 2020. External auditors will provide templates as they have in previous years. Councils can of course approve and publish, and advertise public rights, at an earlier date.
There is no change to the procedure for approval and signature of sections 1 and 2 of the AGAR, so there must still be a Full Council meeting (which could perhaps be held remotely if the council has procedures in place for this and the regulations permitting this are still in force). There is no change to the rules where ‘under £25,000’ councils in England may declare themselves (again at a Full Council meeting) exempt from external audit.
There has been no change to the publication requirements and deadlines under the Transparency Code for Smaller Authorities (applying to councils in England where neither gross receipts nor gross payments for the year exceed £25,000). Councils should use their best endeavours to comply with the Code, if applicable, but the risk of challenge is low.