NOTICE OF PUBLIC RIGHTS AND PUBLICATION OF UNAUDITED ANNUAL GOVERNANCE & ACCOUNTABILITY RETURN
ACCOUNTS FOR THE YEAR ENDED 31 MARCH 2020
Copies of the Annual Return can be found on the Finance page.
Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 Sections 25, 26 and 27
The Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/234)
The Accounts and Audit (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/404)
1. Date of announcement: Friday 12th June 2020 (a) 2. Each year the smaller authority’s Annual Governance and Accountability Return (AGAR) needs to be reviewed by an external auditor appointed by Smaller Authorities’ Audit Appointments Ltd. The unaudited AGAR has been published with this notice. As it has yet to be reviewed by the appointed auditor, it is subject to change as a result of that review.Any person interested has the right to inspect and make copies of the accounting records for the financial year to which the audit relates and all books, deeds, contracts, bills, vouchers, receipts and other documents relating to those records must be made available for inspection by any person interested. For the year ended 31 March 2020, these documents will be available on reasonable notice by application to: (b) Amy Jones, Parish Clerk, Hawthorn Cottage, Porthywaen, Oswestry, Shropshire, SY10 8LX E: email@example.com commencing on (c) Monday 15 June 2020 and ending on (d) Friday 24 July 2020 3. Local government electors and their representatives also have: The opportunity to question the appointed auditor about the accounting records; andThe right to make an objection which concerns a matter in respect of which the appointed auditor could either make a public interest report or apply to the court for a declaration that an item of account is unlawful. Written notice of an objection must first be given to the auditor and a copy sent to the smaller authority. The appointed auditor can be contacted at the address in paragraph 4 below for this purpose between the above dates only. 4. The smaller authority’s AGAR is subject to review by the appointed auditor under the provisions of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014, the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015 and the NAO’s Code of Audit Practice 2015. The appointed auditor is:PKF Littlejohn LLP (Ref: SBA Team)15 Westferry CircusCanary WharfLondon E14 4HD (firstname.lastname@example.org) 5. This announcement is made by (e) Amy Jones(Parish Clerk and RFO)
LOCAL AUTHORITY ACCOUNTS: A SUMMARY OF YOUR RIGHTS
Please note that this summary applies to all relevant smaller authorities, including local councils, internal drainage boards and ‘other’ smaller authorities.
As a local elector, or an interested person, you have certain legal rights in respect of the accounting records of smaller authorities. As an interested person you can inspect accounting records and related documents. If you are a local government elector for the area to which the accounts relate you can also ask questions about the accounts and object to them. You do not have to pay directly for exercising your rights. However, any resulting costs incurred by the smaller authority form part of its running costs. Therefore, indirectly, local residents pay for the cost of you exercising your rights through their council tax.
The right to inspect the accounting records
Any interested person can inspect the accounting records, which includes but is not limited to local electors. You can inspect the accounting records for the financial year to which the audit relates and all books, deeds, contracts, bills, vouchers, receipts and other documents relating to those records. You can copy all, or part, of these records or documents. Your inspection must be about the accounts, or relate to an item in the accounts. You cannot, for example, inspect or copy documents unrelated to the accounts, or that include personal information (Section 26 (6) – (10) of the Act explains what is meant by personal information). You cannot inspect information which is protected by commercial confidentiality. This is information which would prejudice commercial confidentiality if it was released to the public and there is not, set against this, a very strong reason in the public interest why it should nevertheless be disclosed.
When smaller authorities have finished preparing accounts for the financial year and approved them, they must publish them (including on a website). There must be a 30 working day period, called the ‘period for the exercise of public rights’, during which you can exercise your statutory right to inspect the accounting records. Smaller authorities must tell the public, including advertising this on their website, that the accounting records and related documents are available to inspect. By arrangement you will then have 30 working days to inspect and make copies of the accounting records. You may have to pay a copying charge. Legislative changes have been made as a result of the restrictions imposed by the Coronavirus for the 2019/20 reporting year which mean that there is no requirement for a common period for public rights. The period for the exercise of public rights must however commence on or before 1 September 2020. The advertisement must set out the dates of the period for the exercise of public rights, how you can communicate to the smaller authority that you wish to inspect the accounting records and related documents, the name and address of the auditor, and the relevant legislation that governs the inspection of accounts and objections.
The right to ask the auditor questions about the accounting records
You should first ask your smaller authority about the accounting records, since they hold all the details. If you are a local elector, your right to ask questions of the external auditor is enshrined in law. However, while the auditor will answer your questions where possible, they are not always obliged to do so. For example, the question might be better answered by another organisation, require investigation beyond the auditor’s remit, or involve disproportionate cost (which is borne by the local taxpayer). Give your smaller authority the opportunity first to explain anything in the accounting records that you are unsure about. If you are not satisfied with their explanation, you can question the external auditor about the accounting records.
The law limits the time available for you formally to ask questions. This must be done in the period for the exercise of public rights, so let the external auditor know your concern as soon as possible. The advertisement or notice that tells you the accounting records are available to inspect will also give the period for the exercise of public rights during which you may ask the auditor questions, which here means formally asking questions under the Act. You can ask someone to represent you when asking the external auditor questions.
Before you ask the external auditor any questions, inspect the accounting records fully, so you know what they contain. Please remember that you cannot formally ask questions, under the Act, after the end of the period for the exercise of public rights. You may ask your smaller authority other questions about their accounts for any year, at any time. But these are not questions under the Act.
You can ask the external auditor questions about an item in the accounting records for the financial year being audited. However, your right to ask the external auditor questions is limited. The external auditor can only answer ‘what’ questions, not ‘why’ questions. The external auditor cannot answer questions about policies, finances, procedures or anything else unless it is directly relevant to an item in the accounting records. Remember that your questions must always be about facts, not opinions. To avoid misunderstanding, we recommend that you always put your questions in writing.
The right to make objections at audit
You have inspected the accounting records and asked your questions of the smaller authority. Now you may wish to object to the accounts on the basis that an item in them is in your view unlawful or there are matters of wider concern arising from the smaller authority’s finances. A local government elector can ask the external auditor to apply to the High Court for a declaration that an item of account is unlawful, or to issue a report on matters which are in the public interest. You must tell the external auditor which specific item in the accounts you object to and why you think the item is unlawful, or why you think that a public interest report should be made about it. You must provide the external auditor with the evidence you have to support your objection. Disagreeing with income or spending does not make it unlawful. To object to the accounts you must write to the external auditor stating you want to make an objection, including the information and evidence below and you must send a copy to the smaller authority. The notice must include:
confirmation that you are an elector in the smaller authority’s area;
why you are objecting to the accounts and the facts on which you rely;
details of any item in the accounts that you think is unlawful; and
details of any matter about which you think the external auditor should make a public interest report.
Other than it must be in writing, there is no set format for objecting. You can only ask the external auditor to act within the powers available under the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014.
A final word
You may not use this ‘right to object’ to make a personal complaint or claim against your smaller authority. You should take such complaints to your local Citizens’ Advice Bureau, local Law Centre or to your solicitor. Smaller authorities, and so local taxpayers, meet the costs of dealing with questions and objections. In deciding whether to take your objection forward, one of a series of factors the auditor must take into account is the cost that will be involved, they will only continue with the objection if it is in the public interest to do so. They may also decide not to consider an objection if they think that it is frivolous or vexatious, or if it repeats an objection already considered. If you appeal to the courts against an auditor’s decision not to apply to the courts for a declaration that an item of account is unlawful, you will have to pay for the action yourself.
If you wish to contact your authority’s appointed external auditor please write to the address in paragraph 4 of the Notice of Public Rights and Publication of Unaudited Annual Governance & Accountability Return.
Shropshire Council has expanded the information available on its website. Working with other local groups and organisations, Shropshire Council has gathered together new information resources that may be used by individuals or groups and organisations throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
The new information can be found on Shropshire Council’s coronavirus pages under Information for the public/ more information for the public.
It is likely that more information will follow but more recent additions include a searchable map of local food providers and food delivery services; a map of local social network groups, many established to provide support during the pandemic; a map of support services and information concerning help for those unable to pay energy bills.
Many other topics are also covered ranging from advice from Trading Standards to mental health and advice managing anxiety.
The interactive maps allow those able to access the internet to focus in on their local area and find out more about the services located nearby. Where known telephone, email and website addresses have been included to help people make contact with any services of interest to them.
Data has been compiled by Shropshire Council’s new Community Reassurance Teams and other members of staff at Shropshire Council (including library services staff). Shropshire Council has set up temporary area-based Community Reassurance Teams (CRT) to support the coordination of local responses during this crisis, the teams are linking to new and existing community groups set up in response to COVID-19, Town and Parish Councils and other organisations. The Teams aim to work with communities to complement and enhance the amazing work already happening to ensure that everyone gets the help and support that they need to stay at home and stay well and healthy. Over the coming weeks the teams will work to make any necessary changes to the information available to ensure data can be used as effectively as possible.
This information is not designed to replace other long-term information sources on local service provision such as Shropshire Community Directory. The information is based on new information and new services established to support people through the coronavirus pandemic.
Keep informed and sign up to our daily coronavirus email updates
Shropshire Council wants to keep you as up to date and informed as possible. To help us do this, we have developed a coronavirus update that will be sent daily at 8pm via email to anyone who has signed up to our e-bulletins.
This update includes the day’s key Shropshire Council news, and some key news from our partners, relating to coronavirus-linked issues. Please click here to sign up for the updates.
Please do encourage your family and friends to sign up to the updates too. This will help us keep everyone up to date with the rapidly-evolving crisis.
Shropshire Council and its partners have in place teams to support the vital role that that you and others are offering within local communities. This is just a snapshot, so please get in touch if you would like to discuss any of the information. I will be pleased to talk about how we can best support the people of Shropshire together.
For non-medical support and enquires, the Council offers a direct Covid-19 Helpline 0345 6789028 or email email@example.com . Other key contact numbers can also be found here:
As many people are spending more time at home during the Coronavirus pandemic – and so using more energy, the Keep Shropshire Warm service continues to support residents with free and impartial support. If anyone is struggling or worried about higher bills, or perhaps is facing issues with the topping up of pre-payment meters – the team can help by checking bills & tariffs, speaking to suppliers and helping to access grants and discounts. Call Keep Shropshire Warm on 0800 112 3743 or email firstname.lastname@example.org See the link below for the flyer and for full contact details:
The scheme is backed by Shropshire Council and is managed by Shrewsbury based energy charity, Marches Energy Agency
As the Covid-19 crisis continues and levels of anxiety are stretched, Shropshire MIND continue to provide invaluable mental health support. The charity is open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. They currently have 7 call lines in operation, making or dealing with nearly 700 calls per week. Calmer Cafe No 1 (upstairs at Shropshire Mind) continues to remain open on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 6pm till 10pm. Two people are admitted at a time and must pre-book as there is an allocated time and all distancing and cleaning practices are followed meticulously. 8 to 10 people have been coming into the cafe every night.
Unfortunately, MIND’s drop-in service had to close recently but this will resume as soon as directions permit this in a safe manner. In a search for a creative alternative, Zoom sessions have been offered entitled Stress, Anxiety and Wellbeing, and these have been attended by just over 250 people to date. MIND FREE ZOOM SESSION – Topic: Stress, Anxiety and Wellbeing (Tues & Weds 3pm till 4pm, Thurs 4pm till 5pm – each week until the end of May).
With their voluntary youth club partners, they are running 26 virtual youth clubs in the week commencing 11th May 2020. They run weekly virtual youth clubs in Bridgnorth, Ludlow, Minsterley, Westbury, Market Drayton – Phoenix centre, Whitchurch, Oswestry, XYZ for LGBT+ young people. They also support voluntary clubs in: Wem, Sutton Hill, Hinstock, Brookside & Stirchley, Broseley, Nesscliffe, Market Drayton – Zone, Hanwood, Beechtree centre – Whitchurch, The Bridge Bridgnorth, Telford Young Carers. All groups are accessed through the individual links placed on club Facebook pages and WhatsApp groups. For safeguarding reasons, there is a “hosted lock room entrance”, this stops people from bombing and hacking the meetings. Any parents or young people new to the clubs can contact Richard Parkes, (email@example.com) and he will introduce them to Zoom and make sure that the youth workers know they are going to join the meeting. They are also putting quizzes and links to useful activities on their Facebook pages, while offering 121 phone, txt and virtual support to young people who are struggling.
Good things to do at home – Taking Part and the Qube
Working with Taking Part and the Qube, we are looking to highlight and develop resources called ‘good things to do at home’. This idea started with the need to rethink ways of working with adults with learning disabilities who were attending Council day services. As centres closed due to the Coronavirus, we wanted to develop new ways of working that meant people could do interesting things in their own homes. We started by delivering ‘happy boxes’ to people’s homes. The boxes included fun activities, learning activities and creative tasks. All ‘good things to do at home’. All were received positively and now we are looking to extend the ideas and use the talents of the people of Shropshire to create our very own resources that can support everyone’s wellbeing. As the locally created and sourced resources and ideas develop, the Qube and Taking Part will post information on their websites.
As well as creating our own resources there are many websites that people can access free of charge on-line. The trouble is that this sometimes feels a little overwhelming. So, we’ve also started to look for useful things to do and share that we know are good. Help us find and share resources that are great for others to use. Shropshire Telford & Wrekin Age UK have done just that by pulling together a number of resources that can help people stay fit in later life https://www.ageuk.org.uk/shropshireandtelford/about-us/news/articles/2020/keeping-fit-at-home/
Community Catalyst, an organisation that is helping set up care micro-enterprises in Shropshire, have started their own site called The Buzz, where people running micro-care enterprises have started to share their own newly created videos. http://www.smallgoodstuff.co.uk/the-buzz/ In the meantime, if you’ve got a great resource that you think other people in Shropshire must know about, then drop a note to firstname.lastname@example.org and he’ll pass it on.
Take care and best wishes.
If you wish to opt out of receiving these updates then please inform me by replying to this email.
Healthwatch Shropshire wants to know how the current pandemic is affecting people in Shropshire, their well-being, how they are finding useful information, how they are being supported, what helps them cope and how their experience of health and social care has been affected.
They are trying to establish what is working well, where the gaps are and where people feel things could be improved.
Lynn Cawley, Chief Officer, explained, “At Healthwatch Shropshire we know that staff and volunteers from across health, social care and the charity sector are working hard to support people in the community during the Coronavirus outbreak. Local organisations from across the health and care system are working closely together to respond to COVID-19 whilst ensuring that essential everyday services carry on.
These organisations want to know what people think about the support available and if there are any gaps so they can make sure they are working as best they can for the people who use them. To help do this we have published a short survey asking people about their experiences and will share this feedback anonymously with the people organising services so they can see what is working well and where improvements could be made.”
Healthwatch Shropshire is the independent consumer champion for health and social care in Shropshire. It gathers the views and experiences of patients, service users, carers, and the general public about services including hospitals, GPs, mental health services, community health services, pharmacists, opticians, residential care and children’s services. It also has statutory powers that it can use to influence service provision by encouraging improvements.
Shropshire Council now have a system in place to purchase food for those people who are self-isolating and cannot purchase supplies over the phone using a debit or credit card and cannot access cash.
They can make orders on behalf of a customer over the phone with a Shropshire Council purchasing card and arrange for this to be delivered. The customer will then be invoiced for payment at a later date.
NB- this is an emergency measure for those who have no other options. It is only for those who have money in the bank but can’t get to it. Anyone who doesn’t have money to pay for food should contact the Covid-19 Helpline 0345 6789 028 for access to a free food parcel.
Help for patients requiring urgent and emergency care is still available across Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin while health experts deal with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Although the advice for most people remains ‘Stay at Home’, medical care is still available through GP surgeries and the Emergency Departments at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital (RSH) and the Princess Royal Hospital (PRH) in Telford.
Emergency Departments at RSH and PRH remain open for patients who have suffered a serious injury, severe Illness or a medical emergency.
An emergency is a critical or life-threatening situation, such as:
loss of consciousness
acute confused state and fits that are not stopping
persistent, severe chest pain
persistent, severe abdominal pain
swelling, redness or pain around a cut or wound and a very high or low temperature
severe bleeding that cannot be stopped
severe allergic reactions
severe burns or scalds
Choking, chest pain, blacking out, blood loss and fractures are all considered emergencies and those with these symptoms should not hesitate to visit the Emergency Department.
Dr Arne Rose, Medical Director at The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH), which runs RSH and PRH, said: “Whilst the general advice is to stay at home as much as possible, and whilst we do have restrictions on visiting to our hospitals, it is important that people who need emergency care get that care as soon as possible.
“Some people may think that they are doing the right thing by not contacting their GP or not coming to A&E, but they could actually be making things worse for themselves in the long run.
“Our Emergency Departments are only for serious injury, severe illness or medical emergencies but, throughout this outbreak, they remain open and to ready help.”
GP practices are still operating but patients must not turn up at their practice with an appointment.
Nicky Wilde, Director of Primary Care for Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin CCGs, said: “Anyone with Covid-19 related symptoms must contact 111 in the first instance, however GP practices are still open and during this period of Covid-19 we are asking patients not to turn up at their practice without a pre-booked appointment and to contact their practice by telephone.”
Patients will be asked a set of questions to ensure that they are referred to the best healthcare professional to help.
The Coronavirus is a concern for us all across West Mercia and during these uncertain times we must work together to ease the situation. We all have our part to play and there are many ways to offer support to our communities’ most vulnerable whilst ensuring personal safety. I have seen communities come together throughout Shropshire to provide services such as collecting prescriptions, shopping or even offering phone calls to ensure those most vulnerable are still cared for and not lonely. As Commissioner I would encourage you all to keep safe and listen to guidelines issued by the Government and local authorities but keep community spirit going and look out for each other.
Thanks to the hard work and generosity of members of the Whittington community, local businesses and organisations, Whittington residents and visitors will be able to enjoy a light display this Christmas. The Parish Council were devastated when they were told by their lighting contractor last Friday that the Christmas Tree lights on the Green has been vandalised and damaged so badly during the year that they were no longer fit for purpose. These lights have lit up the centre of Whittington for several years and were added to last Christmas, with an additional set, to further enhance the display. With only 7 working days until Christmas, it seemed unlikely that the Parish Council would be able to replace them this year but thanks to the generosity of a neighbouring Town Council and a team of local electrical engineers, a set of lights have now gone up on the Tree in the Car Park of the Ye Olde Boote Inn.
Mrs Amy Jones, Clerk to the Parish Council, commented, “As it is so close to Christmas, we sent out a plea to neighbouring Town Councils to see if anyone had any lights available to borrow and by a stroke of luck, Ellesmere Town Council had a spare set of tree lights that they were not using this year. They very kindly offered them to Whittington Parish Council to borrow this year and the landlord of the Boote Inn kindly agreed to having the lights on the tree in the car park as the Green was now too wet to get machinery on to erect the display. Our electrical engineers, Highline, pulled out all the stops and put up the lights for us the Friday before Christmas meaning there will be light in the village this year!”
Mrs Jones added, “To top it all off, when an initial message went out on the Parish Council Facebook Page to explain why the lights were not on this Christmas, members of the community rallied around and set up a Crowd Funding Page to support the Parish Council with purchasing a new set of lights for next year. They managed to raise a fantastic £300 which is being transferred to the council and will be used to put on an enhanced display for Christmas 2020. We can’t thank everybody enough for their generosity and hard work; pulling together to make this happen for the village”.
Mrs Jill Whitby, Chair of the Parish Council, added “I am overwhelmed by the offers of support, and at our meeting on Tuesday, the Council agreed to try and pull out all the stops to ensure that the Village once again had the Christmas Spirit. On behalf of the Council, I personally would like to thank Ellesmere Town Council, Highline Electrical, Nick and the Boote Inn, and all the Parishioners who helped to make this possible”.