Has the local audit system finally reached its breaking point? One could argue that with 91% of councils missing the statutory deadline for completing audits which had already been extended to September this year, we have now well and truly met that crisis point.
While this figure is undeniably bad, it isn’t such a surprise. The issue has got progressively worse since the Audit Commission was abolished in 2014 and replaced by the Local Audit and Accountability Act, transferring local authority work to private sector firms.
Less than half of council audits for 2019-20 were completed on time, down from 57% the previous year, and 95% in 2015-16.
Almost two years of a global pandemic has inevitably played a part in the staggering delay, but that is only part of the picture.
When just half of local audits missed the deadline last November, the National Audit Office concluded the local audit system had ‘worsened’ and called for ‘urgent attention’. Serious problems had already been noted in the Redmond Review in September 2020, which made a number of significant recommendations to improve the system, including the creation of a new audit regulator to oversee and procure the external audits of local authorities in England.
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