Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014

Under the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014, as a local resident you have
legal rights to inspect, ask questions about and challenge items in your authority’s accounts.

Merton Council and their accounts
Local authorities spend public money. The money comes from national and
local taxes as well as charges to service users. Local authorities must tell local
residents and taxpayers how their money is spent. They do this by publishing
yearly accounts and details of their spending.

Your rights and the law
The Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 (the Act) governs the work of
auditors appointed to authorities and other local public bodies. The Act the
Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015 and the Local Audit (Public Access to
Documents) Act 2017 also cover the duties, responsibilities and rights of local
authorities, other organisations and the public concerning the accounts being

As a local resident or an interested person or journalist you have certain legal rights in respect of the accounts of local authorities.

As an interested person or journalist you can inspect an authority’s accounts and
related documents.

If you are a local government elector for the area to which the accounts relate you can also:

  • ask the auditor questions about the accounts; and
  • object to them.

Your rights to inspect the accounts and related documents, ask questions or
make objections, however, can only be exercised during a single 30 working-day
period that is set by the authority (‘the inspection period’). Merton Council usually hides this limited window of time period in a link to the Public Inspection Notice. It is vital, therefore, that if you intend to exercise any of the rights explained in this guide, you contact the council to find out the dates set for the inspection period each year. It is the authority which sets this period, not the auditor.

You do not have to pay directly for exercising your rights. However, any resulting
costs incurred by the authority (which can on occasion be very large) form part of
its running costs.

Therefore, indirectly, local residents pay for the cost of you exercising your rights
through their council tax. Please bear this in mind if the issue of concern could be
dealt with in a more proportionate way, such as by direct communication with the
authority or via an organisation listed below.

If you think something has gone wrong at Merton Council, you should contact
them. You can do this by writing to:
• the Chief Executive or
• your local councillor.
The council has a complaints-handling system, which deals with nearly all
complaints. Occasionally there are issues that someone else needs to deal with.
Here are some suggestions to help you.

Public Sector Audit Appointments Limited (PSAA)
If you are unhappy with how the auditor has handled your question or objection
about Merton Council’s accounts, you should contact the audit firm and make a
formal complaint.
If, having followed the firm’s complaints procedure, you remain unhappy with the
actions the auditor has taken, or the firm’s response to your complaint, you can
contact PSAA.
Phone: 020 7072 7445
Email: auditorappointments@psaa.co.uk

Local Government Ombudsman
Contact the Ombudsman if you:

  • think the way your council has gone about something is wrong;
  • think the impact of a decision it has made is unfair; or
  • are dissatisfied with how the authority has dealt with your complaint.

Phone: 0300 061 0614
Website: Local Government Ombudsman

Contact Merton Council’s internal auditor if you think the authority has
committed fraud or used money improperly. The council will give you the
internal auditor’s name and address. If you have evidence of fraud, you should
also contact the police.

Freedom of information
Merton Council is covered by the requirements of Freedom of Information
legislation, so you can ask to see anything you want to see at any time. The council will tell you if there is a reason you may not see any information. Using the website What Do They Know which puts the question and answer in the public domain (do search if the question has already been asked), using What Do They Know saves the council time in answering duplicate questions and helps keep an eye on the timescales given to the council to respond.

If you need help getting information, the Information Commissioner may be able
to help you.
Information Commissioner’s Office
Website: Information Commissioner
Helplines: 0303 123 1113

Standards and General Purposes Committee
Complain to Merton Council’s standards committee, if you think a councillor’s behaviour is below the high standards expected. Standards committees publish their own information on how to make a complaint. They only deal with complaints about
members (councillors) and not about officers or other employees.