Audit and Scrutiny AGAR Guide 2023

Posted on 22nd July, 2023


The AGAR process ensures that all councillors’ are held accountable for their agreed decisions. Also, that all associated income and expenditure has been properly recorded and related documentation has been made accessible to members of the public to view.

For Bleadon the viewing period for Bleadon residents ends Friday 04 August 2023


Every year parish councils submit a statement (aka AGAR) to an External Auditor. How can the officially signed Annual Governance and Accountability Return help members of the public view the records? What documents are available to view?


The BPC AGAR Notice (pg1) gives council contact details and states, “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”. 


The Right to Inspect the council’s records is enshrined in law (AGAR Notice pg2). "If any concerns remain after the Council has responded to queries, electors may wish to consider raising objections to the AGAR with the appointed auditor" See the last two year's challenges to External Audit and the postiive outcomes that can result.





AGAR Form 3

he public Inspection period can only commence once the AGAR has been approved, published and submitted to the external auditor”


There are six main parts to this document:

Guidance Notes (pg1&2)

Annual Internal Audit Report (pg3)

Section 1 Annual Governance Statement (pg4)

Section 2 Accounting Statements (pg5)

External Auditor’s Report and Certificate (pg6)

• Associated Appendices (pg7 onwards)


BPC’s AGAR Form 3 is available on its website or here.


NB BPC's Financial Regulations 1.13 states, "The council is not empowered by these Regulations or otherwise to delegate certain specified decisions. In particular any decision regarding:

  • setting the final budget or the precept (council tax requirement);
  • approving accounting statements;
  • approving an annual governance statement;
  • declaring eligibility for the General Power of Competence; and
  • addressing recommendations in any report from the internal or external auditors, shall be a matter for the full council only"
AGAR Notice

This is the official notice inviting members of the public to Inspect BPC’s records and ask questions during a strict 6 week period (BPC’s viewing period is between 24 JUN and 04 AUG 23)


It states, all related documentation must be made available for inspection.

For maximum public engagement the AGAR Notice should ideally be published on Bleadon’s five community noticeboards as well as on the BPC website. 


Pages 2 and 3 of the AGAR Notice give a ‘Summary of Your Rights’ (can only be used to view BPC records between 24 JUN and 04 AUG 23 in BPC’s case, as announced 23JUN23) including:

  • The basic position
  • The right to inspect the accounting records and ask BPC questions
  • The right to ask the auditor questions about the accounting records
  • The right to make objections at audit

[BPC AGAR Notice V1, V2


21JUN23 (Min 366.9) "To approve the Annual Governance Statements for 2022/23 and associated report (page 23 - 25)" and (Min 366.10) "To approve the Statement of Accounts for 2022/23 (pages 26)"


Guidance Notes (pg1&2)

 Includes general guidance and an AGAR Completion Checklist


 See AGAR Form 3 pg2&3 whole file

Annual Internal Audit Report (pg3+) 


independent Internal Audit ticked 'NO' to 9 internal controls

The Internal Auditor undertakes a “…Selective assessment of compliance with the relevant procedures and controls in operation.” Includes:

NB The public have the right to access to the last 5 years full Internal Audit reports





Internal Audit Action Plan (13MAR23)


External Audit Action Plan (12JUN23)


Section 1 Annual Governance Statement (pg 4+)


BPC ticked 'NO' to 7 out of 9 governance statements

 This is where BPC officially acknowledges its “…responsibility for ensuring that there is a sound system of internal control, including arrangements for the preparation of the Accounting Statements”. Includes:

 AGAR Section 1 Approved and signed by full council 21 June (Min 366.10) Should this be 366.9?

Section 2 Accounting Statements (pg5+)


BPC restated asset value Box 9 as £62,966 from £861,914 due to removal of incorrect Halls ownership instead of in Trust

 States summary of BPC income, expenditure, reserves, staffing, assets and Trustee responsible for managing Trust funds or assets

 AGAR Section 2 Approved and signed by full council  21 June (Min 366.11) Should this be Min 366.10? Includes current and previous precept (also see Historic Precept values)


BPC's expenditure relaates financial powers e.g. S137 and/or any General Power of Competence (GPC) BPC's GPC postition last declared.20Aug19 Min 325.7 with associated BPC GPC Policy PC declarations are only made once in the four years and remain until the next election.


How does the lack of GPC relate to BPC giving any grants, payments, donations, contributions, gifts, etc. to independent organisations, community groups etc? How do BPC manage the associated risk, e.g. via the Risk Register or Financial Regulations e.g. 1.13?  For example payments to Trusts, or projects) 

Last pulbic election was May 2023. Cllr appointment dates here.


Does the ‘Total Fixed Assets’ now match the published Asset Register Values?


External Auditor’s Report and Certificate (pg6)

 External Auditors undertake a limited assurance review. The public can use the AGAR period to ask BPC questions relating to the AGAR period (this year for decisions and expenditure for Apr22-Mar23). If no clarity is received then, from the AGAR Notice, members of the public have:

  • The opportunity to question the appointed auditor about the accounting records; and
  • The 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 External Auditor’s Report and Certificate is published on an updated AGAR Form 3 after the AGAR period ends.


The public should have access to the last 5 years full External Audit reports. Info currently published on the BPC website


See also Bleadon resident successful AGAR challenges in 2020-22

AGAR Appendices (pg7 onwards)

 Additional information such as Explanation of variances, Bank Reconciliation.


 AGAR Form 3 Appendices are on the BPC website and here.
Precept, Budget & Reserves (Internal Audit Report – D

The precept or rates requirement resulted from an adequate budgetary process; progress against the budget was regularly monitored; and reserves were appropriate”


BPC ticked 'NO' see explanation

Precept, Budget blog 


In JAN23 BPC precept rose 18.5% from £54K to £64K (16 Jan 22 Min 359.7.2) the Budget was also set at £64K although not minuted? (Min 359.7.1)  See Precept Banding Info 2022/23.


See precepts since 2003/4


BPC should monitor the Budget via montly reports available to the public either via the minutes and at AGAR viewings. The current BPC apporach comply with the BPC Risk Register e.g. Reporting & Auditing and Financial Reguations Section 3 Annual Estimates (Budget) and Forward Planning


BPC budget overview and . There is currently only a Q3 Annual Budget by Cost Code Centre


All named Ear Marked Reserves (EMRs and reviewed MAR23 Min 362.18) and their start and end balances. Additonal Reserves info and blog


 Risk Assessment/Register (Internal Audit Report - C)

 “This authority assessed the significant risks to achieving tis objectives and reviewed the adequacy of arrangements to manage these


BPC ticked 'NO' see explanation

 The current BPC online Risk Assessment/Register is dated 2020 Draftv3 as seen here? However, Agenda and Minutes 13MAR23 (Min 362.20) note an updated version as seen here


See BPC Standing Orders for Committees and Working Groups.


Asset Register (Internal Audit Report – H)

 “Asset … registers were complete and accurate and properly maintained


BPC ticked 'NO' see explanation

 Asset Register 2022-23 as reviewed 12JUN23 (Min 365.12.ii) also reposted for 2021-22


How does the Asset Register relate to the Maintenance Schedule, if any, and future budget setting? How does it relate to BPC Financial Regulations e.g. 12.6?


How should Trust items be listed? e.g. BPC are Trustees of the Playground and Custodian Trustees of the Village Halls, previously residents were told it should be 'nil' value on the Asset Register, so where is it recorded now? Also previous AGAR returns.


Church Clock valued at £200 but BPC started a £12K reguidling project (BVN#121 insert last page) However, a lower quote was found 12JUN23 for £8,220, appointing Timsbury Clocks (Min 365.11), a huge saving of £4K? What money has been raised for the Clock so far, where is this documented? E.g. 10JUL23 Cost Centre Codes line 601 0f £14,049? See EMRs MAR23, allocated Budget and Reserves allocated to church.


Website Information & Transparency (Internal Audit Report – L)

 “The authority published the required information on a website/webpage up to date at the time of the internal audit in accordance with the relevant legislation"


BPC ticked 'NO' see explanation


NB: AGAR wording has changed from:"The authority publishes information on a free to access website/webpage up to date at the time of the internal audit in accordance with any relevant transparency code requirement”


See ICO Transparency Overview.. In 2020? Councilllors reviewed BPC’s Publication Scheme see comparison with ICO Template Publication Scheme


Each BPC agenda refers to the “Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014


Website duties are part of the clerk's role

Trustee responsibilities (Internal Audit Report – O)

"Trust funds (including charitable) - The council met its responsibilities as a trustee"


BPC ticked 'NO' see explanation

From BPC website: “The Parish Council is directly responsible for the … Coronation & Jubilee Halls as Custodial Trustees [Protocol]– Operated by an independent Management Committee. Youth Centre land as Custodial Trustees [see Lease] Coronation Hall Car Park … ” and Play Area and Equipment Each Trust appears to be run as a charity.


NB Halls have been in trust from many years, however in the AGAR return they changed from 'N/A Trust' 2020 AGAR  pg3 Box 'M' to 'In Trust' 2021 AGAR and 2022 AGARs Box 'O'. See External Auditor report para 4c. Also see Asset Register Trusts.


A record of submitted annual returns, accounts and trustees' annual report (TAR) for the last five financial periods can be found on the Charity Commission website – (although there appears to be none for BPC as a Custodial Trustee of the Coronation & Jubilee Halls, Car Park or Land under Youth Club?)


- Independent Halls Management Committee (Charity No: 1042602), and related 2010 Protocol to hold quarterly public meetings? Where are these minutes published) See External Auditor report para 4c


- The Playground/Park is managed by BPC as a Playground Charity (Charity No: 304491) who appear to have recorded/spent nothing on the park in the last 5 years but instead record this Trust expenditure in BPC accounts? Dec 21 (Min 347.10.1) “…required formal annual meeting of the Playground Charity” Last meeting 22JUN23 no minutes yet., includes Park AGM 14FEB22 See External Auditor report para 4b

BPC received a grant from NSC but no amount was minuted for £4,987.5 (Dec 22 Min 358.7.5) no contract or conditions were published, intallation quotation was £9,975 (Oct 22 Min 356.7.5) given to Home Front noted in expenses(Nov 22 Min 357.8.113) (See blog)?


- The Youth Club is managed and financed independently by the Bleadon Youth Club (Charity No: 304492) and has a Lease with BPC, see Notes


Declaration of Interests Pecuniary Interests (Appendix A) and Other/Non-pecuniary interests (Appendix B) Commitment to the Nolan Principles via online Code of Conduct Newer version 12JUN23 Agenda (Min 365.12.iv) here

Councillors’ Declarations can be found on the BPC website, along with a short biography/statement for each councillor.


Are these declarations reviewed annually?


During council meetings up to May 2023, Cllrs appeared actively discouraged to ask for clarification about potential conflicts of interest. This is indicated in BPC’s Revised MAR23 Risk Register Section 4 “… it is not the responsibility of members or the Clerk to cajole the member with a potential interest to actually declare one”



Minutes should record all BPC decisions and associated income and expenditure, including precept, project budget setting, awarded and received grants, tenders & contracts, etc.


All expenditure is authorised by two councillors.

NB: Neither Income nor Reserves are noted on the monthly minutes Can councillors authorise their own project expenditure? 


See transparency section



 BPC only has one part-time staff member – the clerk, who is also the designated Proper Officer and Responsible Financial Officer (RFO)


All other services are contracted out (see Contracts)

BPC did not release any signed contract for the clerk post, nor job specification or job description as part of the previous recruitment process but released information in the 2023-24 financial year - clerk's job description, specification, advert/ website starting SCP24 and contract


Recruitment should comply with BPC's Risk Register e.g. Salaries & Associated Costs and Financial Regulations e.g. pg10-12 Reviewed 13MAR23


National Association of Local Councils Old Scales


Service Contracts All services other than that of the Clerk are contracted out (see Staff)

Contracts are stated to be reviewed annually by the Personnel Committee TOR, on the BPC website. How do contracts comply with BPC's Parish Council Risk Assessment /revised MAR23 and Financial Regulations/ Revised 13MAR23 e.g. pg10-12?


Some contracts are available on the BPC website (at the bottom of the policies page)

Grass Cutting signed contract - £4K (Nov20 Min 337.7.10),

Village Ranger signed contract - £6.7K (Nov20 Min 337.7.12)

Toilets unsigned contract – £1.7K (Nov20 Min 337.7.11) See Notes


Independent Village News Editor (resigned MAR23 Min 362.13)unsigned contract – salary undeclared in minutes – previously assumed to be £400 per edition/£1.6K per annum? Jul20 (Min £350 for one edition, Sep20 Min 335.7.5 Regularise Editor appointment? Nov20 (Min 337.7.2) TOR? Dec21 (Min 347.9.f) Review of Newsletter arrangements, what was the agreed/recorded outcome? See Notes


Quarterly Financial Reports - Budget by Cost Centre BPC post quarterly financial reports except Q4/Mar – this is published in June after the accounts have been finalised?

 All quarterly reports for the current AGAR period 2021/22 have been removed from the BPC website, except Q3? Q4 is seen APR23 (Min 363.13


Compare Q3, Q4/Final, May22 and Q1-2022/23 for this AGAR period - e.g. Platinum Jubilee Project?


Summary Receipts and Payments



  • Income,
  • Staff Costs
  • Administration, Grants, Open Spaces Special Projects

Summary Receipts and Payments needs to be worked out from the Budget Setting document but compare with previous 2021-22 here. The External Audit Processes of 2020-22 helped to clarify BPC's role and responsibilities with regards to stated grants, contributions, project funding, etc.


Where are grant applications minuted and published? NB BPC Grant allocation for the year only stated to be £500? These type of 'Grants' should comply with BPC's Risk Register and Financial Regulations e.g. 1.14


Example: The Independent Group ‘Bleadon in Bloom’ (BIB) Project (NB: BPC finances run Apr-Mar, BIB run Jan-Dec, how do the figures correlate? How does this fit with the Finances stated in the BIB portfolios?)


BPC Grant/Budget 2023-24 of £1K vs BPC expenditure (see minutes for Apr-July 2023) vs BIB Portfolio 2023


BPC BIB Grant/Budget 2022-23 of £4,984 vs BPC expenditure of £1,402 vs BIB Budget 2022-23 of £4,224 vs BIB Portfolio 2022


BPC BIB Grant/Budget 2021-22 of £8,466 vs BPC expenditure of £3,599 vs BIB Budget 2021-22 of £4,884 vs Portfolio 2020-21


No grant application was submitted to BPC? Did BIB apply for any funding in BPC's name? If so, where is the outcome minuted?


Where is BPC's Platinum Jubilee Project budget publicly agreed and minuted? Is it £7.8K as in Q1-2022/23 overview and 31May22 quarterly info section 250 breakdown? (Why is this info not in Q4 Final 2021-22?) Is some/all the budget held in the Village Celebrations EMR at the start of the year?


BPC didn't produce any Working Group minutes, so how were the project decisions agreed and noted? Why is this informaton and parish recommendations not publicly available? (e.g. Jun 21 Min 343.7.3) How is the 2021/22 individual Jubilee Project expenditure identiffied in the minutes? NB 11 Oct 21 (Min 346.7.7) "... illegal under Local Government Legislation for any individual member to act in isolation." (Notes)


BPC's Reguilding Church Clock Project 14 Feb 22 (Min 350.7.5) 'Contingency EMR' to be used for any shortfall. How did this end up by 31MAR23 and beyond?


Itemised Expenditure per Budget Line item

 This report should indicate exactly what was spent on each project, service, etc.


Repeated requests were ignored for detailed information during APR22-MAR23 even during AGAR process. (Ideally looking for a Locking PC style itemised accountable budgeting)


Individual Invoices and supporting Receipts for each item of expenditure 

 Individual invoices and receipts should be present at the AGAR viewing. 


Council Policies

 E.g. Standing Orders

Financial Regulations


 Polcies on BPC website 



See also:


Previous Bleadon Accountability Statement AGAR Guide (AUG22)

External Audit Challenges (2020-2022)





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