- What does the Audit Commission do?
- What is the National Audit Office and how does it differ from the Audit Commission?
- Who audits the Audit Commission?
- How can I get a copy of the Audit Commission act?
- What is the Local Government Act 2000 (LGA 2000) and how does it affect the Audit Commission Act 1998?
- How do I get permission to reproduce something from an Audit Commission publication in something I'm producing?
- How do I book a place at an Audit Commission event?
- How long will it take for the Commission to respond to a written enquiry?
- What is an audit?
- What is the role of the appointed auditor?
- What are an auditors' statutory responsibilities?
- How are auditors appointed?
- What are the Audit Commission's audit fees?
- Who is my appointed auditor?
- How can I find my Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA) Lead?
- Who audits the auditors?
- What are my council's legal obligations regarding publishing financial information?
- Who do I speak to about the audit of town or parish councils?
- I have a query about a grant claim or certification instruction.
- How do I make a complaint about my local authority or council?
- How do I make a complaint about the conduct of my councillor or a council member?
- What are the types of complaint which the Audit Commission cannot investigate?
- What are the types of complaint which the Audit Commission can investigate?
- How do I make a complaint about the Audit Commission?
- In what circumstances will the Audit Commission review its scored judgements at the request of an audited and inspected body?
- How do I report a suspected fraud as a member of the public?
- How do I report a suspected fraud at the authority I work for?
Freedom of Information and corporate data enquiries
- How do I make a freedom of information (FOI) request?
- How can I update my contact details on your database?
- Can I have my name added to your reports mailing list?
- Can I get a mailing list of all local authorities/ NHS trusts etc?
- What type of inspections does the Audit Commission carry out?
- What is best value inspection?
- If a council service has been awarded two stars in a best value inspection is that good or bad?
- What is CPA?
- Can I get the Audit Commission to inspect a service I'm dissatisfied with?
- Can you give me general performance information about my authority?
- How do I find out which authorities are in the same family grouping as mine or who are my 'nearest neighbours'?
- How can I compare my CPA scores or performance information with other authorities?
- How do I find out about Beacon status?
- What other statistics can the Audit Commission provide?
- What types of reports does the Audit Commission produce?
- How do I find a report on your website?
- How do I get a report that is now out of print?
- How do I order a report?
- I want to get a hold of a copy of one of your reports in large print, Braille or audio format.
- Does the Audit Commission have a library where I can look at or borrow copies of reports?
- I'm trying to track down what has happened to the publications I ordered.
- How do I get permission to reproduce something from an Audit Commission publication in something I'm publishing?
The Audit Commission is an independent watchdog, driving economy, efficiency and effectiveness in local public services to deliver better outcomes for everyone.
Our remit covers public services in England. Wales (external link), Scotland (external link) and Northern Ireland (external link) have their own auditing bodies.
Our responsibilities are set out in the Audit Commission Act 1998 (external link). We appoint external auditors and, in local government, inspect the performance of services through our comprehensive performance assessment (CPA). The Commission does not audit private companies. More about us.
The National Audit Office (NAO) scrutinises public spending on behalf of Parliament. It is independent of government. It audits the accounts of all central government departments and agencies, as well as a wide range of other public bodies, and reports to Parliament.
The Commission is audited by the National Audit Office (external link), which also audits central government departments.
Acts of Parliament (external link) are available from the Office of Public Sector Information.
The Accounts and Audit Regulations (external link) are developed to support the Audit Commission Act 1998 (external link). Both are available from the Office of Public Sector Information. These contain important information for electors and interested persons.
Telephone: 020 7276 5229
Website: www.opsi.gov.uk (external link)
The LGA 2000 (external link) makes major changes to the powers of local authorities, their constitutions and structures, and the way in which standards of conduct in local government are enforced. View the amendments made to the Audit Commission Act 1998 by the LGA 2000 (external link).
For guidelines on the use of Audit Commission material, please refer to our terms and conditions of use.
If your request is for commercial purposes, please write to:
1st Floor, Millbank Tower,
Millbank, London, SW1P 4HQ
Alternatively, you can complete a request online.
Please specify the following in your request:
- Exactly what information or exhibits you wish to use.
- The name of the publication in which you found it, and the relevant page numbers.
- Where and how you wish to use the information or exhibits (e.g. the title of the publication, publisher, print run, and whether the publication will be priced or free).
We organise regular events throughout the year. If you would like to attend an event please fill out a booking form, which can be obtained by emailing email@example.com.
Our standard is to provide an acknowledgement within 5 working days of receipt and a full response within 20 working days. This applies to correspondence received by letter, fax and email.
Audits are designed to add credibility to information (eg financial information or performance indicators) or other subject matter (eg systems and processes, such as internal controls, or behaviours, such as corporate governance or compliance with regulations), by providing a level of assurance to a third party (the addressee of the auditor’s report: in the Commission’s regime, the audited body) that that information or subject matter conforms to specified criteria (eg accounts give ‘a true and fair view’ or that a grant claim complies with the terms and conditions of the grant).
Auditors are appointed by the Audit Commission and are independent of the bodies they audit. We appoint auditors from our own staff and from professional audit firms. Auditors’ responsibilities are set out in the Audit Commission Act 1998 (external link). There is a Code of Audit Practice for local government bodies and another Code of Audit Practice for health bodies. These Codes prescribe how auditors carry out their functions under the Act and are approved by Parliament at least once every five years, giving them statutory effect.
Auditors perform an annual audit of financial statements. However, they also have wider responsibilities under the Code of Practice to review and report on whether an audited body has made proper arrangements for securing value for money in its use of resources.
The appointed auditors are the main point of contact for any member of the public on issues surrounding the accounts. The Codes are supported by another key document that is issued by the Commission, the Statement of Responsibilities of Auditors and Audited Bodies, which sets out the different responsibilities of the auditor and the audited body, and the limits on what the auditor can reasonably be expected to do.
Auditors' responsibilities may be summarised in terms of what they:
- Must do (ie statutory duties, no discretion).
- May do (ie statutory duties or powers, which they have discretion about exercising).
- Are required by the Commission to do.
The must dos
The Audit Commission Act 1998 and the Local Government Act 1999 set out the specific statutory duties of appointed auditors:
- To comply with the Code of Audit Practice.
- To give an opinion on the financial statements of the audited body.
- To satisfy themselves that the accounts comply with statutory requirements and have been compiled in accordance with proper practices.
- To satisfy themselves that the audited body has made proper arrangements for securing economy, efficiency and effectiveness in its use of resources.
- To review and report on specified bodies’ best value performance plans (local government only).
- To certify completion of the audit.
The may dos
In addition, auditors have other specific statutory duties and powers:
- For all audited bodies, to consider issuing a public interest report concerning any matter that comes to the auditor's attention during the course of the audit, which they judge should be considered by the audited body or brought to public attention.
- For local government bodies:
- To decide whether the audited body should consider formally, and respond to in public, matters raised in an audit report.
- To give electors the opportunity to raise questions about the accounts, and consider and decide upon objections received from electors in relation to the accounts.
- Where unlawful expenditure has been or is about to be incurred by an audited body, to issue an advisory notice, to apply to the Courts for a declaration that an item of account is unlawful or apply for judicial review.
- Refer a best value authority to either the Commission or the Secretary of State with a recommendation that it should carry out an inspection or issue a direction.
- For NHS bodies, to refer a matter to the Secretary of State if they have reason to believe that an audited body has made, or is about to make, decisions involving potentially unlawful expenditure or has taken, or is about to take, potentially unlawful action likely to cause a loss or deficiency.
Things auditors are required by the Commission to do
Finally, for policy reasons or to enable either it or key partner organisations to carry out their statutory functions effectively, the Commission also currently requires auditors:
- To give an opinion on the regularity of income and expenditure (some NHS bodies and Probation Boards only), to meet the NAO’s requirements.
- To assess the effectiveness of audited bodies’ financial management arrangements and arrangements to secure VfM (for CPA and the Healthcare Commission’s Health Check system).
- To review and report on specified local government bodies’ systems and processes for producing PIs (for CPA).
- To report the key results of audit work to ‘those charged with governance’ (this is a requirement of professional auditing standards, but the Commission’s requirements go wider, reflecting the wider scope of the Code audit).
- To review and report on the schedules prepared by audited bodies for the Departments of Health’s consolidated accounts (NHS bodies) and Whole of Government Accounts (local government bodies).
- To issue an annual audit letter (health only).
- To provide the Commission with relevant information for inclusion in the annual audit and inspection letter (local government only).
Auditors are appointed either from our own staff or from a private sector accountancy firm. The Audit Commission takes a number of factors into account when appointing auditors and consults audited bodies on the appointment. Once appointed, auditors are independent of the Audit Commission. Standards are set for auditors through the Code of Audit Practice for health bodies and the Code of Audit Practice for local government bodies and through detailed guidance prepared by the Audit Commission. The Audit Commission assesses the work of the auditors against these standards by carrying out quality control reviews.
The Audit Commission's current scales of fees for audit work can be found in the audit pages.
To search for an appointed auditor for a particular local government or NHS body, please see the auditors directory.
Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA) is the new assessment framework for local services, and will report for the first time in 2009. CAA Leads will coordinate this work across geographic areas, working with partner inspectorates. The list of CAA Leads can be found here.
The Commission sets the standards for the auditors it appoints and monitors their performance. The principal means of monitoring standards and evaluating the quality of audit and inspection work is through the annual Quality Review Process (QRP). The aim of the QRP is to provide assurance that the Commission’s auditors have appropriate systems and procedures in place to ensure the quality of work delivered at audited bodies and to inform the audit appointments process and the procurement of audit services.
The QRP comprises the interrelated elements set out below:
Quality control and monitoring arrangements
The starting point is a requirement for each supplier to carry out a self assessment of the quality control and quality monitoring arrangements which have been put in place by them to assure the delivery of work to the required standard. To assist with the self assessments, we produce a checklist of issues which we would expect to be covered. We review the results of these self assessments, on the basis of which we determine the scope and extent of QRP activity in any particular area.
The Regions and the firms are expected to follow their established procedures, provided that these meet the minimum professional standards issued by the Auditing Practices Board and also cater for additional requirements specific to the Commission’s regime. These include a review of engagement leads at least once every three years, documented review procedures and evidence of findings. We also ask how the impact of the work delivered at audited bodies has been assessed. We carry out a desktop review of these annual submissions and our response may be either:
- no further action, where we assess the arrangements as operating satisfactorily;
- to visit the supplier, usually on a three year cycle through a rolling programme, to test what we have been told in the self assessments; or
- if we do have concerns, to visit the supplier during the current year to resolve our concerns.
We also retain the right to carry out a special review at any time should we wish to investigate a particular issue or respond to unforeseen events.
Audited body surveys
The views of audited bodies, as recipients of, and payers for, our services are important to us and we carry out satisfaction surveys to inform the audit appointment process and to obtain feedback on all aspects – both national and local – of our regime.
The outputs from the QRP include:
- feedback reports to each supplier on their self assessments of their quality control and monitoring arrangements, together with any reviews carried out by or on behalf of the QRP team;
- an annual report to the Commission Board’s Audit Committee on the quality of audit work, and the service being provided to audited bodies; and
- a report that we publish on our website, which sets out our views on the quality of the Regions’ and the firms’ audit work.
The legal obligations of councils regarding publishing financial information are set out in legislation. The primary source of this legislation is the Audit Commission Act 1998 (external link) and the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2003 (external link).
Please see the publication Councils’ Accounts: Your Rights for more information.
For queries regarding the audit of your town or parish council you should contact your appointed local council auditor.
The National Association of Local Councils (external link) and the Society of Local Council Clerks (external link) are both available to offer guidance.
Contact the Audit Commission Grants Team in Bristol on 01179 236 757 or email APAGtechsupport@audit-commission.gov.uk
In the first instance you should direct your complaint towards the local authority involved. All local authorities will have a complaints department that you can contact.
If your complaint refers to something your council has done that you feel is unfair (that is, you feel you have suffered as a result of inefficient management or maladministration), please contact your Local Government Ombudsman (external link).
The Commission leaflet: Routemap, Your guide to complaining about local public services in England provides contact details and links of other agencies you can contact who can deal with complaints about public services in England.
If your complaint refers to corruption, fraud or misuse of public money at an authority please contact the appointed auditor for that authority. To find out the identity of the auditor please complete our enquiry form.
You can also contact the Commission's confidential Whistleblowing line on 0845 0522 646. The Commission policy regarding whistleblowing will provide you with information on what will happen with your information.
Every authority is required to adopt a Code of Conduct (external link) that sets out rules governing the behaviour of its members. All elected, co-opted and independent members of local authorities, including parish councils, fire, police and national parks authorities, are covered by the code. Information on how to complain about a member's failure to comply with the code of conduct for members can be found at the Standards Board (external link) for England's website.
- The policies or decisions made by a local authority (for example, your local council or housing association) about what services they provide and the quality of the services. These are a matter for the organisation's own complaints procedures and you should contact the relevant organisation direct.
- Bad or inefficient management by a local council (maladministration), which is a matter for the Local Government Ombudsman.
- Services provided by the NHS, which is a matter for the Health Service Commissioner.
- Because auditors work independently, you cannot complain to us about the decisions and judgements of auditors as the correct place to challenge these is through the courts. Our leaflet Councils' Accounts Your Rights: England explains the powers and duties of auditors and your rights.
- Employment matters, including complaints from staff or former staff. Complaints from applicants for jobs should be sent to our Human Resources Directorate, Westward House, Lime Kiln Close, Bristol, BS34 8SR, where they will be dealt with under a separate process.
Where we cannot consider your complaint we will tell you why and advise which, if any, other organisations may be able to help you. Our leaflet Routemap – Your guide to complaining about local public services in England provides details of the organisations to contact to complain about your local services, a copy can be obtained from us at the address above or from our website.
We will deal with complaints about poor service on the part of the Commission, its appointed auditors and staff, provided the complaint is made within six months of the event in question. A failure to deal with matters properly or fairly may involve:
- Failure to follow proper procedures.
- Discourtesy and rudeness.
- Not informing an individual of their of rights and entitlements.
- Not providing answers to reasonable questions where they fall within auditor's or the Commission's remit.
- Not responding to phone calls, emails or letters.
- Not answering complaints fully and promptly.
- Failure to apologise for mistakes.
This is not an exhaustive list - if you have any queries about whether we can or cannot deal with a specific complaint, please contact the Interim Complaints Unit Manager on 0844 798 3118.
You can complain by phone, email, letter, or online.
Telephone: 0844 798 3118 [local rate call]
Textphone (minicom): 0207 630 0421
Complaints Unit Manager
Audit Commission, Westward House
Lime Kiln Close, Bristol, BS34 8SR
Robert Mauler, Complaints Unit Manager: 0844 798 3118 [local rate call]
We aim to achieve the highest standards so we need to know if you are concerned or dissatisfied with any part of our work, or that of our appointed auditors.
Your complaints give us the chance to put things right when mistakes have been made and to improve the quality of our services. We treat all complaints seriously, investigate them thoroughly and respond as quickly as possible.
For more information on our complaints procedure, please read our leaflet How to complain.
The procedure for requesting that the Audit Commission review the scored judgements for an audited and inspected body can be viewed in Review procedure for scored judgements.
Any concerns about fraud, corruption or misuse of public money should be reported to the appointed auditor of the audited body in the first instance. The Commission appoints the auditor; it does not work for that authority and is therefore independent. To find out who the appointed auditor is you can use our auditors directory, complete our enquiry form.
The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA) (external link) is popularly known as a 'Whistleblowers' protection act. It protects employees who make disclosures about a range of subjects from recriminations.
Whistleblowers can claim PIDA protection by disclosing their concerns either to their employer or, if they prefer, to another organisation authorised to receive disclosures (a ‘prescribed person’). The Audit Commission is a 'prescribed person' under the Act and provides a confidential public interest disclosure line for employees of councils and NHS bodies where they are unable, or unwilling, to report internally.
You can contact our dedicated Whistleblowers’ Hotline on 0845 052 2646.
Please visit the FOI section of our website for information on the Audit Commission's information policy and principles as well as guidance how to make a request.
To update your contact details on our database please complete our enquiry form.
We do not hold a standard mailing list. We create unique lists for each mailing we organise, depending on who the report applies to.
We do not provide details of other organisations. Mailing lists can be obtained from brokers.
Across local government, the Audit Commission's inspectors make sure that the public is getting the best possible value for money from council services. As part of this process our local education authority (LEA) inspectors assess councils' education departments.
In housing, we have a wider role, inspecting not just council services but those provided by housing associations too.
Working with other regulatory bodies, we also inspect councils' social services departments.
We do not inspect the health service or any area within criminal justice, although we do audit these services.
Best value inspections used to take place prior to CPA. The Commission now performs these inspections as part of the CPA process. In a nutshell, the CPA process brings together a range of evidence to make an overall judgment about a council. Best value inspections and best value performance indicators will be taken into account as part of this evidence.
Councils are still required to produce a best value performance plan, which is reviewed as part of the CPA evaluation.
Best value inspections award council services two ratings. One is on the quality of the service (0-3 stars, where 0 is 'poor' and 3 'excellent'), the other on its prospects for improvement. So if a service has been awarded two stars out of three, it means it's a good service.
The CPA improvement programme was launched in 2002 for unitary¹ and county councils and in 2003 for district and borough councils.
It combines a council's own judgement of how it is performing with an external assessment of how well it is run.
The idea is to tell councils how they are doing and let them and their residents compare their performance with that of others.
For more information please see CPA section of the Audit Commission website. The CPA Helpline Number is 0845 052 2616.
¹ Unitary authority is a term used in the United Kingdom to describe a local government body that forms a single tier of administration. Similar areas used to be called county boroughs until their abolition in 1974. After this there was a two-tier arrangement where each county had a council and contained multiple districts with councils of their own.
Inspections are undertaken following a comprehensive assessment of risk, which is undertaken by one of the Commission's relationship managers. In this respect, any service complaints may be of interest to that authority's relationship manager when considering and planning future audit and inspection work.
Council residents do not have the right to request an inspection of a particular service within a named authority but any relevant information provided will be taken into account during future inspections.
The Audit Commission collects, checks and publishes information on how council services, including housing, are performing against measures set down by the government. These measures are called best value performance indicators. For all queries on performance indicators, you can contact the Performance Information Team.
Profiles/nearest neighbours/families are authorities that are similar to each other and are grouped together for benchmarking purposes. The Commission no longer deals with these and they are now dealt with by Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) (external link). Their details are below.
Website: CIPFA nearest neighbours (external link)
Telephone: 020 8667 1144
The Department for Communities and Local government (CLG) (external link) has an interactive comparative site that allows CPA categories to be compared across authorities. It also allows performance indicator information to be compared.
Beacon status is awarded by the Department of Communities and Local Government (CLG).
Website: The Beacon Scheme (external link)
The Audit Commission only retains statistical information relating to performance indicators. Some other useful sources for statistics are:
- Office for National Statistics (external link);
- CIPFA (external link); and
- Associated organisations (i.e. schools statistics - Ofsted).
1. Inspection reports
These reports look at a particular service within one individual council.
You can view the inspection reports for a certain authority by selecting the 'My location' link from our homepage or you can view all inspection reports.
2. Joint Reviews
The Audit Commission's Joint Reviews Department (Social Services) and the Social Services Inspectorate (SSI) have now joined to become the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) (external link).
3. National reports
The Audit Commission runs a research programme covering a wide range of services including health, housing, social care, police, fire and education. Our reports can be found under reports and publications on the website or purchased through our distribution house (call 0800 50 20 30).
4. Public interest reports
An appointed auditor can issue a public interest report on any matter that has come to their notice during the audit and will consider whether it should be reported on immediately or at the end of the audit. Past public interest reports have covered fraud, corruption and wider failures of governance.
Public interest reports are available on this website or you can contact the authority involved as they have a statutory duty to make this information public. If this fails you should then contact the appointed auditor. If the report is more than one year old, then you should contact the Audit Commission for a copy.
5. Annual audit letters
The Audit Commission's appointed auditors provide an annual audit letter to each audited body. The letter is for the attention of the audited body but, where they consent, the Audit Commission publishes the letter on its website.
Annual audit letters summarise auditors' views on the key workings of the audited body.
All national Audit Commission reports from 2000 onwards and inspection reports from 2001 are available on our website. If the report is listed on the website but there is no PDF, it is because it was published before November 1999.
You can contact the British Library, which stores copies of all of our reports, to get a reference copy.
National reports that are still in print can be ordered from our distribution house:
Audit Commission Publications
P O Box 99
Yorkshire, LS23 7JA
Telephone: 0800 50 20 30
Fax: 0870 121 4217
If you require further copies of an inspection report please call 0844 798 7070.
We can supply copies of these formats on request. Please complete an enquiry form or telephone 0844 798 7070.
The Audit Commission does not have a public library. Our reports can be viewed from our website or borrowed from the British Library.
Please contact our distribution house who will be able to trace your order.
Telephone: 0800 50 20 30
All requests for copyright permissions must be made in writing and sent to:
Manager of Sales and Marketing
1st Floor, Millbank Tower,
Millbank, London SW1P 4HQ
Please specify the following in your request:
- exactly what information or exhibits you wish to use;
- the name of the publication in which you found it, including page numbers; and
- where and how you wish to use the information or exhibits (eg title of publication, publisher, print run, whether the publication will be free or priced).