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The Practitioners’ Guide (‘the guide’) is issued by the Joint Panel on Accounting Guidance (JPAG) to support the preparation by smaller authorities in England of statutory annual accounting and governance statements found in the annual return.

This 2017 edition of the guide applies to annual returns in respect of financial years commencing on or after 1 April 2017. It can be applied voluntarily to annual returns covering the period 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017.

In accordance with Section 6 of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014, an authority is a ‘smaller authority’ if the higher of the authority’s gross income for the year and its gross expenditure for the year does not exceed £6.5 million. For the purposes of the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015, a smaller authority may also be referred to as a ‘Category 2 authority’. This guide uses the term ‘authority’ to refer to all types of smaller authority.

Sections 1, 2 and 3 of the guide represent the proper accounting and governance practices (‘proper practices’) referred to in statute. They set out for responsible finance officers the appropriate standard of financial and governance reporting for smaller authorities and are mandatory.

Section 4 of the guide sets out the non-statutory guidance relating to internal audit which authorities are required to take into account.

Section 5 of the guide provides supporting information and practical examples to assist smaller authorities to manage their governance and financial affairs and is not mandatory.

The guide is intended as a working tool for smaller authorities, providing not only the common ‘rules’ for completing an annual return for use by responsible finance officers, but also as a reference work for auditors, both internal and external, members, other officers and the public to aid understanding of the annual return and the reporting on the smaller authority’s governance and finances within it.

For this reason, the guide is written with the intention to be as widely accessible as possible to all users within the constraints of it also representing the appropriate standards for public reporting by smaller authorities.

JPAG is committed to a regular review of the guide to ensure that it remains fit for purpose for all smaller authorities in England. The guide is supported by the technical support teams at SLCC, NALC and ADA where you may address any questions about the content of the guide or suggestions for its improvement.

Steve Parkinson Chair, JPAG March 2017

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