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Revised procedures for ‘local audit’ in England took full effect in the 2018-19 financial year. They were introduced by the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014. ‘Local audit’ relates to the audit procedure which must be followed by local authorities, fire authorities, Police and Crime Commissioners, Clinical Commissioning Groups, and various related bodies in England.

From 1983 to 2015, the Audit Commission was responsible for the audit of these bodies. The Commission carried out some audits in-house, and contracted the majority out to private sector auditors. Its final round of contracts were let in 2012 and 2013, lasting for five years in each case. The last of these contracts concluded in the 2017-18 financial year.

This briefing paper explains the operation of local audit in England, including the appointment of auditors; the rights of local electors in the audit process; and the arrangements for accountability via independent auditor panels. It also sets out the role of Public Sector Audit Appointments (PSAA) and Smaller Authorities Audit Appointments (SAAA) in the process of local audit procurement. Additionally, it includes some historical detail on the role of the Audit Commission.

Separate arrangements exist in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, where public audit (covering both local audit and the role of the National Audit Office in England) is managed by Audit Scotland, the Wales Audit Office, and the Northern Ireland Audit Office respectively.

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