PKF Littlejohn – 19/20 Documentation (including AGAR), Instructions and Covid-19 implications:

Firstly, we would like to thank you for your patience over the last few weeks.  We did not think it was appropriate to issue our instructions in March 2020 when there was so much uncertainty over potential changes to the legislation governing smaller authorities subject to the limited assurance regime.  We are now able to formally issue our instructions and, as we describe below, there have been legislative changes brought in that impact the 2019/20 reporting season.

We are appointed by Smaller Authorities’ Audit Appointments Ltd (SAAA) as the external auditor of your smaller authority for financial years up to and including the year ended 31 March 2022.  We are writing to you to provide instructions to enable your smaller authority to comply with the relevant statute and Regulations regarding accounts and audit for the 2019/20 reporting year.

New legislation in response to Covid-19

In response to the Coronavirus pandemic the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has issued two new Statutory Instruments (SI) as follows:

SI 2020/392 The Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panels (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of Local Authority and Police and Crime Panel Meetings) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020  This SI will give most local authorities greater flexibility in the conduct of meetings, including allowing members to attend remotely, and for public and press access to those meetings.  Please note, however, this new legislation does not cover parish meetings so as it stands parish meetings are still required to hold physical meetings (see Parish Meeting – Specific Information).  This SI was issued on 2 April and is effective from 4 April 2020.

SI 2020/404 The Accounts and Audit (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020  This SI amends the deadline by which the Annual Governance Statement and Statement of Accounts of the Annual Governance and Accountability Return (AGAR) together with any certificate or opinion issued by the local auditor must be published from 30 September 2020 to 30 November 2020.  Previously there was a requirement for all smaller authorities to have a common period for the exercise of public rights, being the first 10 working days of July.  Under the new regulations there is no requirement for a common period for the exercise of public rights.  Smaller authorities are still required to set a period for this purpose, but the only requirement is that the 30-working day period for the exercise of public rights should start on or before the first working day of September, i.e. on or before 1 September 2020. This SI was issued on 7 April and is effective from 30 April 2020.

Our instructions and supporting documentation

We have revised our instructions and supporting documentation for the 2019/20 reporting year to reflect these legislative changes and are liaising closely with Smaller Authorities Audit Appointments Limited (SAAA) and the National Audit Office (NAO) over the resulting practical implications.  Updated guidance, supporting documentation and useful links are available within these website pages.

Please remember that as we correspond with 99% of smaller authorities electronically it is vital that we are kept up to date with the correct contact email address.  Please contact us immediately to update the contact details for your smaller authority if there have been changes to the main contact person since we last communicated with you.

AGAR forms

The AGAR forms for completion are available below on this website page and on our parish meeting website page.  SAAA does not intend to alter the official AGAR forms issued in March 2020 to reflect the changes in legislation, rather, SAAA has issued a single page addendum to highlight the changes and new dates.

Signing and submitting the AGAR forms

The changes in legislation have been made in order to help smaller authorities in the performance of their duties as a result of the restrictions of movement and limitations on social contact necessary to limit the spread of the Covid-19 virus.  We have been informed that there are no changes in the requirement for wet signatures on the AGAR.  Our understanding is that wet signatures need to be added to the AGAR in the same order as previous years and that the AGAR will need to be passed between the relevant individuals for signature.  Where individuals are self-isolating it is hoped that local assistance will be available to facilitate this.  It is important to note that if smaller authorities are able to keep to the regular reporting timetable as much as is possible and practical by making use of their ability to hold virtual meetings, they are very much encouraged to do so.  We will do our best in order to ensure we play our part in enabling that to happen.  

Submission deadline

Please note that the submission deadline for the receipt of the approved AGAR and supporting documentation or the Certificate of Exemption (as appropriate) is Friday 31 July 2020.  If you are not able to meet this deadline please contact us to arrange an alternative submission date (subject to below) to avoid incurring the administrative charges.  Non-submission will lead to chargeable chaser letters being issued (£40 plus VAT for all financially active smaller authorities).  It is important to note, however, that in a change to prior years:

  • no submission deadlines will be granted beyond 13 November;
  • it will only be possible to extend submission deadlines by a maximum of 4 weeks at a time providing sufficient justification explaining the need for the extension is given;
  • a statutory recommendation will be issued to all financially active non-responding authorities that fail to submit their documents by 13 November.  Statutory recommendations for non-response are charged at the standard fee rate depending on the authority’s expenditure banding and hence give rise to a minimum additional fee of £200 plus VAT. 

IMPORTANT:  If a financially active smaller authority is issued with a statutory recommendation (and/or a public interest report) for 2019/20 it will not be able to claim exemption from a limited assurance review for 2020/21, regardless of whether it meets all other criteria.  

Other guidance

The most recent Chairman’s statement from SAAA is available using the following link  In addition, the websites for the National Association of Local Councils (NALC), the Society of Local Council Clerks (SLCC) and the Association of Drainage Authorities (ADA) have specific public pages dedicated to the latest news on coronavirus which are available using the following links:

We continue to urge you to follow the governments instructions to limit the spread of coronavirus to stay at home to help protect the NHS and keep yourselves, your families and those in your communities safe and well.  In the meantime, we once again thank you for your patience in these testing times.

General information

In addition to the other guidance provided on our website for smaller authorities, this page includes all the necessary forms and instructions for smaller authorities for the financial year 2019/20

Detailed instructions document

Please read the detailed instructions for 2019/20 carefully to find out which AGAR form should be completed, the changes for 2019/20 and the common misunderstandings that occurred last year.

Please note that we have added a separate page including specific information for parish meetings where there is no parish council.

The following documents also include guidance to assist you in your duties surrounding the preparation of the AGAR for your smaller authority:

The following documents include pro forma templates in Word and Excel and further guidance in PDF format to assist you in the completion of your year end procedures before submission of the AGAR Part 3 for our review:

Please use the form below to provide feedback following the completion of the 2019/20 reporting season if you wish:

Guidance – the Practitioners’ Guide

Posted Thursday, 7th July 2022