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Parish Council Payments

Volume 567: debated on Tuesday 10 September 2013

I am pleased to announce that the Government intend to reform the burdensome rule requiring all parish council cheques and other orders for the payment of money to be signed by two councillors. We consulted on this reform last year and received over 500 replies. Of these 78% were in favour of the reform, including the key national accountancy and audit organisations concerned.

We propose to implement the reform by a legislative reform order under the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006. The order will apply to parish councils and charter trustees in England and community councils in Wales. The order will be laid in draft, accompanied by an explanatory document, as required by the 2006 Act.

The Government place great importance on maintaining a strong system of financial control for parish councils to safeguard the public money they are responsible for against fraud and other losses. We intend the outcome of this reform to be not only the freeing of the councils to use modern methods of payment more efficiently, but also a more effective control framework than the two signature rule on its own provides.

We have worked closely with representatives of the sector and their auditors to ensure such a framework is in place before the two signature rule has been removed. We will be doing further work with them in the coming weeks to finalise the arrangements. I will then lay the draft order and the explanatory document at the earliest opportunity, when both Houses are sitting. The explanatory document will summarise the responses to the consultation and set out the agreed control framework.