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Parish Council Payments

Volume 577: debated on Wednesday 12 March 2014

Yesterday, I made the Legislative Reform (Payments by Parish Councils, Community Councils and Charter Trustees) Order 2014. In accordance with article 1 of the order it comes into force today. This follows findings in favour of the order by the relevant parliamentary committees and agreement to its making by the National Assembly for Wales.

The order removes the rule that cheques and other orders for the payment of money by a parish council must be signed by two members of the council. It makes the same change for community councils in Wales and for charter trustees in England. This rule has put a significant barrier in the way of these bodies adopting modern electronic methods of payment. Its removal will allow them to make payments more quickly and efficiently, with benefits and savings both to them and to the local businesses and other organisations with which they have dealings.

The Government place the highest importance on the maintenance of effective financial controls in these bodies. We therefore welcome, as an essential part of the reform, the publication of new guidance on payments by the local council sector. This guidance takes a more comprehensive approach to payment control than the concentration on the single point of cheque signature implicit in the two-signature rule. Compliance with the guidance will be an item covered in the annual audit returns required from the councils.

I am arranging for a copy of the guidance to be placed in the Library of the House.