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ICAEW responds to Fabian Society pamphlet: ‘Prizing the Public Pound’

Author: ICAEW

Published: 10 Aug 2021

ICAEW is pleased to have been asked by the Fabian Society to engage with them in exploring the ideas put forward in their pamphlet ‘Prizing the Public Pound’ on local audit in England and spending effectiveness in central government, in which they call for a future Labour government to reorganise, revitalise and expand public audit in England.

The Fabian Society, founded in 1884, is Britain’s oldest political think tank and has been at the forefront of developing political ideas and public policy on the left for almost 140 years. The Fabians have a long tradition of innovation in public sector reform, generating ideas that have subsequently appeared in Labour Party manifestos or that have been implemented by Labour governments.

This response of 11 August 2021 to the Fabian Society pamphlet ‘Prizing the Public Pound’ by John Tizard and David Walker has been prepared by ICAEW’s Public Sector team, which supports members working in and with the public sector to deliver public priorities and sustainable public finances, including over 8,000 in ICAEW’s Public Sector Community. ICAEW engages with policy makers, public servants, and others to promote the need for effective financial management, audit and assurance, financial reporting, and governance and ethics across the public sector to ensure public money is spent wisely.

Fabian Society ‘Prizing the Public Pound’ proposals

  • An Office for Spending Effectiveness to check deliverability of departmental spending plans and ensure lessons from NAO and internal audits are learned from and actioned.
  • A Place Audit Office to be responsible for audits of councils, combined authorities, NHS trusts, academies, multi-academy trusts, transport authorities, police and fire services.
  • More powers for public auditors and stronger governance centrally and locally.

ICAEW response

  • We welcome the pamphlet’s focus on audit as a tool for improving the effectiveness of financial management in the public sector.
  • The pamphlet echoes the Redmond Review in its call for reform of local public audit.
  • 'Place-based audit' is a potentially powerful concept that looks across central and local government at the effect of public spending on a local area.
  • The specific proposals help inform the ongoing debate across the political spectrum and within the civil service on how government can be made more effective and accountable.