Hoveton Parish Council’s financial year runs from 1st April to 31st March. Preparation for the start of a new financial year begins in early autumn, when the Council starts to formulate its budget for the forthcoming year and consults with local residents on what they would like to see included in the budget. The Council then draws up a draft budget based on figures available at the time. This budget is usually amended and finalised at the start of the new financial year, once the Council’s year-end position is known.
Part of the yearly budget-setting process involves the setting of the parish precept. The precept is the council tax that the billing authority (in this case, North Norfolk District Council) collects on behalf of a parish council. The precept is calculated as part of the budget; it fills the gap between the parish council’s planned expenditure and estimated income.
Parish councils do not receive any direct funding from central government and are therefore dependent on the precept and any other income they are able to generate from the services or facilities they provide. Each council has the power to set its own precept figure, though the precept’s impact on the council tax paid by local residents should be considered. For this reason, many councils try to keep their yearly precept as low as possible. However, a precept that is set too low will likely result in a council being unable to deliver the expected level of local services, community benefits, and improvements.
At the end of each financial year, Hoveton Parish Council’s accounts are examined and audited by an independent external auditor. As part of the audit process, the Parish Council must set a 30-working-day period (called the ‘period for the exercise of public rights’) during which local electors or any interested person can exercise their statutory right to inspect the Parish Council’s accounting records. For reasons of transparency, all relevant financial documents are also published on the Council’s website.