Online Training on Local Government Finance for UNISON Stewards


This online training is designed to provide stewards with a thorough grounding in the key elements of local government finance and funding.

If you are a UNISON steward or organiser working in local government and want to learn more about your Council’s finances then read on.

No prior knowledge of council finance is required and all finance jargon, acronyms and terms will be explained.

The LGiU has been commissioned by UNISON to provide training on local government finance. Aimed at UNISON Stewards who work in local government this session will provide a good grounding and an opportunity to learn more about your local Council’s finances.

UNISON Reps and Stewards are recommended to register onto both sessions organised by the LGIU on local government finance.  These are:

  • An introduction to local government finance
  • Understanding the ‘Big 3’ financial reports effectively

Further details and how to register below:

Click on one of the following links to register:

English Regions – REGISTER HERE


15 April 2021: 9:30-12:30

13 May 2021: 9:30-12:30

3 June 2021: 9:30-12:30

8 July 2021: 9:30-12:30


NB: Owing to regional differences in local government finance in Scotland and Wales stewards are advised to attend their respective regional sessions.

Scottish Region – REGISTER HERE 

Date: 9 September 2021: 9:30-12:30

Welsh Region – REGISTER HERE

Date:  6 October 2021: 9:30-12:30

Session 1: An Introduction to Local Government Finance

It is more important than ever that all trades unionists working in local government understand how the local government finance system works because council budgets will continue to be under significant pressure until the end of the decade. Elected members (within the financial constraints they face) make political choices about budgets and council tax. If trades unionists are going to influence those decisions sound knowledge in local government finance is essential.

This session gives a very good grounding in how local government finance works in practice and sets out the ‘basics’ as part of the bigger picture of current developments and longer-term trends: the ‘emergency budget’, funding plans for the next five years announced in the Autumn Statement and the local government finance settlement. It will also cover the emerging impact of major changes to local government finance, the impact of Covid-19 on Council finances and any fresh or recent government initiatives and announcements will also be assessed.

By the end of the session, participants will:

  • Understand the importance of good financial governance and the key role and responsibilities played by elected councillors.
  • Understand the overall national legal and policy framework affecting council finance and budgets.
  • Understand key concepts and terminology, such as capital and revenue, general fund and the HRA, reserves and balances.
  • Understand how local councils receive their funding.

Click on one of the following links to register your attendance (it is advised to attend the introductory session prior to attending the second workshop):

English Regions Register here


29 April 2021: 9:30-12:30

27 May 2021: 9:30-12:30

18 June 2021: 9:30-12:30

22 July 2021: 9:30-12:30

NB: Owing to regional differences in local government finance in Scotland and Wales stewards are advised to attend their respective regional sessions.

Scottish Region – Register here

Date: 30 September 2021: 9:30-12:30

Welsh Region – Register here

Date: 29 October 2021: 9:30-12:30

Session 2: Reviewing the “big three” financial reports effectively

Every council prepares an annual budget report, regular monitoring reports and a set of financial statements for elected members and officers. These “big three” reports contain a wealth of information on the council’s finance. However, their length and complexity can make them daunting for elected members, particularly those without a financial background.

This workshop is designed to enable you to better engage with, and effectively question, these “big three” documents. The overall objective of the session is to demystify the way the council plans, manages and reports its spending and income and to enable councillors to more effectively engage with council finances.

Delegates are encouraged to bring along copies of their council’s “big three” documents and they will have an opportunity to work through these during the workshop. Plenty of time will be provided for participants to ask questions.

By the end of the session participants will be able to:

  • understand the role of the elected member in the council’s financial planning and management processes
  • understand how to read and review their Council’s “big three” financial documents
  • confront and overcome the barriers of jargon and technicality that make getting to grips with these documents so difficult.


Part 2 of the training will consider the three key documents that every council prepares to plan and report their financial position. These are:

  • The Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) and Annual Budget
  • The latest budget monitoring report
  • The Statement of Accounts

Please be aware that every council produces these as public documents, though there is some variation in presentation. For example, the MTFS and Annual Budget might be part of the same document or separated. The MTFS and Annual Budget is reported to Council in February or early March and so can be found in the agenda items for this Committee. The budget monitoring report is usually reported to Cabinet (Executive) quarterly. The Statement of Accounts are usually available directly from the council’s website and are usually finalised in July for the previous financial year.


Your task:

Please obtain a copy of the latest version of these three documents for the council you are most familiar with. Please note that these are usually lengthy documents, so don’t print them out unless you feel that this would be useful!

Please spend some time reading through the documents and try to form an overall impression of the council’s finances. Also, note down any areas that you would like to be discussed further at the training session.

Don’t panic! The documents can be dense and technical (especially the Statement of Accounts), so please don’t get bogged down. There is a very useful section of the Statement of Accounts called the “Narrative Report”, we suggest that you start reading here!

It would be useful if you could bring electronic (or paper) copies of these documents with you to the training.


NB: If you are not able to obtain these documents don’t worry we will have examples of other council documents to work from.