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 & Influencing the political context 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

Dates:

9 March 2022: 9:30-12:30

6 April 2022: 9:30-12:30

8 June 2022: 9:30-12:30

15 September 2022: 9:30-12:30

 

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

Scotland: 1 July 2022: 9:30-12:30 – REGISTER HERE 

Wales: 11 May 2022: 9:30-12:30 – REGISTER HERE

Session 1: An Introduction to Local Government Finance

This introductory session explains the basics and is designed to provide stewards with a thorough grounding in the key elements of local government finance and funding.

No previous experience is required.  All jargon explained.

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 Housing Revenue Account (HRA), reserves and balances.
  • Understand how local councils receive their funding.

Please click below to register :

NB: It is recommended that you attend the introductory session prior to attending the second workshop.

English Regions – REGISTER HERE

Dates:

14 March 2022: 9:30-12:30

7 April 2022: 9.30-12:30

23 June 2022: 9:30-12:30

29 September 2022: 9:30-12:30

 

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

Scotland: 14 July 2022: 9:30-12:30 – REGISTER HERE

Wales: 26 May 2022: 9:30-12:30 – REGISTER HERE

Session 2: Understanding & Influencing the Political Context 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 looks at the political decisions made when setting your Council’s annual budget, the implications made and where UNISON stewards can influence the decision process. We will also look at the implications post-Covid, the Comprehensive Spending Review,  Local Government Settlement and the Levelling up White Paper. 

By the end of the session, participants will:

  • Understand the immediate and potentially ongoing financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the council’s finances
  • Understand the financial planning and control process at a typical local council.
  • Understand the policy-making and budget setting cycle
  • Appraise and evaluate how stewards can most effectively influence budget and spending decisions.

NB: It is recommended that you attend the introductory session prior to attending the third workshop.

REGISTER HERE for Session 3

Stewards from England, Scotland and Wales can attend any of the following workshops: 

Dates:

30 March 2022: 9:30-12:30

27 June 2022: 9:30-12:30

21 September 2022: 9:30-12:30

16 November 2022: 9:30-12:30

Session 3: 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.

Preparation

Part 3 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.