The end of the financial year is nigh! Just a matter of days before parish clerks prepare the financial accounts for scrutiny. For accountants, treasurers and Her Majestyís Revenue and Customs, Thursday 5 April is the big day. But why?
The Roman Emperor Julius Caesar decided that the New Year should start with the Spring Equinox which, back in 45BC, was on the 25th March. He invented the Julian Calendar to set things straight; but it could not cope with leap years and other idiosyncrasies of the universe. So, in 1752, we changed to the Gregorian Calendar, and that meant Ďlosingí eleven days. The 25th March 1752 became the 5th April 1752.
This is important for people studying family history, because their ancestors at that time also Ďlostí eleven days of their lives, and why the later months of the year are so named. September was originally the seventh month of the year, October was the eighth, November the ninth and December the tenth.
For parish councils itís the start of a long process in which our accounts are checked twice, once by an auditor we appoint, and then by an auditor appointed by the Government. After all this scrutiny, the next key date is the 30th September, the deadline for publishing our audited accounts for everyone to see.
Most parish clerks are not trained in accountancy, so we keep things as simple as we can. We have a list of every item of expenditure and income, and of our assets right down to the last litter bin, bench and road sign. We leave it to the experts to check that our records are accurate and complete.
Itís about good housekeeping. The Parish Council discusses its financial needs and responsibilities in the autumn and sets a budget in January. We work out how much it will cost to empty litter bins, mow the grass, insure our land and property, support the youth club and other activities, pay for the lighting on the roundabout, maintain the flower planters outside the Co-op, provide Christmas trees with lights in High Street, and employ our staff. We also keep some money back in case of unexpected expense such as damage due to vandalism.
Parish Councils are funded by parishioners, so we have a responsibility to be transparent in all that we do. You donít have to wait until the end of the financial year to find out how we have been spending your money. Itís on our website, updated regularly.