A Force to Reckon With

By Scott, Alison | Public Finance, February 2012 | Go to article overview

A Force to Reckon With


Scott, Alison, Public Finance


BY THE TIME you read this, the mayor of London will have become the first police and crime commissioner, heralding the biggest shake-up in police structures since the establishment of police authorities almost two decades ago. The change has not been easy and the fact that it has happened in such a short rimescale is nothing short of miraculous.

CIPFA the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Police Treasurers Society, force finance directors and the Audit Commission have been working hard with officials from the Home Office to ensure the financial frameworks are in place to allow the change.

The decision to set up two separate organisations - one under the chief constable, the other under the police and crime commissioner - was a controversial one, creating several complications. There will be two chief finance officers and two sets of accounts, including group accounts. This has obviously required significant debate and effort to achieve a workable Financial Management Code. The separation of the two organisations makes sense only when you consider the longer-term intention for police and crime commissioners to have a wider role.

The overall frameworks have already been put in place for the Metropolitan Police, which is changing to the new structures some ten months before the rest of England and Wales. For the first time, a major transfer of functions within local government will take place not at the beginning of a financial year but midway through it. This has significant implications for the accounting treatment of the transfer, and the financial transition group has been getting to grips with the principles of merger accounting.

The first area that had to be clarified is whether the bodies are included in the scope of International Financial Reporting Standard 3: Business Combinations. The interpretation of this standard in the Code of Practice on Local Authority Accounting in the United Kingdom is that the structures are businesses under common control' and are therefore excluded from IFRS 3. Instead, they will be accounted for using the principles that apply to group reorganisations, also taking account of the fact that the reorganisation is taking place halfway through the financial year. …

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