What is the statement of accounts?

The statement of accounts looks back on the financial year which runs from 1 April to 31 March, it explains in detail what money the council has actually received and what it has spent. This is different from the budget book which looks forward at what the council thinks it will receive and spend in one financial year.

As well as showing all incoming and outgoing money, the statement of accounts provides an overview of the council's financial position at the end of each year.

Statements of accounts need to be published annually and no later than three months from the end of the financial year. This means all statement of accounts will need to be available for you to view by the end of June every year.

Understanding and interpreting the statement of accounts

The statement of accounts is divided into sections, brief explanations of what each section covers are detailed below.


This provides a brief overview of the location covered by each council, such as its size and any interesting geographical points to note. The introduction also looks at the types of communities that live in the area and the industries that are important to it. There is also a very brief summary about the council, its staff and councillors.

Explanatory foreword by the chief finance officer

The chief financial officer for the council sets out what the statement of accounts means and the questions that it hopes to answer such as 'what does the council spend its money on?' and 'where does the council receive income from?' The explanatory foreword also provides an overview of the financial year along with any significant changes that have happened that might affect the councils financial position (such as cuts in funding).

Statement of responsibilities for the statement of accounts

This shows the member of staff that is responsible for ensuring the statement of accounts is correct and that it meets all the regulations needed.

Core financial statements

This is the key information that shows in detail where the council gets its money from. There are four core financial statements, each one summarising a different part of the whole financial picture:

  • Movement in reserves statement - this is a summary statement that shows how much the council has in each of its accounts. This is the statement to look at to see the overall financial position of the council. You can find out more about how the councils manage money and the different accounts it has from our page: How do the councils manage your money? To understand a movement in reserves statement, see our movement in reserves statement example page
  • Comprehensive income and expenditure statement - this shows how much it costs to provide services for one year. It is split to show you income and expenditure for the financial year that has just ended and for the previous year. Each column shows either expenditure or income.
  • Balance sheet - this shows the value of the assets that the council owns (such as property and equipment) and any liabilities (debts) that the council has. At the end, it provides a total value of the council's net assets which is calculated by deducting all the debts owed from the value of our assets.
  • Cash flow statement - this summarises incoming and outgoing cash flows for transactions with third parties.

Notes to the core financial statements

Each of the four core financial statements is accompanied by detailed notes which explain some terms used or provides a more detailed breakdown of a statement. 

Collection fund and notes

The Collection fund is the account that your Council Tax and National Non Domestic Rates (business rates) are put into. The Collection fund also shows how this money is redistributed to other 'precepting' authorities or groups. Precepting means that the council has been instructed to collect money on behalf of other authorities such as the county council, parish and town councils and the police.

Ultimately your Council Tax money will be pooled with all the other money that these various authorities have such as government grants. However every local council must have a Collection fund to show incoming money from local taxes and its redistribution. 

For more information about your Council Tax and where it goes, see our page: What is Council Tax and how is it spent?

Accounting policies

This section provides an explanation of what is meant by certain terms used within the statement of accounts. It also looks at what money is declared.

Annual governance statement

Governance means ensuring that there is a framework of rules and procedures in place to make sure things are run honestly, efficiently and appropriately. All councils must produce a governance statement every year to see how well they are meeting their own governance framework. The governance statement outlines the six core principles of what is considered good governance and then goes on to look at how the council is meeting each principle.

Auditors report

The statement of accounts will be checked by an independent auditor (currently Ernst and Young LLP). The accounts are checked to make sure they give an accurate, true and fair picture of the financial position. The auditor's report will also look at whether the council is managing its finances in the best way possible. The auditor checks all of this against various guidelines that are in place to make sure that all councils declare and present their financial details properly and consistently. These guidelines are prepared and monitored by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA).


This guide explains what certain technical terms or abbreviations mean.

Further information

Who you can contact if you need help or more information.

Viewing the statement of accounts

The statement of accounts for West Suffolk Council (from 1 April 2019) and the former Forest Heath District Council and St Edmundsbury Borough Council's (up to 31 March 2019) can be found on our Statement of accounts page