For many years councils have been required to publish an annual statement of accounts on their Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL). For the first time in December 2020 that requirement was extended to include developer contributions obtained via a Section 106 agreement. For those councils without a CIL this means this is the first time they have needed to publish an account which is called the Infrastructure Funding Statement (IFS).
We held a series of events to work through the process of producing an IFS. Attending were a mix of councils - some already well versed in their production and others trying to marshal their data for the first time. We held an event in three parts:
1. Good practice for the infrastructure funding statements
It's a trap we see people fall into again and again - they see a regulatory requirement and rush to comply without spending some time on the basics. For us, time spent thinking about 'purpose' is never wasted. Beyond "what must we publish?" we encourage you to think about why? and who for?. The short answer is that the IFS regime is about improving the trust in councils to gather and spend money wisely.
2. A government perspective on infrastructure funding statements
Our colleagues from MHCLG gave us their perspective on the policy objectives behind IFS, along with some extremely helpful summaries of the regulatory requirements. The slides in the latter half of the presentation are a master class in how to present "difficult" information clearly - take note of slide 12 too which reminds us that there are requirements beyond schedule 2. The slide ends with some (unanswered) FAQ that will appear in the main IFS guide.
3. Publishing transaction detail information in CSV files
The final session was spent demonstrating how detailed transaction data could be published. This goes beyond the aggregate numbers in the IFS to show the money at a level where individual sums can be identified as received, allocated and spent. For some people this data is as simple as choosing an export option - others are thinking more carefully about whether a human can realistically hand-code tables to the required standards.
Thanks to everyone who came along, and our colleagues Tom and Darren from MHCLG. What was clear to everyone involved is that the first year of IFS publication will be a bit sketchy. It's going to take some time for the regulation and guidance to settle down, and also for the various parts of local government to collaborate on spending and reporting. It seems certain however the direction of travel is going to lead to complete transparency of collecting and spending at all levels and that is a good thing.