On Board - A guide for Board Members of Public Bodies in Scotland (April 2015)

This Guide provides much of the basic information that a Board Member will need to understand their role as a member of the Board of a public body in Scotland.

Budgeting in a Public Body

The resources allocated to bodies by Scottish Ministers are determined as part of the Spending Review process. Spending Reviews take place every few years.

This process dovetails with the United Kingdom Spending Review which largely sets the overall Scottish budget for each Spending Review period. After deduction has been made for the costs of the Scotland Office plus the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body and Audit Scotland, the Scottish Government has full discretion to decide how the Scottish budget should be divided between its various portfolios and programmes. The grant-in-aid necessary to support the agreed budgets of bodies is authorised by the Scottish Parliament in the annual Budget Act.

Bodies are expected to provide supporting material to the sponsor Directorate as part of the latter's contribution to both the Spending Review and the annual budgetary process. Wherever possible, this should be done as part of their own annual planning arrangements and they should therefore take all reasonable steps to harmonise the planning process with those of the Spending Review and annual budgetary process.

Ministers should write to public bodies at least annually setting out the policies and priorities which they wish them to pursue. Where a public body receives grant-in-aid, this is most commonly done through a Budget Allocation and Monitoring letter issued in advance of the financial year. This letter confirms the resources that Ministers have allocated to the body and sets out the priority areas of work that Ministers wish the body to pursue.

Where a public body does not receive grant-in-aid, an equivalent letter should be received from the Minister covering the priority areas to be pursued. The letter should draw on material from the corporate plan and the Spending Review and any further instructions from Ministers.

Typically the Board of a public body will be responsible for the approval of the corporate plan (and possibly operational plans) before submission to the sponsor Directorate. The Board should receive regular financial reports (at least quarterly) showing expenditure/use of resources against planned budgets and progress towards financial targets including projected efficiency savings. Board members should provide the 'challenge function', carefully scrutinising plans, performance against plans and underlying assumptions.

The Board will also approve high value, novel or contentious expenditure proposals for submission to the Scottish Government and Ministers for approval when it is necessary/appropriate to seek approval from the Scottish Government.


Email: Gordon Quinn

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