1. 1 The Local Accountancy Project
The Local Accountancy Project (LAP) was formed in 1986/87 in response to the financial management needs of the community and voluntary sector organisations including faith groups as they struggle with keeping their records and responding to the reporting needs of both statutory and trust funders as well as keeping up to date with the requirements of both the Charity Commission and the Companies House.
As a result, LAP was formed and initially supported by both Lewisham and Southwark

Accounting Support in South East Thames (ASSET) is consortium project which operates in the boroughs of Bexley, Greenwich Southwark, and Lewisham and exists to provide training, one–to–one support, and information to voluntary organisations to enable them to develop and operate their own accounting and financial management systems. This is turn strengthens their ability to provide high quality services to the community.

The project employs a community accountant in each borough to work with the local community. These accountants work together to share their expertise, co–ordinate training programmes and disseminate information. They also work with other generic and specialist Community Development workers within their borough’s to ensure that voluntary organisations are provided with an holistic and co–ordinated support service.

1.2 Profile of the areas we support

1.2.1 Southwark
The 2001 census information shows that the borough is changing. More than half of its children live in poverty, eight percent of the borough’s resident are without jobs and a third is dependent on means–tested benefits. The percentage of the borough’s population with a disability has risen from 13.1 in 1991 to 15.1 percent in 2001. The profile of the ethnicity has also changed in Southwark with 37.1 percent of the population now made up of people from black and other minority ethnic communities. This is compared with 34.3 per4cent across inner London. The largest ethnic group is of African origin (16.1 percent). The Refugee Council estimates that about 11000 refugees and asylum seekers live in the borough.

Geographically, the London Borough of Southwark is very diverse. It is the 9th most deprived on average ward scores under the (DETR) Index of depravation. Approximately 70% of the borough’s population live in a ward identified as being one of the 10 per cent of the most deprived wards in the country. Thelocation of depravation is in a broad band across north and central Southwark, from south of riverside development to the borders of Dulwich.

In terms of faith, the Christian Community comprises 61.6 percent of the borough’s residents, against an inner London Borough of 11.7% In primary schools, 42% of the pupils are white with the largest other groups being African and Black Caribbean (49%) There is also an increasing younger population: with the % of people aged 16–64 up from 65.5 % to 69.4 percent whilst those between 68 and 84, has dropped from 13 percent to 9.32 percent.

According to the charity commission records, there are over 1200 registered charities in the borough and only about 2% have an income of over half a million. About 70% of registered charity in the borough has income of less than £100000.00 (One hundred thousand pounds). As we could see, the need to establish a charitable organisation is NOT just a matter of choice BUT rather a matter of necessity to help local residents cope with their various challenges ranging from lack of education to employment.

1.2.2 Bexley
The borough of Bexley is situated in the south east of London. It covers an area of 6,400 hectares and borders the Thames in the north and the boroughs of Greenwich to the west, Bromley to the south, and the county of Kent to the east. The population on 29th April 2001 was 218,307. Ten per cent of the population is from minority ethnic groups. There are 13 main ethnic groups and over 42 different languages are spoken.
Although the overall picture shows that Bexley is a fairly prosperous borough it has prosperous borough is has pockets of real deprivation particularly in the north of the boroughs and the Cray Ward in the south of the borough that equal that of inner London counterparts. Three northern wards– Thamesmead East, North End and Erith are among the most deprived 20 per cent in the country.

Bexley’s voluntary sector is made up of over 1,000 groups however only 35 of these have paid staff and office accommodation. Despite this, the sector is very active with new groups emerging, some smaller groups looking to develop to take on staff and services and larger funded groups continuing to find way to address unmet needs within the community. The ASSET programme is crucial to this work.

1.2.3 Greenwich
In the early 1900s thee were over 150,000 jobs in Greenwich and he Thames had been the focus of industrial activity for years. By the late 20th century Greenwich was suffering from a severe economic recession– male unemployment was at 60 per cent around, 144,000 manufacturing jobs disappeared, 80 per cent of Council housing stock was in need of repair and 1,000 acres of land in the borough was contaminated . There was a fear of crime and violence and Greenwich had the worst health inequality in London.

Greenwich has a population of nearly 215,000. This is expected to rise to 235,000 over the next 10 years. The minority ethnic population will by then number 57,000, nearly one quarter of the total. There are also 93,000 households in the borough. This will grow to over 100,000 by 2010. One third of all home houses a single person. Lone parent households form 10 per cent. Greenwich is a multi–cultural community with people from many different groups living in the borough. Nearly a quarter of the people living on their own are aged 75 and over.
Greenwich has very high proportions of households with 17 per cent of the population is of school age.

1.2.4 Lewisham
The London borough of Lewisham has a population of approx. 240,000, speaking over 200 languages. By 2010 it is estimated that people of Black or other minority ethnic communities will comprise a third of the population. The majority of the population work outside the borough and almost a quarter of households are pensioner’s living alone. Government statistics used to identify the most deprived communities in England resulted in the inclusion of 4 Lewisham 2wards: Downham and Bellingham in the south and Deptford and New Cross in the north.

Lewisham has amongst the highest levels of teenage pregnancy and an above average proportion of people with low levels of literacy and numeracy. Yet, despite its many social problems, the borough is active and vibrant. Lewisham contains over 550 small and medium sized creative enterprises and, especially in Deptford, has a long history of artistic achievement.

The voluntary and community sector is varied, active, and makes a highly significant contribution to the welfare and well–being of the borough’s citizens. Voluntary Action Lewisham (VAL’s) – The Council for voluntary Services in Lewisham’s database includes over 800 community and voluntary organisations, over five hundred are involved in Lewisham’s Citizen Panel. Public spending in Lewisham total just over £1billion.

Evaluation of the current project
By 2013 the Local Accountancy Project had been in operation for 27 years. In 1996, the organisation faced closure due to lack of funding. In 1997, the organisation began to raise its profile, developed and marketed other products including payroll, independent examination, consultancy and training to augment its income and support itself. With the support of Southwark Council, the organisation was able to reach and help as many organisations as possible to fulfil their statutory requirements.

3 Beneficiaries
The ASSET services are provided to voluntary and community organisations and groups working in the Boroughs of listed. By enabling groups to improve their financial management and knowledge base, ASSET aims to strengthen the capacity of the voluntary and community sector, promote good and best practice and increase the number of management committees who are empowered to make better decisions and plans. This in turn contributes to a vibrant sector. So for example, in Bexley, as a result of its equal opportunity service delivery policy, the project has enabled small community groups and medium size voluntary organisations to access accountancy provisions relevant and tailor–made for their needs. Small Black and other Minority Ethnic (BME) groups have been specifically targeted and as a result there is now a ten–fold increase in opportunity access funding.

ASSET involvement reassures funders that the resources of all groups will be effectively managed and that there will be financial accountability and has effective management systems in place. Some of these beneficiaries include Guajarati Samaj, Muslim Women Association, Bexley Association of Turkish Speakers, Belvedere Asian Women’s Group, Bexley Afro Caribbean Community Association, Guru Durbar Association, Voluntary Information Service, and Bexley Gateway who have all enjoyed overwhelming success in their funding bids.
Established groups have also benefited from and have their share of the success as a result of ASSET’s assistance and support to infuse good financial practice, and foolproof financial systems, which minimise fraud and irregularity.

3.1 Summary of achievements
  • Number of audit client has increased from 15 in 1998 to 61 in 2013.
  • Number of payroll clients has increased from 14 in 1998 to 50 in 2013
  • More groups in the borough are now more aware of their financial responsibility than before
  • More trustees are more confident in their roles than ever before.
  • More groups are more successful in their quest to lever in more money into the borough as a result of improvement in governance and how their records are being kept.
LAP continues to provide particular support to smaller and medium–sized voluntary and community organisations and those representing disadvantaged sections of the community including the BAMEs (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups) to increase their capacity and help comply with the requirements of funders.
However, as the current economic climate continues, it has made it difficult if not impossible for many organisations to survive and their heavy reliance on our services has also put pressure on the organisation as they continue to find ways of saving money. Our areas of activities continue to be as follows:>

Independent Examinations: LAP continues to provide affordable alternatives to commercial services. We provided 61 independent examinations during the year. Some of the groups were not charged because their income is relatively low and had NO funding at all. However, they still contribute to the help the disadvantaged. This service has therefore helped to develop and sustain most of the organisations we work with as they have been able to comply with both Charity law and the 2006 Companies Act. We have therefore saved organisations hundreds of pounds in penalties and surcharges.

Impact: As a result of this service, we have been able to increase the ability of small and medium–sized voluntary and community sector organisations to meet the reporting requirements of funders, the Charity Commission and the Companies House: During the year we carried out over 54 independent examinations for small and medium sized VCOs complying with SORP, funders and Companies House requirements. As a result of this service, disadvantage groups that would not have been able to access/ pay for the services of main stream/ private sector accountancy firms were able to access our financial management support and are being assisted and supported to meet their statutory obligations. Our clients have been able to lever in more funding to their organisations effectively making them more sustainable.

Payroll Administration: During the year, over 200 employees from over 50 organisations benefited from our efficient and cost–effective payroll administration and advice. We helped these groups avoid penalties and surcharges.

Impact: By providing a high quality and reliable payroll service along with advice and support for over 50 payroll client groups, we have released them to concentrate on their core activities. We deal with all aspects of payroll queries from both the organisations and the tax office and liaise between them whenever possible when any problems arise. By making the organisations aware of their responsibilities as employers, keeping them up to date with changing legislation and making them aware of their legal responsibilities, deadlines, we have saved them a lot of money in penalties and surcharges. All companies are now legally responsible for filing all forms etc online which we now do for them.

Appeals with the Inland Revenue: Where organisations have been issued a penalty notice for late payments or late filing for reasons beyond our control we have stepped in on behalf of the organisation and helped with appeal letters. To date 99% of all appeals have been successful.

Training: LAP carried out 7 training sessions for the year covering topics from Introduction to bookkeeping to Advance budgeting. We are on course to deliver Money Management / Personal budgeting training to 96 Southwark tenants/residents as part of the Money Savvy Southwark to help tenants efficiently plan their finances.

Impact: The effectiveness of these training sessions could be seen in the quality of work produced by the trainees at their respective organisations after the training. Our cost–effective training meant that organisations continue to have better understanding of their financial position. This also led to an increase in the capacity of small and medium sized voluntary and community sector organisations to manage their financial resources more effectively: Our adaptable financial control procedures have helped many organisations to be able to write their own in–house financial policy and procedures.

One 2 One Advice: Our free one to one advice and consultancy services continue to be popular with both old and emerging groups especially due to various changes and legislations relating to organisations being set up as social enterprises, Community Interest Organisations, to register or not to register for VAT and other HMRC related matters. We supported over 200 organisations and individuals.

Impact: This service has tremendously benefited a lot of our client groups during the year. We were able to provide much needed assistance and support for organisations putting in funding applications and to advise on company and charity registration. This service has helped many organisations to avoid an initial pitfall.

LAP is grateful for the unstinting efforts and support of its volunteers. It is estimated that over 2500 volunteer hours were provided by our volunteers during the year and if this is conservatively valued at £10.00 an hour, the volunteer efforts amounted to over £25,00.00.We are also pleased to report that due to the quality of training and support we give to our volunteers, some have greatly increased their prospect of securing paid employment while others have gained more confidence and have gone ahead to set up their own organisations to help others, some have been employed within and outside the sector. However due to the current economic climate the demand for opportunity to volunteer of the organisation has increased sharply as we continue to provide quality work–based experience and support to our volunteers.

LAP 1987 – 2013
The project will:
  • The Local Accountancy Project has benefited a wide range of organisations from play groups to community centres, housing associations, youth clubs, refugee organisations, children charities, elderly groups, nurseries, pensioners’ centres, people on Independent Living only to name a few as well as trustees of other organisations, individuals and volunteers who have been able to secure paid jobs within and outside the sector and some have gone further to establish their own businesses in the borough
4 Overall outputs and Outcomes
  • Develop a training programme running 60 training courses to deliver 9 training programmes to 70 voluntary organisations. This will result in voluntary organisations to having a clear overall understanding of budgeting, financial management, PAROLL and end of year accounting.
  • Increase publicity for the project and build relationships in order to engage hard to reach groups
  • Undertake financial health checks to 50 voluntary organisations. This will result in both the Community Accountants and the voluntary organisations having a clear understanding of the current position and will enable the setting of a progression route for the organisation. This also ensure that the project identifies the individual needs of an organisation and to work’s from its starting point
  • Produce 1 newsletters articles in a year to be published in the Cascade or the PVSF Bulletin year in order to back–up the training information and provide written financial resources to voluntary organisations – We do not intend to produce another newsletter for efficient resources management.
  • Develop other resource mediums such as fact sheets and website presence to offer wider and flexible access to resources.
  • Recruit and train volunteers wishing to support voluntary organisations to enable voluntary organisations to receive hands–on practical resources as well as enabling support.
  • Give one to one support to 60 voluntary organisations in order to respond to their specific needs
  • Manage and co–ordinate the activities of LAP and work in partnership with other organisation, collaboration/ consortium, to share best practice and use expertise most effectively