Mr. Neil Preece, Engagement Manager, Grant Thornton presented the sector update report which related to emerging public sector national issues and the audit progress to date.
Members’ attention was drawn to page 24 of the main agenda pack, which detailed the Financial Statements Audit. Mr. Preece reported that this was in its early days but was going well. It was also reported that there were challenges that Grant Thornton and officers had faced in completing the audit by the earlier deadline of 31 July. Mr. Preece explained that in order to ensure that their staff and Council officers were not placed under excessive pressure to complete the audit by 31 July; they had agreed with the Council’s Chief Executive and the Director of Finance that for 2020 they would report their work and aim to give their opinion on the Statement of Accounts at a later date, which would be agreed by officers. He reassured Members that there were no consequences if the Statement of Accounts were submitted later however it would mean that officers would be able to respond in a more considered way.
The Executive Director, Finance and Resources informed the Committee that the new deadline would mean that the timeline for the Statement of Accounts would be as follows:
Mr. Preece continued and drew Members’ attention to page 25 of the main agenda pack – ‘Events’ and explained that officers would be invited to their Financial Reporting Workshop in February, which would help ensure that members of the Finance Team were updated with the latest financial reporting requirements for local authority accounts. He also explained that Public Sector Audit Appointments Limited (PSAA) had issued some changes that would impact on the cost and timing of audits in the future, Grant Thornton were currently reviewing the impact of these changes and this would be discussed with the Council’s s151 officer, including any proposed variations to the Scale Fee set by PSAA Limited.
Members raised several questions on the proposed fee changes and possible increases given the changes in future audits. Mr. Preece explained that they were currently examining the new scope of audits and any fee changes. The Executive Director, Finance and Resources informed the Committee that the PSAA had awarded contracts for audit for a five year period. The Council’s new contract with Grant Thornton had seen a significant decrease over the years, there had been an £8,000 decrease in fees from 3 years previously.
Cllr K. J Van Der Plank asked whether Members were able to attend the workshops that had been arranged for officers by Grant Thornton. Mr. Preece explained that the workshops were very technical as they were aimed at accounting and finance officers and may not be the most useful for Members. The Executive Director, Finance and Resources informed Members that she was happy to scope more suitable training for Members.
Members thanked Mr. Preece for providing a comprehensive report.
RESOLVED that the Grant Thornton – Sector report and audit progress update, as detailed at Appendix 1 to the report, be noted.