Agenda item

Recommendation from the Audit, Standards and Governance Committee


The Chairman welcomed Councillor D. Nicholl to the meeting in his role as Chairman of the Audit, Standards and Governance Committee. It was reported that at its last meeting the Audit, Standards and Governance Committee had made the following recommendation to Cabinet:


‘RECOMMENDED that Cabinet ascertain from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) the mechanism for audit of local authorities’ accounts to be caught up as per their press release.


During the presentation of the item, Councillor Nicholl explained that at its last meeting, the Audit, Standards and Governance Committee had considered the Financial Compliance Report which noted, as at the end of June, progress with the 2020/21 Statement of Accounts, the ‘budget book’ for 2023/24 and key deliverables as required by legislation and government.


It was highlighted that the key issue remained the closure process for the 2020-21 Statement of Accounts, with work still to be undertaken by the Council and the External Auditors to validate the take on balances. It was now expected that the sign-off of the 2020-21 Accounts for external audit would take place in November 2023 with the audit expected for completion in Spring 2024.


It was further noted that a number of key legislative deliverables had recently been submitted to Central Government, however, there were still a number that remained outstanding.


At the same meeting, Members had also been informed that there were provisional plans for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) to introduce backstop dates for when the auditing of accounts had to be completed. The provisional deadlines for local authorities were as follows:


·       2020-21 Statements of Accounts signed-off by auditors by 31st March 2024.

·       2021-22 Statements of Accounts signed off by auditors by September 2024.


It was noted that this measure was not yet in place and would require a change in legislation in order to come into effect.


Following the presentation of the recommendation, Officers explained that over the Summer several Government Ministers had referred to the potential introduction of backstop dates and the difficulties currently being experienced within the audit sector.


It was highlighted that there were still over 500 outstanding local authority audits and given the backlog and capacity issues across the audit sector, it was difficult to see how the backstop deadlines as proposed could be met by Local Authorities.


Members queried why the audits across local government were taking so long and it was thought, although not yet confirmed, that ultimately there were not enough staff to carry out the audits across all local authorities. Although measures would be taken in the future to simplify the auditing of accounts in areas such as Property, Plant and Equipment (PPE) and pension funds, primary legislation would need to be passed to enable this.


The Leader queried whether the Audit, Standards and Governance Committee would be satisfied if a letter was sent to DHLUC regarding the mechanism for the processing of local authority accounts as per their press release. Councillor Nicholl confirmed that this would be satisfactory and thanked the Leader for her suggestion.


Some Members queried the merit in sending the letter to DHLUC as potentially they still would not know what the mechanism was and that potentially the Local Government Association (LGA) may have more idea of future process. It was therefore




The Leader of the Council writes to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) regarding the mechanism for auditing of local authorities’ accounts to be caught up as per their press release and that a copy of the letter be forwarded to the Local Government Association (LGA).


Following consideration of this item, the Leader welcomed Ms. N. Cummings to the Council. It was explained that Ms. Cummings had recently joined the Council as the Council’s Principal Solicitor. Members stated that they looked forward to working with her in the future.



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