[To note the report][Report to follow]
Mark Stock from Grant Thornton, the Council’s External Auditor presented their annual report to the Committee on the key audit findings from the Council for the year ended 31 March 2016. In doing so he informed the Committee that audit was substantially complete although they were finalising procedures in respect of a small number of areas. He anticipated that an unqualified audit opinion would be provided in respect of the Council’s financial statements. He advised that a number of adjustments had been made to the Council’s accounts through the audit but they did not impact on the level of resources available to the Council. Based on their value for money review, they were satisfied that, in all significant respects, the Council had proper arrangements in place to secure economy, efficiency and effectiveness in its use of resources. It therefore intended to issue an unqualified value for money conclusion.
Cllr Andrew Wynne asked the External Auditors whether they were sufficiently comfortable with the robustness of the processes and plans the Council had in place to address its budget deficit. In response Grant Thornton reported that it had looked at the Council’s track record and how it had performed during 2015/16, the processes for setting the 2016/17 budget and if the Council had processes in place to produce plans for future years. It would not be without challenge but with the Council’s track record and the plans in place the Auditors were comfortable.
Mike Ager, Independent Member requested an update on the Auditors recommendation that going forward ‘the Council consider the capacity of its finance team’. He also commented that he would have expected to have seen the management response to the Auditors recommendations which the Committee could monitor. Mark Taylor, Director of Finance reported that the Council had recognised the issue of staff resources within its Finance Team and it had been actively recruiting to posts. The Council had recruited to one of the vacant posts within the team and would be looking to review its resources to provide additional capacity within the team to deal with the Council’s competing demands on the team. He assured the Committee that there would be full staff resources in place for the audit of next year’s accounts. Claire Nye, Chief Accountant added that the action plan to the audit findings and recommendations would be completed within the month. She undertook to circulate the completed action plan to the Committee. The Chair asked that the Committee receive an update report on the implementation of the action plan to a meeting in the new year.
Referring to the Auditors recommendation that ‘the Director of Governance reiterate to members the importance of keeping their register of interests up to date….’, the Chair also stressed the importance for all Councillors to keep their register of interests up-to-date and to update them as and when circumstances change. Robert Baldwin, Lead Lawyer, Delivery reported all members had received an e-mail to remind them of their responsibilities in his area. He also reiterated the measures previously reported to the Committee by the Director of Governance to remind members of their responsibilities and to support them to keep their records up to date. The facility existed for members to complete/amend their register of interests form online at any time. The form now referred to directorships and other trusteeships. New Councillors also received specific briefings on their responsibilities during their induction meetings.