Report number: PAS/WS/21/020
The Committee received Report number PAS/WS/21/020, which sought members approval of the 2020 to 2021 Statement of Accounts for West Suffolk Council (Appendix A), in accordance with powers delegated to it under the Council’s constitution.
It was reported that the statutory requirements for the report and approval of the Council’s annual financial statements were set out in the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015. The regulations require the council to submit draft accounts to its external auditors, currently Ernst and Young (EY) by 31 May each year, with member scrutiny and approval of the accounts required once the audit had been concluded by 31 July each year. Due to Covid-19 and in response to a consultation exercise carried out by it, the government had issued regulations – the Accounts and Audit (Amendment) Regulations 2021, to amend these deadlines in relation to the 2020 to 2021 and 2021 to 2022 accounts. The revised dates were 1 August for the draft accounts and 30 September for final approval and publication.
Due to the planned phased approach to delivering the 2020 to 2021 audits across Suffolk, the external audit of the draft accounts for West Suffolk did not begin until mid-September and it was therefore not possible to complete the audit and publish the accounts by the end of September in line with the regulations. This situation was allowed for by Regulation 10, paragraph (2a) of the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015.
The outcome of EY’s review of the accounts was provided in the Annual Results Report, which were included on the Committee’s agenda (PAS/WS/21/018 – Appendix A), along with a verbal update by EY giving their current position as of this evening (18 November 2021).
The attached Statement of Accounts (Appendix A) had been amended, as appropriate, to take on board issues raised by the audit process up to the date of distribution.
The covering report summarised financial highlights in 2020 to 2021; revenue expenditure; capital expenditure; usable reserves; pension fund; annual governance statement and payments to councillors.
The Director (Resources and Property) drew the Committee’s attention to a couple of key areas, such as the narrative report being user friendly; the audit to date showed no change to the revenue outturn; the councils net worth; the balance sheet, in particular long-term assets and the pension liability.
The Director (Resources and Property) also wished to thank EY and the council’s finance team for its work, as it had continued to be a challenging time in carrying out audits.
The Committee scrutinised the draft accounts in detail and asked questions to which responses were provided on interest and investments; Barley Homes shares; external audit costs (fees); and senior officers’ remuneration.
In response to a question raised regarding external audit fees and what percentage fee increase would the council expect next year, Mark Hodgson, Associate Partner from EY explained that in working out audit fees for 2021 to 2022 EY would use this year’s audit fee as a starting point. Discussions would then take place with the Director (Resources and Property) to reach an agreement. The Director (Resources and Property) explained that last year and this year there had been an increase in audit fees due to additional audit work needed to be carried out due to some extra Covid work.
In response to a question raised regarding staff remuneration, officers advised that the pay award for staff was 2% for last year.
Councillor Phil Wittam then moved the recommendations, these were duly seconded by Councillor John Augustine, and with the vote being unanimous, it was:
1) The Committee approves the 2020 to 2021 Statement of Accounts for West Suffolk Council (Appendix A) attached to Report number PAS/WS/21/020, in accordance with powers delegated to it under the council’s constitution.
2) The Chair of the Performance and Audit Scrutiny Committee signs the certification of the 2020 to 2021 Statement of Accounts on behalf of the Committee.
3) The Chief Finance Officer, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Resources and Property, be given delegated authority to make any changes that may be required up to the date of publication.