Agenda item

External Audit – Progress Report and Sector Update

The attached report provides the Audit and Governance Committee with a progress update regarding the work of the external auditors, Grant Thornton, together with information relating to emerging issues relevant to the Council.



The Corporate Finance Manager provided an introduction to the report:  

·         The report was the progress report and sector update from our external auditors, Grant Thornton.   

·         The recommendation of the report was for the committee to consider and note the report 


The Director from Grant Thornton provided a further introduction to the report:  

·         For the 2020-2021 Audit the Financial Statement Opinion was issued on 30th September 2021 and the Auditors Opinion was issued on 15th December 2021. These dates were in line with the statutory deadlines. The final proposed fee subject to the Public Sector Audit Appointment’s (PSAA) approval was £68,500, this matched the fee in the original audit plan for 2021.  

·         Planning and interim work for the 2021-2022 audit had begun and would continue.  

·         In terms of the timetable for 2021-2022 accounts the regulation stated that the authority must have produced draft accounts by 31st July 2022. The deadline for published audited financial statements to be published by the Council this year was 30th November 2022.  

·         The Director from Grant Thornton proceeded to provide a verbal update on item eight on the agenda: 

·                     Normally Grant Thornton would have brought a report on the Audit Plan to be considered and noted by the committee but were not in a position to do so at present. This was due to there being ongoing discussions nationally with PSAA around fee proposals for 2021-2022 audits and there was also an emergency consultation on potential changes to the CIPFA financial code. Audit plans would not be issued until the consultation was complete.  

·                     The report would be issued to relevant officers and the committee Chair outside the normal committee cycle and then be brought to the Audit and Governance Committee in June for formal noting.  

·                     The date for the auditor's annual report was yet to be confirmed. 

·         In terms of value for money the External Auditors continued with the updated code of audit practice from the prior year. An auditor’s annual report would be produced and provided.  

·         Undertook work to certify the Council’shousing benefits subsidies claim in line with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) regulations. This was reported on 18th February 2022. The DWP requested a small amount of follow up work based on some documents having been deleted in line with General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) however the DWP required the Council to go back to claimants to recover that information. That work was completed, and the updated report provided back to DWP.  

·         Undertook work on the Council’s pooling of housing capital receipts and the report on this was issued in advance of the national deadline. 

·         Discussed accounting changes with officers.  


During the debate the following points were raised:  

·         It was asked about the figures which the DWP had asked Grant Thornton to go back and check, but which Grant Thornton then found the Council had deleted due to GDPR restrictions and whether this was a cause for concern. The Grant Thornton Director responded that if information was still used in ongoing award calculations, then that document should be maintained regardless of GDPR until there was a change in circumstances. The DWP’s view was that unless calculations could be evidenced then it be categorised as being wrong which could then have a monetary impact on the Council. This had been discussed with officers who were then able to go back to claimants and obtain the necessary information but in future information needed to be retained 

·         The issue of storing data for the correct length of time to prevent the above issue reoccurring was to be raised with the Monitoring Officer.  

·         It was asked whether this was something new the DWP had started doing. It was asked how long data could be kept under GDPR and how many cases DWP had sent back. It was responded by the Grant Thornton Director that it did happen that the DWP department would come back on any items they wanted further information on and that this was not new however, this appeared to be the first year where GDPR had caused issues as it was the first year documents were being deleted as a result of GDPR retention periods. There were four or five instances where claimants' details had been deleted. The Council had been able to retrieve the details by contacting those involved.  

·         It was asked about the Section 144 notice and the bankruptcy procedure for councils and where Croydon Council had issued a Section 144 notice due to a substantial amount of money being missing and whether the auditors had found any case like that for Somerset West and Taunton Council (SWT). The Grant Thornton Director responded that they had not identified any case like that for SWT. Section 144 notices were issued by the Section 151 officer of a local authority if they felt that financially the council could not continue. As an authority SWT was not in that position financially.  


The members noted the recommendations and resolved to carry them:  

2.1 Members are requested to consider and note the Progress Report and Sector Update received from Grant Thornton. 


Supporting documents: