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APPOINTMENT OF PERSON TO PRESIDE
To appoint a person to preside over the element of the meeting which will be held jointly with the Audit Committee.
It was RESOLVED that Councillor Mrs Joan Lloyd be appointed to preside over the meeting which was held jointly with the Audit Committee.
APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE AND DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
There were no apologies for absence.
There were no declarations of interest.
The Committee is requested to receive a presentation from the Assistant Director (Finance & Estates) on the External Auditor's Annual Report for consideration and approval and the audited 2018/19 Financial Report including the Statement of Accounts (SOA).
Following the presentation, Members will be invited to ask questions of clarification.
At this juncture the Statement of Accounts Committee will adjourn to allow the Audit Committee to consider the report and to agree to any recommendations.
At the rise of the Audit Committee the Statement of Accounts Committee will reconvene and Members will receive details of any recommendations from the Audit Committee on this matter.
The Audit Committee and the Statement of Accounts Committee meeting jointly received a presentation from the Finance Manager (Technical) on the Statement of Accounts 2018/19.
The Committees were advised that the Statement of Accounts were still “in audit” as a number of non-material changes were required in respect of how the financial arrangements and valuations relating to the Queensway LLP were reflected in the document.
A copy of Appendix 2 to the report, the draft Letter of Representation was then circulated to Members.
The Assistant Director (Finance and Estates) commented that, because the Statement of Accounts were still “in audit”, the recommendations in the report would need to be amended so that the draft Letter of Representation and Accounts be approved, but that herself and the Chair of the Statement of Accounts Committee be delegated authority to sign off any non-material adjustments to those accounts before publication.
The Assistant Director (Finance and Estates) undertook to provide Members of the Committee with a summary of the non-material adjustments made to the Statement of Accounts.
The Committees were shown how the Council’s accounts were constructed, with key points highlighted and identified.
In answer to a number of questions and queries, Members were advised:
· The capital spend figure of £14.476M for non-current assets as at 31 March 2019 primarily related to the Queensway redevelopment scheme, but also included other schemes; and
· The table showing the Pensions Reserve reflected the gap between pension assets and liabilities, which was reviewed on a tri-annual basis;
The Committees then considered the report from the Council’s External Auditors, Ernst and Young.
The Ernst and Young representatives acknowledged Members’ concerns and frustrations with the delay in auditing of the Statement of Accounts, and referred to a helpful letter from the SBC Leader to the Local Government Association Resources Board regarding the sustainability and capacity of audit firms to deliver local government audits going forward. Members noted that Ernst and Young had participated in similar sustainability discussions with Public Sector Audit Appointments Ltd.
The Ernst and Young representatives answered a number of questions raised by Members, and drew attention to a judgemental difference of £583,000 in relation to the valuation of the Stevenage Swimming Pool. They would be working with the SBC Finance Team to endeavour to agree on a mutually acceptable valuation level.
The Committees were advised that all audit tasks had been substantially completed, although a number of areas were still to be concluded, as set out in the report, and including final checks on the Group Accounts and Queensway LLP. However, it was expected that Ernst and Young would be issuing an unqualified audit opinion for both the Council’s accounts and the Value for Money statement. The aim was to complete the audit within 7 to 10 days of the meeting.
The Ernst and Young representative referred to audit fees to be charged for 2018/19, as set out in Section 9 of the report. These had increased by £25,000, due to the additional scope and risk profiles ... view the full decision text for item 3.
URGENT PART I BUSINESS
To consider any Part I business accepted by the Chair as urgent.
EXCLUSION OF PRESS AND PUBLIC
To consider the following motions –
1. That under Section 100(A) of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as described in paragraphs1 – 7 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act as amended by Local Government (Access to Information) (Variation) Order 2006.
2. That Members consider the reasons for the following reports being in Part II and determine whether or not maintaining the exemption from disclosure of the information contained therein outweighs the public interest in disclosure.
URGENT PART II BUSINESS
To consider any Part II business accepted by the Chair as urgent.