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Agenda item

Agenda item

External Auditor's Progress Report

To consider the external auditor’s report on progress against planned outputs.  

Minutes:

43.1          Attention was drawn Grant Thornton’s audit progress report and sector update, circulated at Pages No. 24-35, which reported progress in delivering its responsibilities as the Council’s external auditors.  Members were asked to consider the report.

43.2          The Grant Thornton Audit Manager advised that the initial planning and interim work for the 2022/23 audit had taken place in February and March 2023 and was now largely complete.  It was intended to commence work on the draft financial statements in July and to report to the Audit and Governance Committee on 27 September 2023 ahead of the 30 September deadline.  Reference was made to the requirement to report infrastructure in the balance sheet and he confirmed this change did not impact Tewkesbury Borough Council.  With regard to value for money, the 2021/22 work would be ongoing over the next few months and he planned to report to the Audit and Governance Committee in July, subject to capacity as there continued to be pressures within the sector.  The 2021/22 housing benefit calculation was also ongoing with the intention of this being completed by the end of April; this was later than the deadline but two months earlier than last year.  It was noted that Grant Thornton had met with the Finance team in March as part of their regular liaison meetings and a meeting would shortly be arranged with the Head of Finance and Asset Management, the Head of Corporate Services and the Chief Executive around the value for money work.  With regard to the deliverables, outlined at Page No. 29 of the report, Members were advised that the external auditor’s annual report was timetabled for December 2023 but it was hoped this could be done earlier.  The target date for the 2022/23 housing benefit subsidy certification had not yet been set and was largely dictated by Department for Work and Pensions expectations.  Sector updates provided Members with a summary of emerging national issues and development with the latest topics outlined at Pages No. 30-34 of the report.  The Grant Thornton Audit Manager advised that next year would be the final year of Grant Thornton being the external audit for Tewkesbury Borough Council.

43.3          A Member drew attention to Page No. 33 of the report in relation to the risk of Council’s running out of money next year, particularly the suggestion that district councils would have the largest budget gap compared to net spending at 10.2%.  He recognised that some authorities would be at higher risk than others and he asked for a view from Grant Thornton as to how Tewkesbury Borough Council’s balance sheet compared.  In response, the Grant Thornton Audit Manager advised that Tewkesbury Borough Council was less risky than others which was largely attributable to the way the authority was run in terms of financial control and statements; nevertheless, it needed to be highlighted as a risk in terms of financial planning as there were challenges and pressures generally for district councils with a lot of statutory services which needed to be delivered and relatively few opportunities to increase income to support those.  Tewkesbury Borough Council was engaged in far fewer risker activities but it would be interesting to see how that played out over the next few years in the face of government/political change.  The Member asked whether the Redmond Review – an independent review into the oversight of local audit and the transparency of local authority financial reporting – had any implications for Grant Thornton and the Audit Manager for Grant Thornton indicated that he hoped so in the longer term; one of the main things coming out of the report was in relation to the suggestion that the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) could become the public sector regulator which would be helpful in terms of linking issues in the sector to what the regulator cared about which the FRC was better placed to do.  Grant Thornton had recently published a report highlighting a number of issues for public sector audit including property valuations, which was a significant risk every year and generated a large amount of work for both Grant Thornton and Tewkesbury Borough Council.  Whilst this was a huge area of focus, it was not something the public cared about as it was not relevant to where Council Tax was being spent – there was a disparate balance between focus and effort compared with stakeholder interest.

43.4           It was

RESOLVED          That the external auditor’s progress report be NOTED.

Supporting documents: