To consider the draft Statement of Accounts for 2019/20.
The Finance Lead Specialist (Section 151 Officer) introduced the draft Statement of Accounts and Annual Governance Statement for 2019/20. The unaudited statements had been published on the Council’s Website on 24 June 2020 and had been opened up to scrutiny and comment by members of the public from 29 June to 10 August.
The Finance Lead Specialist (Section 151 Officer) explained that the Council’s Statement of Accounts was required to be published after the conclusion of the external audit of accounts. She informed Members, however, that the audit deadline for 2019/20 had been extended from the end of July to 30 November 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The opportunity was being taken, therefore, in the interests of openness and transparency, to table the draft accounts for 2019/20 at this meeting of the Audit Committee in order to provide Members with a chance to review and comment on the accounts, prior to the audited accounts being presented to an additional meeting of the Committee on 5 November 2020. She further drew Members’ attention to the fact that, as the Council’s Section 151 Officer she had duly approved the accounts for issue in June 2020.
The Finance Lead Specialist (Section 151 Officer) informed Members that an updated valuation had been received from the actuaries with regard to the Pension Fund. A key risk was the value of investments held by the Pension Fund at the year end. The valuation in April had been based on the best information available at the time, however, the long term impacts of Covid-19 and the possible long term implications had since become clearer. That revaluation had identified that the net pension liability was closer to £1m higher than valued at the end of March in the original valuation. Officers would, therefore, be preparing updated accounts. The Finance Lead Specialist (Section 151 Officer) informed the Committee that a new pension note had already been submitted to the Audit Team for review. The version of the accounts to be brought back to Committee in November 2020 would include this as a major amendment. As far as she was currently aware, no other material issues had been raised, although there had been a few issues identified as part of review, and those amendments would be made with the agreement of the Audit Team, and also brought back to Committee in November.
It was raised that reference to Covid-19 appeared throughout the narrative of the document and to the fact that this would obviously be a challenge over the next several years. A query was raised as to whether the Council was putting aside money to address the particular issues, for example, a potential increase in homelessness. The Finance Lead Specialist (Section 151 Officer) explained that regular reports were being made to both Council and Cabinet on the financial position of the Council and the impact on some residents as a result of the situation. She went on to provide a detailed verbal update on the Council’s financial position, on assistance provided by central Government and on the work that had been undertaken to minimise the financial impact on residents and businesses in the district. There would, of course, be an impact on the Council and it was expected that just under £2m of reserves would be used in this financial year. The impact onto future years was being monitored and incorporated into the Council’s Medium Term Financial Plan. Officers and Members of the Cabinet were currently looking at options for bridging the budget gap in future years. All assumptions were being kept under review and, as things changed officers were trying to be agile in responding. The Director of Strategy, Innovation and Resources added that there was to be a strategic review of the Council Plan through which it would be ensured that it reflected the impact of Covid-19 and what it meant for the Council’s priorities moving forward. In addition, he informed Members that the Overview and Scrutiny Committee was due to hold a seminar in October with regard to the impact of Covid-19 at which all Members would have an opportunity to participate in discussion on what they felt was the impact of Covid-19 on the district and its communities and what it was believed that the Council’s role should be in helping to address their needs.
The Vice-Chairman felt privileged to have read the report, referring to the unprecedented challenge as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and expressing confidence in and appreciation for the Council’s officers’ efforts in addressing the situation.
No Member having raised concern when asked by the Chairman, it was
RESOLVED – That the following be noted:-
(1) the draft Statement of Accounts for 2019/20; and
(2) that the accounts will be presented to the next meeting of the Audit Committee on 5 November 2020 for formal approval alongside the audit opinion.