Agenda and draft minutes
Venue: Committee Room 1, Council Offices, Woodgreen, Witney
Contact: Democratic Services
To approve the minutes of the meeting held on 23 September 2021.
The minutes of the meeting held on 23 September 2021 were approved and signed by the Chairman as a correct record.
Apologies for Absence
To receive any apologies for absence.
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Jake Acock and Richard Langridge.
Declarations of Interest
To receive any declarations from Members of the Committee on any items to be considered at the meeting
There were no declarations of interest received.
Participation of the Public
To receive any submissions from members of the public, in accordance with the Council’s Rules of Procedure.
There was none.
Prior to the considering the next agenda item, the Chairman asked that an Action Log be added to the Committee Work Programme in future.
Councillor Cooper addressed the meeting and stated that he had requested the Publica Annual Report be considered by the Committee. However, he had been advised that this report was going to be scrutinised by the Finance and Management Overview and Scrutiny, following an all member briefing. Councillor Cooper was disappointed as he felt this could be considered under the General Purposes section of this Committee and historically Councillors had been able to discuss almost anything. He felt that it was important to open up a dialogue with external partners such as Publica and Ubico.
To present the Council’s audited Statement of Accounts for the period 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021 to enable the Committee to consider and approve the Council’s accounts.
(a) That the Grant Thornton Audit Findings for West Oxfordshire District Council report be noted;
(b) That the Statement of Accounts 2020/2021, including the Annual Governance Statement be approved; and
(c) That the Chief Finance Officer and the Chair of the Committee be authorised to write a letter of representation on behalf of the Committee and Council to Grant Thornton to enable the opinion to be issued.
The Committee received a report which presented the Council’s audited Statement of Accounts for the period 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021.
The report advised that the Chief Finance Officer was responsible for ensuring that the statement of accounts was prepared and published by 31 May following the end of a year. In a more typical year, the draft Statement of Accounts would have been presented to the July meeting of this Committee for review. The Government extended the deadline for the production of the draft accounts to 31 July and the audit of the accounts from 31 July to 30 September.
It was noted that the draft statement of accounts was submitted to the external auditors on 1 July 2021 and there were no objections received during the required inspection period. At the Audit & General Purposes Committee in September, Members were advised that due to resourcing difficulties, Grant Thornton had been unable to meet the 30 September publication date. Therefore a revised target date of 24 November 2021 was agreed.
Representatives from Grant Thornton, Pete Barber and Helen Lillington, were present at the meeting and responded to queries from Members.
Mr Barber addressed the meeting and provided an update since the meeting held in September 2021. He explained the challenges that Grant Thornton had faced, resulting in the audit taking longer to complete than planned. Mr Barber went on to advise that the member of staff charged with printing and collating the accounts for signing off, was off sick, therefore, it had been agreed with officers that this would wait until she returned in the next few weeks. He assured Members that whilst very frustrating, officers were very close to finalising the work.
With regards to the Audit Findings Report, Mr Barber advised that Grant Thornton were anticipating issuing an unqualified audit opinion in due course. In addition, the timescales for issuing a Value for Money conclusion had been revised in line with the National Audit Office and the work was expected to be complete by the end of February.
Following a question from Councillor McBride, Mr Barber advised that the staff member was due back on 1st December however, if this was not the case, other staff would be brought in to assist. Mr Barber also advised that there would not be any penalties applied and the resilience at Grant Thornton was being addressed. The Deputy Chief Executive and Section 151 Officer, Elizabeth Griffiths, concurred with the comments from Mr Barber. She assured the meeting that she had been in regular discussions with Grant Thornton and it had been felt that due to the involved nature of the work, it was prudent to wait until the member of staff returned.
Ms Lillington then outlined the Audit findings report, clarified a few presentational issues and advised that the overriding positive message was that the findings were substantially complete. She highlighted certain areas of focus including the risks around pensions, the in progress Value for Money work and ... view the full minutes text for item 26.