Agenda item

Grant Thornton Progress Report

The Committee is asked to note the report.

Minutes:

20.1       Alex Walling, Audit Engagement Lead, Grant Thornton (GT) presented       the report, which detailed the progress Grant Thornton had made in          delivering their responsibilities as the external auditors. 

 

20.2.      The Committee were advised that GT had completed their work on GCC’s financial statements for 2021/22 on the 1st March 2023 and commenced their initial planning and interim fieldwork for the 2022/23 audit.  Members were advised they intended to issue detailed audit plans in June/July, as this would set out their proposed approach for the audit of the financial statements for 2022/23.  It was noted that GT aimed to give their opinion on Statement of Accounts by 31st December 2023. 

 

20.3       Members were advised that ongoing national delays in local audits continued to significantly impact audited bodies, the financial reporting and auditing process.  It was explained the GT met with Finance Officers in March 2023 as part of their quarterly liaison meetings and continued to be in discussions with officers regarding emerging developments to ensure the audit process was smooth and effective. 

 

20.4       The Executive Director of Corporate Resources informed the Committee that GCC was in a better position that many other Local Authorities, he accepted there were a lack of auditors nationally, which had compounded the situation. 

 

20.5       In response to a question regarding the SEND budget and the safety valve funding, the Executive Director reassured committee the rules were being followed and the statutory override was necessary for the rules to be adhered too.  He added that the deficit was sizeable but children in Gloucestershire were receiving the service they were entitled too.  It was now a question of better value, as there was no additional funding and discussions were ongoing with Central Government, as it was a national issue that required national funding. 

 

20.6       The Head of Finance confirmed the Department of Education recognised there was an issue and were engaged with Local Authorities, which was seen as a major step forward.  Some members felt that the statutory framework was out of kilter with the funding mechanism and suggested that by putting in place a three-year override, the solution would be for the next elected government to find. 

 

20.7       The Committee sought clarification in terms of GCC’s position regarding the accounts, officers explained that GCC was in a comfortable position, as GT had taken a more practical approach in the signing of the accounts.  Members recognised there was a resource and morale issue for auditors and finance teams nationally. 

 

20.8       GT informed committee that value for money work had been concluded and the draft report was with officers for comment, also the certificate would be held up slightly due to the National Audit Office (NAO) Code.  Members noted that GT were keen to complete the audit in a timely manner and would start the Pension Fund audit in July as a priority, given it had a knock-on effect for admitted bodies within the fund.  GT hoped to commence the GCC audit in September/October and were keen to complete the work, as were the finance teams. 

 

20.9       The Executive Director notified members there was an impact across the finance teams, as starting the budget work in the summer months impacted on staff leave and caused pressure for the external auditor too.  The Director of Finance reiterated it was a major piece of work which impacted over a three-month period and there were concerns, hence the need to start planning now to deliver what was required. 

 

Resolved

 

That the report be noted.

 

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