To receive and comment on the Annual Audit Letter for 2015/16
The Committee considered the Annual Audit Letter, which summarised the External Auditors’ findings from the 2015/16 audit. The Letter was intended to communicate key messages to the Council and external stakeholders, including members of the public.
The External Auditor reported that an unqualified opinion on the Council’s financial statements had been given. Grant Thornton were also satisfied that the Council had proper arrangements in place to ensure economy, efficiency and effectiveness in its use of resources. They had determined that they could not formally conclude the audit and issue an audit certificate until the police investigation reached its conclusion.
In response to a query regarding the reason for the increase in fees for the ASDVs, the External Auditor stated that he would provide the detail, as he did not have the specific information to hand.
In response to a query regarding how the Council’s finances would be affected by South Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group being in special measures and no longer obliged to contribute to the Better Care Fund (BCF), the External Auditor stated that this was not a matter for this report as it was a backwards-looking document.
The Chief Operating Officer commented that this did not directly impact on the Council’s finances but that the issue was about determining the impact on the BCF objectives in relation to the residents of Cheshire East. He went on to agree to take this question to the Strategic Director of Adult Social Care and Health for consideration.
Councillor Corcoran then asked Grant Thornton for their view on the BCF and Jon Roberts responded that their national experience was that the BCF had not been used to date to achieve the intended objectives and that within the NHS it had been overtaken by the STP. He went on to discuss the funding issues within the NHS and social care and the linkages between the two.
With regard to the Highways Network Asset, the External Auditor was asked for his view on value for money and the capital spend by Ringway Jacobs, the external provider. It was confirmed that the audit did not go down into specific projects.
Following a query regarding the completion of the internal audit, the Director of Legal Services and Monitoring Officer advised the Committee that discussion on this matter should take place without the press and public present, in order to avoid compromising the police investigation.
That the press and public be excluded from the meeting during consideration of the following item pursuant to Section 100(A)4 of the Local Government Act 1972 on the grounds that it involved the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in Paragraph 7 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972 and public interest would not be served in publishing the information.
The External Auditor, the Director of Legal Services and Monitoring Officer and the Chief Operating Officer then answered Members’ questions regarding the police investigation and the internal audit arrangements.
That the press and public be readmitted to the meeting during consideration of the following items.
The Chief Operating Officer reported that the deadlines for publishing the 2017/18 Statement of Accounts were being shortened, and that it was planned to have a ‘dummy run’ to achieve the earlier deadlines a year earlier than required. There would therefore be two additional meetings of the Audit and Governance Committee in 2017/18.
1. That the Annual Audit Letter for 2015/16 be received and noted.
2. That it be noted that there will be two additional meetings of the Audit and Governance Committee in 2017/18, to reflect and accommodate changes in the reporting deadlines for certifying the statement of accounts and the approval and publication of the audited accounts.