To note the Public Interest Report Recommendations Action Plan and agree the Recommendations Action Plan.
The Committee considered a Public Interest Report (PIR) Recommendations Follow Up report which was presented by the Chief Finance Officer. The PIR Recommendations Action Plan set out the Council’s responses to the five recommendations made in KPMG’s Public Interest Report. One of the recommendations was to develop an action plan to address weaknesses identified in the report.
The Chief Executive, the Monitoring Officer and the Chief Finance Officer addressed the Committee.
Statement from the Chief Executive Officer:
“At 8pm on the 12th October 2022, KPMG released their 2017/18 Public Interest report, concluding their Value for Money process. Despite being in close communication with KPMG for several months prior, the report literally came out of the blue without any prior indication of its intended release.
The very next day, on the 13th October, the KPMG Working Group, comprising of the Leader and the Deputy Leader, who are also the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Corporate Policy and Resource Committee, as well as the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Audit Committee supported by senior and statutory officers, met and assessed the legal practicability of complying with our statutory obligations in setting the necessary course of action.
Urgent communications with KPMG and the Secretary of State and DLUHC ensued immediately thereafter. As the timing coincided with the pre-election period for Spelthorne’s most recent by-election and, as the Committee will know we had 4 of those last year, the report’s release was delayed until immediately after the polls were closed on the 30th November.
The audit report presented to this Committee in the previous item, has thus taken our auditors 5 years to produce - though to be fair to KPMG, the best part of a year’s delay can be directly attributed to the actions of one individual Spelthorne Councillor which is currently being investigated under the Members’ Code of Conduct.
Audit congestion and lengthy tailbacks are endemic in the sector and now only 12% of local authority audits are currently being completed within the 6 months statutory deadline.
This is by far the lowest percentage on record since the introduction of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 which saw the abolition of the Audit Commission and the transfer of all audit work to private sector companies.
In fact as recently as last week, the Director General, Local Government, Resilience and Communities at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities wrote to me and other Chief Executives to update us on the Department’s continued work to respond to Sir Tony Redmond’s Local Authority Financial Reporting and external audit: independent review (the Redmond Review) and to reaffirm the Department’s continued resolve to work with us and others across the sector to ensure a system wide approach to reducing the continued delays to local audits.
However, by any measure the release of our Audit Report, virtually half a decade after the audit year in question, in itself is a remarkably poor turnaround, posing significant concerns in both the ‘timely value’ ... view the full minutes text for item 5