Jonathan Wilson presented the report that summarised the work that been undertaken on the 2019/20 audit of which most had been largely reported at the previous audit committee in November.
BDO would take Members through the appendix to which Lisa Clampin stated the report was a public facing summary of all the items reported during the course of the audit of 2019/20 financial year. Members were referred to the following areas:
· Executive Summary, Audit Conclusions – confirmed that there had been an unqualified opinion on the financial statements and an unmodified conclusion on the use of resources.
· Reporting and Fees – Proposed Amendment - The small note number 1 stated that the fee variation would require the approval of PSAA. Members were informed that approval from PSAA had been received for that £5,000.
· Reporting and Fees – Housing benefit subsidy claim - The small note number 2 stated work was ongoing. Members were informed that work had now been completed and was now subject to Lisa Clampin’s review. This would be reported on within the next report brought to committee.
Councillor Collins stated on page 69 of the agenda, Proposed Amendment – the small note number 1 referred to “group companies” and asked for clarification on who these companies were. Lisa Clampin stated were two owned subsidiaries of Thurrock Council, Housing Thurrock Regeneration Limited and Thurrock Regeneration Housing Limited. As these were wholly owned subsidiaries of the Council, the Council consolidated the transactions into the account of those two companies into its own group accounts so a piece of work called Group Consolidation Work was being undertaken as part of the audit to ensure that the consolation process was accurate and that was what the £5,000 related to. Councillor Collins questioned how much money or turnover these two companies generated per year. Jonathan Wilson stated he did not have figures to hand but would be happy to send to Councillor Collins if he so wished to see them. This was a rental stream, largely the source of finance for Thurrock Regeneration Housing Limited which was around 102 houses and from the rental income of those. The construction of those properties by Thurrock Regeneration Limited and then housing was then passed over to Thurrock Regeneration Housing Limited where the income accrued.
Councillor C Kent referred to page 68 of the agenda – Use of Resources – The Council will need to deliver its savings and achieve income targets to maintain financial substantiality in the medium term and there was a risk that these projects would not be met and result that the Council had not produced a plan for closing the budget gaps that had been identified from the revised MTFS. Councillor C Kent questioned whether the Council had got any closer to closing the gap for 2022, 2023, 2024 and what work had been undertaken. Sean Clark stated that all directorates were currently reviewing the services they carry out at the moment in terms of assets and how they carry those out, what they use and whether any new technology could be used to streamline costs. It had been made clear in the MTFS, at Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee and in budget papers that the Council were looking at a number of areas including overall staffing levels and assets used. The process was underway and aimed to bring a paper to Cabinet in June, then go through overview and scrutiny in June / July to make a final determination of budget approaches by the end of July. This would allow several months to carry out any relevant consultations where necessary and then be able to implement changes as required. Sean Clark stated that this was the timetable that was currently being drafted out.
That Standards and Audit Committee considered the comments of our external auditors as set out in the attached report and noted their findings.
At 7.28pm, Lisa Clampin left the meeting.