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Contact: David Abbott Email: email@example.com
Apologies for Absence
Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Jonathan Caleb Landy.
Declarations of Interest
If a Councillor has a disclosable pecuniary interest in a particular item, whether or not it is entered in the Authority’s register of interests, or any other significant interest which they consider should be declared in the public interest, they should declare the existence and, unless it is a sensitive interest as defined in the Member Code of Conduct, the nature of the interest at the commencement of the consideration of that item or as soon as it becomes apparent.
At meetings where members of the public are allowed to be in attendance and speak, any Councillor with a disclosable pecuniary interest or other significant interest may also make representations, give evidence or answer questions about the matter. The Councillor must then withdraw immediately from the meeting before the matter is discussed and any vote taken.
Where Members of the public are not allowed to be in attendance and speak, then the Councillor with a disclosable pecuniary interest should withdraw from the meeting whilst the matter is under consideration. Councillors who have declared other significant interests should also withdraw from the meeting if they consider their continued participation in the matter would not be reasonable in the circumstances and may give rise to a perception of a conflict of interest.
Councillors are not obliged to withdraw from the meeting where a dispensation to that effect has been obtained from the Standards Committee.
There were no declarations of interest.
The following are presented by the external auditor for discussion and noting:
· External Audit Plan for the year-ending March 2021 (including Pension Fund)
· Informing the audit risk assessment – Enquiries of Management
Emily Hill (Director of Finance) gave a short introduction to the item, then Paul Dossett and Ellen Millington (Grant Thornton) presented the external audit plan. Ellen Millington highlighted key areas of the plan, including the new Code of Audit Practice which would come into effect from audit year 2020/21. The code introduced a revised approach to Value for Money (VfM) involving more extensive reporting and commentary.
Councillor Rowan Ree asked for more detail on the VfM methodology. Paul Dossett said the new code was required auditors to produce commentary on financial sustainability, governance, and economy, efficiency and effectiveness. Auditors were required to assess the Council’s processes and arrangements that were in place to maximise value. It would be a separate report that would ultimately go to Full Council.
Councillor Ree asked the auditors if they were confident they had the resources to complete the audit with the current level of fees. Paul Dossett said they were.
Councillor Ree asked for reassurances that the auditors would meet the proposed timetable. Paul Dossett said the audit should be complete by the end of February.
Councillor Karmel asked for reassurances around the rigour of the audit processes given the majority of staff were working from home due to the pandemic. He also asked if property valuations would be distorted by the recent stamp duty holiday. Paul Dossett said remote working had been a real challenge for the audit profession and had slowed the process due to the complexities of remote working. But the relationship with officers had been very positive, and the audit was no less thorough for being remote. In the future he expected audit work to be done partly remotely and partly in person. He added that the Council’s officers had been very helpful and had facilitated face-to-face sessions where needed and within the relevant Covid-19 guidelines. Regarding asset valuations, Paul Dossett explained that was a specialist area and the Council had valuers who would take the impact of the stamp duty holiday into account. Grant Thornton also had their own valuer who would assess those assessments and would challenge the judgements made by the Council in that area.
Kim Smith (Chief Executive) addressed the committee and said officers had done a remarkable job working from home and audit work was being completed to the same standards and with the same level of probity.
The Chair thanked officers and Paul Dossett and Ellen Millington from Grant Thornton for their time.
The Committee noted the External Audit Plan for the year ending 31 March 2021.
Date of next meeting
The next meeting is scheduled for the 14th of December 2021.
The Committee noted the date of the next meeting: 14 December 2021