Consideration was given to a report presented by Rob Mahon, Head of Service, on the closure of the accounts 2021/22.
The Council had successfully met the 2018/19 timeframes in closing its accounts after the decision to bring forward the timetable for the publication of local authorities’ financial statements. However, due to the unprecedented circumstances, the closure of accounts deadlines had been extended for 2019/20, 2020/21 and 2021/22.
It should also be noted that the volume of audit review, challenge and testing that the external auditors now had to carry out also placed additional strain on the Council’s resources. The timescales for the publication of the financial statements continued to be extended for the current year as a result of this additional challenge as had been discuss in detail at previous Committees.
The Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014, confers on local electors the right to inspect the accounting records, books, deeds, vouchers, contracts, bills and other documentation relating to the financial year in question. It also gave them the right to question the auditor about the accounting records or make a formal objection on a matter of public interest or because they thought an item of account may be unlawful. Under the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015, local electors could only exercise their rights of inspection and to question the auditor or make formal objections for a single period of 30 working days commencing the day after the unaudited accounts had been published. In order for the inspection period to commence, the Annual Governance Statement and Narrative Report (introduced by the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015) would need to be published alongside the Council’s unaudited financial statements on the Council’s website. The timetable for preparing the Annual Governance Statement and Narrative Report was, therefore, being co-ordinated with the publication of the draft unaudited Statement of Accounts to meet this requirement.
The report also set out changes to the Local Authority Accounting Framework:-
- Consultation on the possible further delay of implementation of IFRS16. This disclosure, which would see the removal of operational leases, with lessees expected to recognise all leases on their balance sheet as a right of use asset and a liability to make the lease payments, was currently due to be reflected in the accounts for 2021/22. The outcome of the consultation was expected during March, 2022
- Major changes to service delivery that had taken place in 2021/22 will also have a bearing on the financial statements including the continuing effect of schools converting to academies and the impact of Covid-19
The Council’s Statement of Accounting Policies (Appendix B) was reviewed and updated where necessary.
The continued implementation delay of IFRS16 was in recognition of the challenge it would present to local authority Finance Teams which would necessitate an intensive documentation gathering exercise to be able to make the transition from operational to financial and the vetting of the new processes to be put in place. Equally it would be a challenge to External Audit Teams at a time when nationally the delivery of audited accounts was behind where it would like to be.
Resolved:- (1) That the key accounting issues and main changes to the accounts in 2021/22, as listed in Appendix A submitted, be noted.
(2) That the Council’s revised Account Policies, attached at Appendix B submitted, be noted.