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To receive Apologies for Absence from Members.
Council observed an extended period of silence following the tragic death of Sir David Amess MP. Councillor Heather Williams read out a statement on behalf of Councillor Grenville Chamberlain who had known Sir David Amess MP for over twenty years. Councillor Heather Williams, Councillor Bridget Smith and Councillor Gavin Clayton expressed their shock over the MP’s murder but also affirmed their support for his family and the democratic ideals that he represented.
Apologies were received from Councillors Grenville Chamberlain, Sarah Cheung-Johnson, Graham Cone, Clare Delderfield, Jose Hales, Alex Malyon, Dawn Percival, Judith Rippeth and Dr Ian Sollom.
Declaration of Interest
The Chair reported that she had called this meeting of Council after receiving a request from the Conservative Group to discuss the ongoing audit of the 2018/19 accounts.
Councillor Heather Williams explained that it was important that the update on the auditing of the 2018/19 accounts was discussed at a public meeting to ensure that the Council was open and transparent.
Councillor John Williams, Lead Member for Finance, stated that residents should be able to expect the Council’s accounts to be signed off in a timely manner and he apologised that this had not happened. He explained that the 2017/18 accounts had taken two years to be signed off and this had delayed work on the 2018/19 accounts. July’s Audit and Corporate Governance Committee were informed that the 2018/19 accounts were expected to be signed off in September but unfortunately the work took longer than expected. In particular the Asset Register needed to be adjusted and completed. The Council’s External Auditors had stated that they would use their powers to call a meeting of full Council if the outstanding information was not provided in 14 days. However, they have now confirmed in writing that they have received this information within their deadline and it was now expected that the accounts would be signed off in November. It was hoped that the Council would be able to sign off the 2021/22 accounts by September 2022.
Councillor John Williams proposed and Councillor Neil Gough seconded the recommendation in the report: “To note the position on the Audit of the Accounts for 2018/19.”
Councillor Heather Williams proposed and Councillor Nick Wright seconded the following addition to recommendation “… and the Cabinet’s commitment to resolving the issues giving as much resource as is needed to get the accounts up-to-date by October 2022 subject to external auditors questions and requests.” Councillor John Williams accepted this amendment and it became part of the substantive recommendation without debate.
Councillor Sue Ellington stated that in her experience continuity was one of the most important aspects of a successful workforce. She asked how many interim accountants had been put in place during the last three and a half years. The Head of Finance agreed to provide a written response on this question. Councillor Tom Bygott asked how much had been spent in redundancies, early pension access and gardening leave due to senior accountants leaving the Council. Councillor John Williams stated that the purpose of this meeting was to discuss the 2018/19 accounts and he was not in a position to answer this question. The Chair suggested that this information could be provided outside the meeting.
Councillor Ruth Betson asked how much the Council would be charged in external auditor fees, due to the delay in the signing of the 2018/19 Accounts. Councillor John Williams explained that this matter would have to be discussed with the external auditors.
In response to the suggestion that the meeting should discuss the delays in signing off the 2017/18 accounts, Councillor John Williams explained ... view the full minutes text for item 3.