All Somerset councils running late
As Somerset prepares to merge all of its five councils into one unitary, the importance of accounts has never been greater. Mainly because the accounts for the five existing councils will be needed to get an opening position for the new authority. However complications have already been experienced in finalising the 201/22 accounts.
So much so that Government has changed the deadlines. It used to be the case that all accounts had to be finalised and signed by 30 September. Failure to complete accounts by that deadline, meant the issuing of a public statement to explain your non compliance. For the 21/22 accounts, that deadline has been moved to 30 November. Even so many local authorities are struggling to meet the deadline.
Mendip District Council announced today that they would be unable to meet the 30 November deadline for the 21/22 accounts. In a statement to The Leveller they told us “The external audit of the draft statement of accounts for the year ended 31 March 2022 for Mendip District Council have not yet been completed by our external auditor, Ernst & Young LLP. It’s important to note that the delay does not sit with the presentation of the accounts – which the Council completed and published by the statutory deadline of 31 July – but with the audit process itself. Delays are being experienced countrywide; across Government departments, and at local authority level, due to complications in administrative processes and sector capacity issues.”
Meanwhile at South Somerset District Council problems are even more substantial. Not only are the 21/22 accounts yet to be completed, but the 20/21 accounts remain outstanding. This is largely due to disagreement between the auditors and council over the valuation of the council’s two battery parks.
Nor is this likely to get resolved any time soon. An audit committee meeting scheduled for the 2 December has been put back to the 15 December.
Somerset West & Taunton Council have already published their notice for not meeting today’s deadline. As have Somerset County Council. They both state the same reason for missing the deadline as: “The Authority has material infrastructure assets. There is a national sector-wide discussion in progress in respect of the correct accounting for these, especially regarding the derecognition of parts of infrastructure assets following ‘replacement’ expenditure. The Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) is expected to issue a Statutory Instrument (SI) on 30 November 2022 (coming into force on 25 December 2022) which, together with updates to the CIPFA Accounting Code, will hopefully resolve these issues. Until the SI is in place the 2021/22 audit cannot be finalised. These factors have resulted in the audit of the accounts for the year ended 31 March 2022 not being concluded in time to meet the 30 November publication date.”
Sedgemoor District Council are also running late but have been less specific. They simply acknowledge “The Council is continuing to work closely with the audit team as they complete their work. In line with the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015, the Council has published a set of draft accounts. The Council will publish a final set of accounts as soon as the audit is concluded, and the Audit Report issued.“