£175k bill for S. Somerset taxpayers

It is barely a week since we reported that South Somerset District Council’s actions had cost council taxpayers £60,000.

And now a further bill is looking likely for long suffering council taxpayers.

The Audit Committee meeting of SSDC will hear that the auditors are proposing additional audit fees of £175,000. That is over and above the expected agreed audit fee of £67,000.

Which will leave residents of South Somerset wanting to know how an audit can go so badly wrong. Which to justify the fees increasing by more than three and a half times, it surely must have done.

But before looking further into that, it is worth noting that although nearly there, we are not there yet. The auditors, Grant Thornton, have confirmed that they expect to sign off soon. But will not be in a position to do so by 15 December Audit Committee meeting.

The reasons go to the heart of what has gone wrong. They say they are still waiting for responses from management. They have been unable to complete testing on the consolidated accounts. Not surprisingly the auditors, Grant Thornton have identified significant weaknesses here. To be exact they say: “We have identified a significant weakness in the Council’s arrangements for producing the financial statements with sufficient and appropriate supporting schedules in a timely way.” This is the basic job for anyone in the finance team. If an accounts team cannot prepare accounts, something is going wrong. If they cannot prepare schedules to support the figures in the accounts, that must be a major concern.

SSDC have struggled to prepare accurate consolidated accounts in recent years,. These are accounts that add up the council’s figures, plus other businesses in which they also have a stake. This year they forgot to include Fareham Limited, owner of a battery park in Hampshire.

But that is not all. As we reported earlier in the year, Grant Thornton have questioned SSDC’s valuation of the other battery park at Fideoak. SSDC valued it in their accounts at £20m. After further review and discussion with the auditors, that valuation has been written down to £17m.

Will anyone be held accountable for what has gone wrong?

Experience of SSDC tells us they will not. Once again it is left to the taxpayer to pick up the bill.


  • Please for the love of God will someone hurry up and close SSDC down.

  • If the auditors have had to increase their fee by approx 2.5 times, I assume that they have had to carry out work taking 2.5 times as many hours than the number of hours originally quoted. This must be due to poorly produced accounts by the council and the blame simply must be down to the accounts department and the supervising council executive and elected councillors. Question 1; what has gone wrong, question 2; who is responsible and question 3; what is being done about it?

  • Another failure of Leadership.
    Libdem leader, Val Keitch needs do the decent thing, take responsibility for this, and the back catalogue of financial, policy and operational fails, and resign with immediate effect!

  • Yet another Lib/dem failure but doubtless no one will be held accountable.

  • I think they have finally crossed the line now from being bad to….. inept, incompetent, bumbling, amateurish, even more incompetent than words can describe.
    Behave like this, in any other paid work place and you’d be sacked for being incompetent.

    • In my opinion, this is so appalling that those councillors responsible should be disbarred. What has Peter Seib who holds the finance portfolio got to say about it? Astonishingly he still has finance responsibilities at County level. Do SSDC LibDems not understand or know about the Nolan Principles?

  • Truly shocking, like everything else under the LibDem management. Things went downhill in the finance department after the departure of Donna Parham for which we can presumably thank Alex Parmley then the Chief Executive and Jo Roundell-Greene, who was councillor in charge of the ‘transformation’ project (now inflicted on the South Petherton division of the county council).

    Many of the accounting issues and problems relate to the valuation of the investments. What were the audit committee up to during this period and why did the investment committee have no understanding of what SSDC Opium was worth, especially as they poured £45 million of our money into the company, taking all the risks for only half the shares? What expertise do these people actually have? The tragedy is that some of them are now in leadership positions at county level and will continue to inflict their incompetence on the long-suffering council taxpayers of Somerset.

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