Agenda item

2020/21 statement of accounts

To approve the 2020/21 statement of accounts and associated letter of representation to Grant Thornton, the external auditors.


The committee considered the 2020/21 statement of accounts and associated letter of representation to the external auditor.


The chairperson said that committee members had raised a number of questions in advance of the meeting and these had been responded to by the head of corporate finance; it was suggested that this document be published as supplement to the minutes of this meeting.


Responses were provided to questions from committee members, the key points included:


i.             The reference to ‘funds held under agency terms for third parties’ (agenda page 68) related to agency arrangements with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (in respect of grants awarded to business rated properties in response to the Covid pandemic) and with the New Model Institute for Technology and Engineering (NMITE).


ii.            Employee benefits (agenda page 99) were for employees of the council but not those employed by an agency; any such costs would be shown against the service area in the comprehensive income and expenditure statement.


iii.          The commentary about Fastershire was noted, ‘The ultimate aim is that by the end of 2022/23 there will be access to fast broadband for all those who need it’ (agenda page 84), but the ability to deliver this within the identified timescale would be challenging given that a company involved had ceased trading recently.  It was suggested that the relevant scrutiny committee might wish to explore the position as part of its work programme.


iv.          An explanation was provided of the asset revaluation movement for retail properties (agenda page 141) and it was noted that a level of uncertainty remained due to market turbulence.


v.           It was confirmed that ‘compensation for loss of office / benefits in kind’ (agenda page 148) related to contractual payments.  It was reported that it was required by law that this was disclosed to the committee and, as part of the accounts process, external audit often looked at such payments to ensure that the council was acting lawfully.


vi.          Clarifications were provided on ‘Significant provisions, contingencies and write-offs’ (agenda page 85), including the independent assessment of business rates appeal provision and the arrangements to cover potential excess liabilities.   The committee was advised that write-offs occurred when all avenues of recovery and settlement had been exhausted and these were reported to Cabinet; the write-offs in 2020/21 were not considered significant.


vii.         The purpose of ‘Business Rates Smoothing’ being set aside as a reserve (agenda page 124) was explained, reflecting uncertainties about the impact of revaluations and small business rate relief.  The accounting arrangements in relation to revaluations were outlined.


viii.       An overview was provided of the budget setting process for capital schemes and how the capital financing costs of prudential borrowing may be repaid from savings generated by the investment.  In the event that the savings requirement was not delivered in a particular service area, performance monitoring would highlight any overspend and this would be investigated and mitigated.


In accordance with paragraph 4.1.141 of the Council’s constitution, a recorded vote was held on the recommendations a) and b) and this was agreed unanimously by Councillors Bartlett, Boulter, Bowen, Jinman and Shaw.  Recommendation c) was also agreed.


The chief finance officer and the committee thanked the external audit team for their work.  In response to a question, Jon Roberts briefly commented on evolving working practices in the context of operational efficiency and environmental impact considerations.




a)           The 2020/21 statement of accounts, at appendix A to the report, be approved;


b)          The letter of representation, at appendix B to the report, be signed by the chairperson of the committee and the chief finance officer; and


c)           The general scrutiny committee be invited to consider matters pertaining to the delivery of Fastershire as part of its work programme.




Action 128      That the questions and responses document in relation to the 2020/21 statement of accounts be published as supplement to the minutes.


Link: Questions and responses on the 2020/21 statement of accounts

Supporting documents: