A Banister presented the 2018/19 Grant Thornton Audit Findings report. NH advised that the Head of Internal Audit report would also be covered as this is good practice.
Cllr Birnie asked if the court hearings for pensions involved Dacorum. A Banister confirmed it wasn’t. N Howcutt mentioned that there had been a court hearing where it was ruled that all public sector had to consider the outcome, so it seemed sensible to make the changes. Materiality does not come into it as it doesn’t meet the threshold and it’s purely an accounting change.
Cllr Townsend enquired if sample tests were undertaken and if they are confident that everything was correct. A Banister advised that they were and that they were confident in the report findings.
Cllr Townsend mentioned the AGS and if this was the only time Members had the opportunity to review. N Howcutt replied that the AGS was reviewed by Officers throughout the year but was approved annually as part of the accounts sign off process. A Banister clarified that the Audit Findings report was issued and reviewed and signed off once per year.
Cllr Townsend said that the revaluation reserve was the biggest change in the balance sheet and queried if there are any concerns which Members should be aware of. A Banister replied that there were no concerns and that the report findings were substantially complete, this included taking into account that there were enhanced procedures this year.
Cllr Townsend asked if the drivers for the difference was increasing property prices or changes to the portfolio. A Banister said it was probably both, house prices are particularly volatile, but we have corroborated what’s there and we’ve not found any issues.
Cllr Townsend wanted confirmation of how often the revaluation was undertaken. A Banister replied that it was dependent on the type of property, but over 5 years everything will be revalued. N Howcutt added that it’s an external independent valuation which is undertaken in January and we have a letter of comfort in March. It’s a tried and tested process and it is independently confirmed, which is then verified by Grant Thornton.
Cllr Townsend highlighted that the General Fund balance remained flat but was included in the budget, the outturn remained flat and asked for clarification on whether changing the reserves should be analysed separately. A Banister confirmed that the General Fund remaining flat is to be expected and also that nothing had been found that gave cause for concern.
Cllr Townsend enquired about the surplus of £3.8m in terms of the outturn, which was mentioned as a positive at Council, but there is a negative of £4.8m, F Jump confirmed this was a different way of presenting the accounts and a capital adjustment and the pension adjustment and in some respect both answers are correct. NH confirmed he will provide a reconciliation which will probably go into a lot of technical detail.
Action: N Howcutt
The Chairman asked the Committee to approve the accounts and the letter of representation. The Committee requested that the typos are corrected and on that basis the account were approved.
Cllr Townsend wanted to include for the minutes that he had asked a significant amount of questions and would like it recorded that staff had been very very helpful.
N Howcutt wanted to add that this had been an excellent piece of work by the team and that very few authorities have achieved a letter as good a standard as we have had, it shows the diligent work and the many hours that’s gone in, particularly from the three officers but also the supporting team has very much come to fruition. N Howcutt very much appreciated the work of the team.