Venue: Court Room at Eastbourne Town Hall, Grove Road, BN21 4UG
Contact: Committee Services on 01323 410000
To confirm the minutes of the last meeting of the Committee.
The Minutes of the last meeting, held on 24 November 2021, were confirmed as an accurate record.
Apologies for absence/declaration of substitute members
Apologies were received from Councillor Burton, Councillor Freebody, and Chief Finance Officer Homira Javadi.
Declarations of Disclosable Pecuniary Interests (DPIs) by members as required under Section 31 of the Localism Act and of other interests as required by the Code of Conduct.
There were none.
Questions by members of the public.
On matters not already included on the agenda and for which prior written notice has been given (total time allowed 15 minutes).
The Chair reported that no questions had been submitted.
Urgent items of business.
The Chairman to notify the Committee of any items of urgent business to be added to the agenda.
There were none.
Right to address the meeting/order of business.
The Chairman to report any requests received to address the Committee from a member of the public or from a Councillor in respect of an item listed below and to invite the Committee to consider taking such items at the commencement of the meeting.
The Chair reported that no requests had been received.
Report of the Chief Finance Officer.
accepts the invitation from the Public Sector Audit Appointments (PSAA) to opt into the sector-led option for the appointment of external auditors from 1st April 2023
Ola Owolabi, Deputy Chief Finance Officer (DCFO), presented the report, briefly outlining the requirements on the Council and the three options for appointment arrangements that were available to the Council.
The DCFO noted that the subject had been discussed at length at a number of previous meetings of the Audit and Governance Committee, and at an informal briefing with the PSAA.
The DCFO informed Members that the CFO had recently written a letter to the PSAA, seeking assurances that, should the Council chose to opt-in to the scheme, the PSAA would consider the Council’s request for a different auditor, and would provide support for a smooth transition from existing to new auditor. The DCFO highlighted the importance of considering the transition phase, because the two currently outstanding sets of accounts risked potential delays should a new auditor be appointed. The ability to apply to the PSAA for support in this matter was noted as a benefit of opting into the scheme.
The Chair thanked the DCFO and invited comments and questions from the Committee.
Feedback was shared of the positive experiences that other local Councils’ had had of the PSAA scheme. Members noted the usefulness of the briefing with the PSAA and there was recognition that the Council’s own poor experience under the current arrangement had been largely due to issues with the current specific auditor, rather than the scheme generally.
Members requested clarification on a number of points concerning current and future costs for external auditing. In his responses, the DCFO confirmed that:
· The current external audit fee within the PSAA scheme was £52K per annum, but that the final audit fees would be more, due to extra billing for various audit works.
· Costs for external auditing from April 2023 would increase, whichever of the three options was selected.
· Research regarding likely external auditing fees for Option 2 had returned an estimate quote of between £150K-£200k per annum, of which approximately 60-65% would fall to Eastbourne Borough Council.
· The PSAA had been unable to provide estimated external audit fees, as it was too early in the timeline of preparations for the next scheme.
· By choosing the PSAA, Option 3, the Council would save on the costs of setting up and maintaining an independent panel as those costs would be over and above any relative comparable cost for auditor services.
There was general agreement amongst Members that cost should not be the only consideration in determining best value. Moreover, the impact on the Council’s Finance Team of the lack of resources and poor communications exhibited by the current auditors had had hidden costs for the Council. In light of these considerations, and the fact that the Council shared a joint staff Finance Team ... view the full minutes text for item 43.
Date of the next meeting
The date of the next meeting was confirmed as 2 March 2022, at 6pm in the Court Room, Town Hall, Eastbourne.