More local bodies fall foul of July accounts deadline

2 Nov 18

The number of local authorities that missed the accounts publication deadline has more than doubled – although they had to contend with an earlier date.

Public Sector Audit Appointments revealed that 64 authorities out of 495 missed the deadline for publication of their 2017-18 accounts. Just 25 bodies missed the deadline the previous year.

However, the statutory accounts publication deadline for 2017-18 was brought forward by two months to 31 July 2018.

Of those that were late with their 2017-18 accounts, 50 were councils, 10 were police bodies, one was a fire authority and three were other local government bodies.

PSAA said the earlier date was “challenging” for both bodies and auditors, adding that the majority had done well to comply.

“These results are very encouraging and reflect the considerable efforts of local government finance staff and auditors to strive towards issue of the audit opinion by 31 July,” said Jon Hayes, PSAA’s chief officer.

“However, more work will be required next year to build on this result and try to achieve closer to 100% of audit opinions issues by the statutory accounts publication deadline.”

There was little change in the number of qualified value for money conclusions. Around 7% of bodies had their 2017-18 accounts qualified on VFM grounds, broadly in line with the 8% to receive qualifications last year. Audit conclusions still need to be issued in 30 cases.

Corporate governance issues, financial sustainability concerns and procurement and contract management issues were all common reasons for VFM qualifications.

There were no qualifications in relation to bodies’ financial statements, as was the case for the previous year’s accounts.

Auditors made statutory recommendations to three bodies.

PSAA’s report, which was published on 30 October, is the last under its statutory functions delegated from the Audit Commission Act 1998 following abolition of the commission.

From 2018-19, PSAA is responsible for appointing auditors to those local government bodies that have chosen to opt into its appointment scheme. To date, 98% of eligible bodies have done so.

In September, PSAA announced Tony Crawley had been appointed as its new chief executive. The organisation is chaired by former CIPFA chief executive Steve Freer.

  • Vivienne Russell

    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and publicfinance.co.uk

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