Calderdale Council audit fee could go up by extra £50,000 a year

The external audit for a council’s year could cost the authority around a third as much again, if the appointing body agrees.

By John Greenwood - Local Democracy Reporter
Tuesday, 14th June 2022, 3:00 pm

Calderdale Council’s final audit for 2019-20, submitted by external auditors Ernst and Young, shows they undertook the work for a basic audit scale fee of £95,030.

But, speaking to the council’s Audit Committee, Ernst and Young senior partner Dan Spiller told members they proposed an increase to the fee of £56,450, which would be applied in addition to the regular fee for 2019-20 and 2020-21, if it were allowed.

Scale fees are set by Public Sector Audit Appointments (PSAA), incorporated by the Local Government Association, which is recognised by Government as the appointing body.

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Committee member Coun Jane Scullion

Mr Spiller said the council’s management had not agreed to the increase, which would see Calderdale pay the extra amount, which the company believe more accurately recognises the work because, due to a changing risk and regulatory environment, is necessary to produce the audit, which assesses whether a council’s finances are soundly managed.

The company has provided the PSAA with its assessment of its fee and awaits a decision.

The final Audit report for 2020-21 is awaiting some guidance to auditors from the National Audit office – this relates to all councils – before the certificate can be issued, but the report concludes Ernst and Young had not identified any issues and did not identify any significant weaknesses in terms of the council’s value for money arrangements.

In terms of financial sustainability, the report says: “Based on our review of council minutes, documents and reports presented at relevant committee meetings, the council has appropriate arrangements in place to enable it to carry out its plan and manage its resources effectively.

“This ensures that the council can continue to deliver its services.”

Coun Jane Scullion (Lab, Luddenden Foot), Cabinet member for Regeneration and Strategy, said: “I am delighted we have got a clean bill of health.”

Cabinet member for Resources, Coun Silvia Dacre (Lab, Todmorden) commented on an issue where in this COVID-affected period the council had been slow getting business grants out.

She said the team had been determined to avoid error because it was public money that was being handed out – she gave an example of another authority where a council’s only priority was just to get grants out of the door but this had led to problems later.

“I was pretty confident at the time Calderdale would come out well but it did mean a lot of delay,” she said.

New committee chair Coun Sophie Whittaker (Con, Rastrick) presented the committee’s own annual report which outlines its function and which concludes during 2021-22 the Audit Committee has been successful in reviewing and providing independent assurance regarding the adequacy of internal controls and governance arrangements the council has in place.

Members agreed to approve the report and send it to the full Calderdale Council.

They are also exploring the recruitment of a second lay member of the committee, in line with Government recommendations.

Coun Steven Leigh (Con, Ryburn) said it took a while to find the committee’s first lay member, Martin Townsend, and the committee felt his recruitment had undoubtedly strengthened it.