Frustration at delay in signing off South Northamptonshire Council accounts due to auditor’s staffing crisis

South Northamptonshire councillors have registered their frustration at delays by their external auditors in signing off their accounts.

Friday, 4th October 2019, 4:35 pm
Councillors met this week at The Forum in Towcester to discuss the statement of accounts for South Northamptonshire Council

Councils are required by law to formally approve their accounts by the end of July, but all the local authorities in Northamptonshire are facing delays as accountancy firm Ernst & Young has ‘staff turnover challenges’.

This is the first time the accountancy firm is doing the audits, but it doesn’t appear to have made a good impression on councillors at The Forum.

The accounts of South Northamptonshire Council were prepared and certified by the end of May in line with the statutory deadline, and a draft set of accounts were taken to the audit committee for approval on September 19. But it appears it will have to wait for the audit of colleagues at the county council to be finalised before attention is turned to SNC.

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Council leader Ian McCord, speaking at a full council meeting on Wednesday (October 2), said: “Audit committee were not able to consider these for approval as Ernst & Young (E&Y) were not in a position to provide an opinion for two reasons.

“Firstly, E&Y stated that they had completed 90 per cent of the audit and had found no issues to report on, but they need to conclude their audit fieldwork before being able to provide an opinion on the accounts.

“Secondly, they needed to await the approval of the county council’s accounts. NCC prepare the pension fund accounts for the whole of Northamptonshire and information from those accounts then appear in the relevant district and borough accounts.

“The 2017-18 accounts for the county council have not been finalised yet and therefore E&Y will not place any reliance on the figures in SNC’s 2018-19 accounts relating to the pension fund disclosures until the accounts of the county council have been signed off.”

It is understood that the county council’s accounts are ‘on the verge of’ being signed off.

Councillor Chris Lofts, a member of the audit committee, said he had received assurances that the council would not face any sanctions as a result of the delay.

And Councillor McCord added: “Whilst technically this council is late with its accounts, I want to assure you all that this has nothing to do with any officer or member of the council but by audit issues beyond our control.”