The Audit Wales (AW) representative reported on an update on the Financial and Performance Audit work undertaken, and due to be undertaken, by Audit Wales. The Audit Wales representative outlined its work programme and timetable, which the Auditor General is required to produce in accordance with the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2021.
He explained that the Audit of the Council’s 2020-21 statement of accounts and the Audit of the 2020-21 Returns for Porthcawl Harbour Authority were certified by 31st July 2021, and Coychurch Crematorium by 30 September 2021
The Audit Wales Representative outlined the Audit of the 2020-21 Grants and Returns work which had recently commenced. The work was scheduled to be completed by the end of December 2021 and consisted of an audit of 5 claims.
The Audit Wales Representative outlined the performance audit work for 2020-2021 and stated that the work was due to be finished, with the Annual Audit Summary (AAS) being the final piece of work. This was due to be completed in December 2021.
She highlighted the 2021-2022 performance audit work and stated that the Assurance and Risk Assessment work was also nearly completed. They had contacted the Council for a date to bring the findings to the Corporate Management Board sometime in February 2022, with the aim to provide a report to the Governance and Audit Committee later in 2022.
The Audit Wales Representative outlined the springing forward work and stated that the focus was on two traces, assets and workforce. This was in the process of being set up and aimed to begin in December 2021.
She added that the review on DFGs was underway and the report on the agenda would assist in this. The review work on Cwm Taf Morgannwg health and social care partnership was underway and was currently working with external regulators on the feedback process which was scheduled for January 2022 once the field work was complete.
The Audit Wales Representative summarised the Financial Sustainability section which provided background on the work on local government financial sustainability over 2020-21 including the financial pressures, strategies, reserves position and performance against the budget. She highlighted exhibit 4 which outlined the financial support provided by Welsh government which helped with the costs relating to Covid-19. There were however uncertainties on future funding.
The Audit Wales Representative explained that the situation in Wales was considered better financially than England but there was still cause for concern due to uncertainties.
The Audit Wales representative explained that the finding from the work in 2020-21 were that Councils had received significant extra funding to deal with the pandemic, but the future sustainability of the local government sector remains challenging against a backdrop of other financial pressures. After publishing the national summary report in October 2020, Audit Wales then looked at the financial sustainability of each principal Council in Wales and produced local reports for each Council. Due to the extra funding Councils had received in response to the pandemic, the financial position has improved for all 22 Councilsthis year. The overall picture of Councils’financial sustainability remains mixed, some Councils were still better placed than others to respond to future challenges.
She further outlined the reserves position as indicated at exhibit 5, and the steps that were devised to help Councils’ financial sustainability. This was indicated at exhibit 6.
The Lay Member mentioned that with regards to future work, there was no further mention of the impacts of the pandemic, she asked for a comment on this.
The Audit Wales representative explained that as part of the assurance and risk assessment, AW look at the Council’s financial position and liaise with key officers and internal audit. The information was always on the radar for Audit Wales but unfortunately could not comment on the future nor how to help mitigate the uncertainties. The Interim Chief Officer – Finance Performance and Change added that even with all the financial sustainability reviews and discussions, it was not possible to plan for what the long term effects of the pandemic would do to the Council and its financial resilience. She added that regular reports were brought to Council and Cabinet however, which set out how the Council was being as prudent as possible in terms of budget monitoring and financial planning.
The Chairperson stated that the report discussed the current issues and planning for financial sustainability, however there was no mention on plans for Welsh Government to assist in helping BCBC forward plan following on from the pandemic. The Audit Wales Representative was not aware of any ongoing work from Welsh Government but could look into this and provide an update at the next Governance and Audit Committee meeting. The Lay Member added that this was important to ensure the Council was forecasting as best as it could.
RESOLVED: That the Committee noted the Audit Wales Governance and Audit Committee Reports at Appendix A and Appendix B.