To consider a report from the Interim Director of Finance (Section 151 Officer) (copy enclosed)
Members considered a report from the Interim Director of Finance (Section 151 Officer) which summarised the overall approach and progress to date on the preparations for the Council’s and Cumbria Local Government Pension Scheme Statement of Accounts 2022/23 and the Council’s Value for Money conclusion.
As the Council would cease to exist from 1 April 2023, the preparation of the statutory accounts for 2022/23 would be undertaken by Finance staff within the new Westmorland & Furness unitary authority. However, a flexible approach would be adopted so that staff transferring to the new Cumberland unitary authority and the Cumbria Fire & Rescue Service would also be heavily involved in the closure process during April to minimise any loss of County Council corporate knowledge.
The Accounts and Audit (Amendment) Regulations 2022 was an amendment to the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015. This amendment changed the date for the publication of the audited accounts to 30 September for financial years beginning in 2022 to 2027 i.e. 2022/23 through to 2027/28. It was, however, silent on any corresponding change to the date for publication of the unaudited accounts, which therefore reverted to 31 May as per the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015.
On 16 February, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) issued a short consultation (closed 2nd March) in respect of the publication date for the 2022/23 unaudited financial statements and was keen to hear views on whether the date should remain at 31 May or not. The outcome of this consultation was still awaited.
Until the publication date was clarified the plan for 2022/23 assumed it would be 31 May and would therefore follow a similar timetable to 2019/20. The deadline for a first complete draft of the Statement of Accounts would be 19 May, and the unaudited accounts would be authorised for issue by the Director of Finance prior to publication on 31 May.
No formal meeting had yet been held with Grant Thornton to begin planning for the 2022/23 audit but some preparations had been made in the form of information requests for the interim audit which would inform the 2022/23 audit plan.
In producing the 2021/22 financial statements, the Fund included an estimate of the impact of the McCloud case on the present value of past service liabilities on both a valuation basis and an IAS19 basis. The Fund would include a similar estimate in production of the 2022/23 accounts. However, details of the resolution to McCloud were expected to be finalised during 2023/24. Depending upon the timing of this announcement, officers may need to reconsider the impact of the resolution and potentially adjust the accounting entries.
Members noted there was a potential risk that the additional workload arising as a result of Local Government Reorganisation in Cumbria impacted on the 2022/23 closure of accounts work, and that significant work was being undertaken to mitigate this risk as far as possible.
The Chair thanked the Finance Team for all the work they had done on the accounts preparation for 2022/23 and valued the fact that the Chair and Vice Chair of Audit and Assurance had been involved in this process previously.
RESOLVED, that members
(1) note the high level timetable for the closedown of the Council’s and the Cumbria Local Government Pension Scheme 2022/23 accounts including potential risks;
(2) note the Value For Money (VFM) approach to determine the VFM conclusion as part of the final accounts process.