Auditors recognise progress

Somerset County Council’s improved finances have been recognised by auditors, according to a report to be discussed next week.

The Value For Money update report from Grant Thornton, which will be considered by the Council’s Audit Committee, notes significant progress and the “positive trajectory” of the authority’s financial position and planning.

In 2017/18, the Auditors gave the County Council an ‘adverse’ Value for Money conclusion – that’s almost as poor as it can get. For 2018/19 they have given an improved rating (‘qualified except for’) which recognizes the huge improvements but also that there remains more to be done.

In July, Auditors gave the Council’s financial statements for 2018/19 a clean bill of health. But they said they needed further assurances before reaching a conclusion about how robust the Council’s finances were for future years – what auditors refer to as Value for Money – especially in the big budget areas of Children’s and Adults services.

Having carried out additional work, they have concluded that both Children’s and Adults have stronger financial measures in place with robust mechanisms to manage and monitor spend against budget.

The auditors say they are satisfied that sufficient progress as has been made since 2017/18 and are reassured by the higher levels of reserves.

Councillor Mandy Chilcott, Cabinet member for Resources, said: “Given the pressures on local government finances, to have this progress acknowledged by the auditors is very welcome.

“There is still room for improvement and we have to continue to work hard and make sure we can provide the best possible services while living within our means and staying within our budgets.

“We will also continue to lobby for sustainable funding. It’s good to see the Government listened to our concerns in the recent spending round, but that’s only for one year – what is really needed is a longer-term, sustainable plan especially for social care.”

The Auditor’s report will be discussed at the meeting of the Audit Committee on 19 September.