Somerset County Council’s significantly improved finances have been recognised by independent auditors in their end of year report.
The turnaround in just two years has seen the Council move from an “adverse” Value for Money (VfM) conclusion to “unqualified” in 2019/20 – going from a very challenging position to the top ranking.
The findings from Grant Thornton for the past financial year say the Council has made “significant progress” over the past two years in improving its position.
The auditors recognise the Council’s change in focus, saying difficult decisions have been taken, supported by Councillors, leading to a surplus being delivered for the past year.
This means the Council is now in a position to face unexpected financial challenges as long as it keeps tight controls in place. The coronavirus pandemic shows how quickly situations can change. But the auditors say Somerset has not suffered the same impact on its finances as other councils regionally and nationally.
They conclude: “Recognising the significant progress made by the Council over the last two years and the current financial position, we intend to issue an unqualified VfM conclusion for 2019/20.”
Councillor Mandy Chilcott, Deputy Leader and Cabinet member for Resources, said: “It is rewarding and very welcome to see that our strenuous efforts in tackling the financial challenges have been recognised by auditors.
“Public finances have been under immense strain, but we were determined to turn our position around and we have done so within just two years. We will 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 hard for sustainable funding, particularly in the light of the pressures imposed by the coronavirus pandemic and its effect on our communities, businesses and residents.”
The auditors’ report can be found here: https://democracy.somerset.gov.uk/documents/s16053/Somerset%20County%20Council%20-%20Audit%20Findings%20Report%202019-20.pdf