TWBC one of only five councils in England to meet audit deadline

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC) is one of five councils in England to publish its auditor’s opinion on its 2022/23 accounts by the required deadline. The Borough Council is also the only local authority in Kent to have achieved this.

According to new analysis by the Public Sector Audit Appointments (PSAA), only one per cent of all local government bodies in England made the publishing deadline.

Cllr Christopher Hall (Lib Dem), Portfolio Holder for Finance and Performance announced the news at Full Council on October 4 at Town Hall. He said: “It’s not often I’m in a position where I have the opportunity to be the bearer of an announcement that I hope will be universally welcomed by all members.

“I am very pleased to report that on September 29, the Council received a clean audit opinion on the 2022/23 accounts, which have now been signed off and published by the statutory deadline.

Cllr Hall, who has been in office since 2021 added:

“Those of you who are not as easily excited as I am, might be asking why we should be proud of this. Well, we believe that Tunbridge Wells is the first and only council in Kent to have achieved this and should rightfully get the recognition it deserves. A huge amount of work goes into this and it covers six months of producing hundreds of detailed working papers that evidence the financial report.

“I would like to express my huge thanks to the dedicated and professional Finance Team and other officers who made this possible.”

The Borough Council is joined in meeting the deadline by local government bodies South Yorkshire Pension Fund Authority, Transport for London, Forest of Dean Council and Wyre Forest District Council.

Pete Marland, Chair of the Local Government Association Resources Board points to ‘delays in audit outside of their [council’s] control’, as to why only five out of 467 local government bodies were able to publish accounts with an auditor’s opinion by the September 30, 2023 deadline.

Independent audit, tax and advisory firm Grant Thornton predicted in its report ‘About Time?’ earlier this year that the September 2023 deadline given by the Department for Levelling Up was unachievable for audited financial statements, due to a ‘serious backlog’ of audits.

Despite national auditing problems, Grant Thornton completed the audit of TWBC’s financial statements. The report said it would like to ‘thank everyone at the Council for their support in working with us to enable us to get to the finalisation of the audit’.

However, the Auditor’s Annual Report for TWBC has been delayed to the end of December 2023. The postponement is due to the auditing crisis – according to research by the PSAA, there are 918 delayed audit opinions with over 400 outstanding from previous years.

In the company’s audit findings report for TWBC issued on September 29, Key Audit Partner for Grant Thornton, Joanne Brown, said: “Nationally there have been significant delays in the completion of audit work and the issuing of audit opinions across the local government sector.

“Only 12 per cent of local government bodies had received audit opinions in time to publish their 2021/2022 accounts by the extended deadline of November 30. There has not been a significant improvement over this last year and the situation remains challenging”.

Grant Thornton’s Annual Report postponement comes as no surprise then, as it works on the ‘delivery of our opinions on the financial statements’ so as many local government bodies as possible can meet ‘national timetables and legislation’.

The ‘clean bill of health’ awarded to TWBC, should bring ‘reassurance that taxpayers’ funds are in good order and have been independently audited’, said Lee Colyer, TWBC’s Director of Finance, Policy and Development.

He added: “Sound finances are the foundation for ensuring services can be provided and assets maintained.”

The news comes as local governments nationally have faced increasing financial pressure, with Birmingham City Council issuing a S114 notice. The notice means no new expenditure is permitted, with the exception of protecting vulnerable people and statutory services.

Local residents will be pleased to hear that with its accounts in order, the finance staff at TWBC can focus on the challenges ahead.

This news follows last week’s announcement that TWBC has acquired the lease of Royal Victoria Place. The cost of the deal remains unknown to the public, but the Council has assured residents that no money has been borrowed and that cuts to services have not been considered.

Share this article

Recommended articles


Please enter a search term below.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter