Accounting delays ‘a blip’ says Wealden council leader

Wealden District Council offices, Hailsham SUS-170401-214707008
Wealden District Council offices, Hailsham SUS-170401-214707008

Delays to the publication of  a key financial document have been described as ‘a blip’ by the leader of Wealden District Council.

Speaking at a meeting of Wealden’s audit, finance and governance committee on Wednesday (July 31), Conservative council leader Bob Standley spoke to councillors about delays to the publication of the 2018/19 Statement of Accounts – a detailed annual report which lays out the financial results of the authority’s activities.

While the committee was due to approve the full document, it was only able to consider a draft version as the figures have yet to be externally audited following delays in the process. 

Cllr Standley (Con, Frant and Wadhurst) said: “I think we should treat this as a bit of a blip.

“Last year we were actually ahead of time, and there have been particular circumstances which I am sure we won’t go into here, which have led to this situation. 

“It is not an ongoing problem, it was a short term problem. We have a reputation for sound business and financial management and that is not affected by this.”

According to a report considered by the committee, the delay to publication was mainly down to a ‘temporary lack of capacity’ over the time when the accounts needed to be closed. These included sickness, resignation and delays to filling vacancies, the report said. 

However, the report said other factors, both internal and external had also played a part. These included a Supreme Court ruling on public sector pension schemes, which has seen most local authority accounts restated this year.

The report goes on to suggest ways to mitigate against problems in future years.

These delays led to the late publication of the unaudited statement of accounts, with the council in a position where it is waiting for external auditors to examine the figures before a final statement of accounts can be published.

Despite the delays in its publication, committee members were told the draft figures showed no cause for concern.

The report said: “The overall outturn position reflects strong financial management, with no surprises and no overall overspends and a prudent level of reserves.

“However, irrespective of this, clearly the authority will want to publish audited accounts by 31 July in the future.”