Agenda item

Annual Governance Statement 2022/23 and Code of Corporate Governance

This report presents the draft Annual Governance Statement for 2022/23 which is required to accompany the unaudited Annual Accounts

[20 Minutes]



          Upon the invitation of the Chair, the Internal Audit Manager introduced the report, explaining the Annual Governance Statement (AGS) was a mandatory document which accompanied the Council’s annual accounts.  Along with the draft accounts for 2022/23, which had been published to the Council’s website that day, it would be published on the Council’s website and provided to the external auditors for review. This had been prepared with input from Officers and had been reviewed by the Corporate Management Team and signed by the joint interim Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and the Leader of the Council. New or amended wording from the previous AGS were highlighted in the document. While it was generally a backward-looking document covering the period of the accounts, best practice was that significant governance changes occurring before the accounts were approved may also be included, hence reference had been made to the change in political control of the Council and also to the resignation of the CEO. This draft version was presented to the Committee for noting and the final version would be presented for approval by the Committee at a future meeting, along with the audited accounts. The process for the preparation of the AGS had been reviewed by the Southern Internal Audit Partnership (SIAP) and no issues had been raised. A copy of the Council’s local Code of Corporate Governance had also been provided, to which no changes were proposed.


Members then took part in a question and answer session which are briefly summarised below.


It was noted that there had been a relaxation of timescales and the audit would be delayed until 2024, and asked whether that would have an impact on the way Arun delivered documents to the auditors, or whether it only the audit that would be delayed. The Internal Audit Manager explained that the target dates had been relaxed for Covid-19. These were not statutory deadlines and it had been agreed with the external auditors that Arun delay publication of the draft accounts from 31 May until 31 July, as the auditors would not be completing the audit within the recommended timescales. Arun were therefore required to publish a statement on the website to explain that publication of the accounts had been delayed. It was asked that this reflect that this was not the fault of Arun. The Internal Audit Manager confirmed this was clear on the notice published to the website.


The Annual Governance Statement on page 28 talked about clear channels of communication. One Member stated that in training they had been told that having a single entry for enquiries was best practice, and it was felt this would be easier both for Councillors and members of the public, as often people did not know who to ask for. The Internal Audit Manager explained there was a standard telephone line that went to the main switchboard if someone didn’t know who they needed to get hold of. He believed the Culture Change Group were looking at values and potentially trying to get a more focused direction for this. It was asked that the culture change group look at this and take the request into consideration.


It was asked whether Arun should be putting pressure on the external auditors with a view to the audit being completed within the target deadlines. The Internal Audit Manager explained this was a national issue which had been covered in the Redman Revue, and was currently being considered by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA). The Group Head of Finance and the CEOs had regular meetings with the external auditors, however there was not much that Arun could do about it.


Page 27 talked about being in breach of the regulator for social housing, and it was asked whether this was still the case. The Internal Audit Manager explained that the action plan on page 42 stated that it was anticipated the issues had been resolved and the Regulator would release the Council from the Regulatory Notice in 2023. He would make enquiries to establish whether this had happened and circulate an answer to Members.


Page 30 stated that there would be significant work required to reduce the budget deficit over the coming years, and it was asked whether any progress had been made regarding a plan to address this. The Chair explained that this was a very valid question, however as this was a backward-looking document, the question would be better asked at forthcoming meetings when progress reports would be brought to the Committee by the Group Head of Finance.


The Committee noted the draft version of the Council’s Annual Governance Statement for 2022/23

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