‘Embarrassing’ Brentwood Council finance audit shows errors

Weeks before they are due to be signed off, auditors have criticised Brentwood Council’s accounts as being strewn with errors.

The Audit Commission’s interim annual report for the last financial year highlights a range of problems, including that financial statements given to the auditor were not of the standard expected or in the correct format.

Errors

In 2008/9 the borough’s accounts were not even signed off by auditors due to a string of errors and inconsistencies – and it was rated as one of the worst 12 councils in the country.

The new report says that the council hasn’t provided auditors enough information about those 2008/9 accounts, which it was supposed to do months ago, and are being considered as part of the new report.


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The report describes the council’s “poor presentation of accounts and (a) lack of management review”, and that the auditor was unable to work with the council over areas such as housing stock composition because officers didn’t provide information in time.

But it does conclude that the council made proper arrangements to secure economy, efficiency and effectiveness in 2010/11.

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Liberal Democrat leader Cllr David Kendall, a member of the council’s audit committee, said: “It’s very embarrassing for the council and it’s a damning report.

“Something has gone badly wrong somewhere, we will be asking questions and looking into the report in even more detail.”

But Cllr Chris Hossack, chairman of the committee, said: “The council’s financial position overall has improved significantly over the last three years and the council’s reserves provide resilience against the challenges of the current national economic climate.

“References in the report to disclaimed and qualified accounts relate to historical issues and pay no relation to 2010/11 accounts.”

He added that other local authorities have been criticised over the same issue, due to complexities regarding new methods of filing accounts.

Brentwood Council is due to share its accounting systems with Essex County Council in the next financial year, which he added, will help improve accounting systems.

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