Audit report finds 'serious failings' at Honiton Town Council

PUBLISHED: 14:02 09 April 2018 | UPDATED: 09:48 11 April 2018

The Honiton Beehive. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref mhh 2243-34-14AW

The Honiton Beehive. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref mhh 2243-34-14AW

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A damning report has revealed a number of 'serious failings in governance and procedures' at Honiton Town Council.

Grant Thornton, which was appointed by the Audit Commission as auditor of the council, has published a stinging report relating to the council’s accounts for the year ending March 31, 2017.

The auditor found that council’s financial systems had not been updated between November 2016 and March 2017 - and only the clerk had the login details of a new finance system which was introduced in June 2016.

Furthermore, the report noted that at the point of the review, there had not been any bank reconciliations since September 2016. This, the report said, was due to the financial system not being kept up to date.

Other key findings revealed reserve levels was not being reported to the council, no financial information had been provided to the council for scrutiny since October 2016, and insufficient information was provided on its assets and liabilities.

It added: “The council did not have proper arrangements in place to ensure that there was effective financial management throughout the year.

“The financial system had not been updated between November 2016 and March 2017 due to staff sickness absence.

“The council did not have in place any contingency for key staff sickness which resulted in the council not having access to the financial system and no support to update the accounts.”

One of the seven recommendations the report makes to the council is that the authority ‘should review and update its Financial Regulations urgently and ensure they are being reviewed regularly by full council’.

In a report to the council, clerk Mark Tredwin said Grant Thornton has noted many of the issues relating to the year ending 31 March 2017 are either ‘rectified or have been identified ahead of rectification’.

Speaking to the Herald, Mr Tredwin added: “The town council has been aware of many of the findings that the external auditor has brought up in their Public Interest Report.

“This report covers the financial year from April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017 when the council was experiencing significant issues in a number of key areas.

“From April 2017 there have been significant changes within the current council and major steps were being taken to address the issues that this council had identified even before the report was issued.

“With the addition of new officers to the council, additional aspects have been identified and are being addressed over the coming months.

“It is not possible to wave a wand and make some of the issues disappear overnight but there is a very clear mandate to ensure that the issues are put behind the council so that the good work such as defibrillators, allotments, grants to support local organisations, continues.

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