Call for explanation as to why historic Luton Council audits remain unsigned is rejected

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“I don’t see why this needs to go to full council. I can’t see that unless it’s for a political reason which people want to exploit”

An opposition group demand for the reasons why historic audits remain unsigned to be reported to the next Luton Borough Council meeting has been rejected.

An update on the 2018/19 and 2019/20 accounts was presented to the local authority’s audit and governance committee by its director finance, revenues and benefits Dev Gopal.

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“There are no significant material adjustments in the 2018/19 accounts since they were presented to the committee previously and approved,” he said.

Luton Borough CouncilLuton Borough Council
Luton Borough Council

“So the accounts are practically done. However, there’s an adjustment to the consolidation account, which dates back years. The auditors would like to see this technical accounting adjustment.

“We’re working with them and have to provide the information, but it’s nothing to do with the LBC accounts. It’s just a consolidation adjustment that goes back 20 years for which we need to provide evidence.

“Once this is done, Ernst and Young (EY) need an updated cash flow position because the closer we get to the signature of the accounts we give them another one month’s cash flow.

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“There might be minor things, but there’s nothing significant which we’ve to bring to this committee on the 2018/19 accounts.”

Liberal Democrat Wigmore councillor Alan Skepelhorn wondered when the accounts would be signed off finally.

Mr Gopal replied: “I’m aiming to get it done by the end of this month, as delegated authority has been agreed to sign the accounts unless “something substantial requires discussion”.

Liberal Democrat Stopsley councillor Richard Underwood suggested: “If the position isn’t officially resolved when the agenda is prepared for the next LBC full council, then this committee resolves a report detailing the reasons why will be included on the agenda for that meeting.”

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Mr Gopal explained: “Nothing has changed from last time. A report to full council would just be on this one technical thing which I’m planning to clear in the next two weeks with the auditors. I don’t want this to overshadow the good work we’ve done with the auditors.”

Labour Farley councillor Mahmood Hussain said: “I don’t see why this needs to go to full council. I can’t see that unless it’s for a political reason which people want to exploit.”

Councillor Skepelhorn added: “EY has found another reason suddenly, technical or otherwise, not to sign off the accounts. I’m worried EY will find something that says those audits shouldn’t have been signed off either.

“It’s trying to get the firm to make a final decision and sign a piece of paper. It seems they’re procrastinating. What’s to say once that’s resolved EY doesn’t find another issue?

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“The company has been replaced as our auditors now by Grant Thornton. Until we’ve resolved everything up until the end of 2022/23, EY is still getting paid to be the auditors.”

Mr Gopal said he could speak to the firm and update councillors by email. Labour Poets councillor Jacqui Burnett, who chairs the committee, warned: “The patience of colleagues is wearing thin, if you can put that to EY in some way.”

Councillors voted four-two to reject councillor Underwood’s resolution.