To review and note the draft Statement of Accounts for 2020/21
Members considered the Statement of Accounts 2020-21 report presented by Mark Saunders.
Members made comments, asked questions, and received responses as follows:
· Councillor Yeulett noted that publication of the final audited accounts had been delayed and asked if this was due to Covid-19. Mark Saunders advised the auditors are up to speed in terms of their audit plan, but they have a resourcing issue. A lot of work is involved in auditing the accounts and their primary objective is ensure they take the time to do the work and produce the report at the standard in which they are expected to do it. There are no consequences of the timescales; the dates are within the regulations but are there for guidance only.
· Councillor Davis said the report states that our recent partnership with Freedom Leisure has already enabled improvements to our leisure centre facilities whilst saving £351,000 per year. She asked if there should be more detail there because the circumstances of the grant received towards costs was not mentioned. Mark Saunders agreed that is a statement that goes across whole contract when it was first put in place and may need rewording in the context of what happened in 2021. He agreed to provide some updated wording.
· Councillor Davis referred to employee benefits and asked if there is likely to be any impact from staff carrying over holidays as she suspects there are many who have not taken their full entitlement due to Covid-19. Mark Saunders responded that we have an accumulated absences account, which is one of our unusable reserves, which gives an estimate of the amount of costs of untaken leave at the end of the year. The report does show that at the end of 2020/21 we have seen a considerable increase in the cost of untaken leave accrued at the year end. Our policy is that we are hoping to resolve the issue of untaken leave over the next two years, and the management team are keeping track of it.
· Councillor Booth questioned the description of FDC as a unique one-team culture as this is something that many organisations aspire to and we can no longer claim this as once we could have done. He also mentioned that the ward map needs updating as the colour for Peckover Ward is incorrect.
· Councillor Booth referred to the comment about working with partners and securing grants from County Council. He stated that Councillor Humphrey was one of the leading figures who worked with Gorefield to successfully secure funding, but we seem to have taken the credit when there was little involvement of FDC, and this needs amending.
· Councillor Booth said following on from Councillor Davis’s comment regarding Freedom Leisure, they were not giving us the savings because of COVID-19 so we had to agree a loan structure with them to get the fees back. He said there should be more information regarding that and asked if we should we expand on it. Mark Saunders said that is the intention of the support given so far. The condition Freedom Leisure must meet to start repaying those loans means they have to achieve higher than anticipated in their original business plan. In the report we had to recognise that we gave them that support as a loan in 2021. We then assess the likelihood of receiving that money back. Currently, most of that loan we have had to make provision for so there is only a small amount in the account owing as a long-term debt.
· Councillor Tierney referred to Councillor Booth’s comment that FDC should not claim to have a unique one-team approach. He said you could make the case that all teams are different, no one approach is the same and therefore he believes that we can claim to be unique, and this should remain as a description.
· Councillor Meekins responded to Councillor Booth’s comment about Peckover Ward being incorrectly coloured on the map. He assumed that because he was still an independent councillor.at the period that these accounts covered, the figure of 9 independent councillors should be amended to 10. Mark Saunders said he would ensure both the number of independent councillors and the map colour were correct.
· Councillor Booth said he believes the cash reserve has gone up by approximately £10m and asked if that is the figure we held on 31March or was it a case of having that much more in the bank. Mark Saunders explained that was the position on 31 March, but it is because of grants received from the Government which are not yet spent. He explained that we receive the monies in advance before they are then paid out. We also received substantial amounts of capital funding from the Government for various schemes which we receive before the year end that we will be paying out in this year and the next and this we have to show as a reserve until such time as we spend it.
Members AGREED to note the contents of the draft Statement of Accounts for the financial year ended 21 March 2021.