Oldham Council – the fastest public body to close its final accounts last year – has again beaten its own benchmark-setting yardstick in this field.
Final Accounts for 2014/5 were approved on May 19 at the Audit Committee – seven days faster than last year when the local authority was hailed as the quickest local government body to publish its accounts in half a century.
Draft accounts were given to external auditors this time on April 14, the fastest in the country, and three days faster than last year.
The key focus in preparing the accounts, however, is not speed – it is their quality and accuracy that is absolutely essential to future financial planning and prudence for the organisation and taxpayers.
In their report Grant Thornton, external auditors, said “the draft accounts and working papers were of a high quality” and “the prompt production of the draft financial statements enabled the members of the Audit Committee sufficient time to review the statements and ask challenging and pertinent questions” and “finance staff responded promptly to all audit queries, in line with agreed protocols, contributing to the prompt completion of the audit”.
Crucially, the auditors’ ‘value for money’ assessment also gave Oldham Council its best-ever rating with every aspect assessed as ‘Green’ including – for the first time – borrowing.
That means Oldham Council is now in its strongest-ever position in all aspects of demonstrating proper arrangements are in place to ensure financial resilience and in challenging how to achieve best economy, efficiency and effectiveness.
Councillor Abdul Jabbar, Cabinet Member for Finance and HR, said: “Our Finance team’s reputation in this area is unmatched within the public sector in recent years and we set out each time to improve on the previous year.”
“These are our best-ever set of accounts in terms of their accuracy and that gives our Council Taxpayers assurance that we have effective arrangements in place to manage the public purse with a level of scrutiny that also confirms we are getting value for their money.
“In an era when the challenge of balancing our books becomes more difficult each year it is to the great credit of our Finance team that they continue to raise the bar and work tirelessly to deliver accounts that aren’t just speedy but probably unparalleled in terms of their accuracy.”