Audit Committee. Agenda Item: Ward: Portfolio: All Corporate Finance. Paul Deal Corporate Financial Advisor. Date: 22 nd September 2015 FROM:

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1 Audit Committee Agenda Item: FROM: Ward: Portfolio: Paul Deal Corporate Financial Advisor All Corporate Finance Date: 22 nd September 2015 SUBJECT: Summary: Financial Assessment of Mendip District Council This report informs the Committee of the S151 Officer s financial assessment of the Council, outlining whether it is a going concern based on the Statement of Accounts for 2014/15. The Audit Committee is asked to note: Recommendation: The contents of this report and the conclusions reached through the financial assessment of the draft Statement of Accounts for 2014/15. Direct and/or indirect impact on service delivery to our customers and communities: Financial Implications: Risk Assessment and Adverse impact on Corporate Actions: Scrutiny Recommendation (if any) The concept of a going concern assumes that the authority is able to continue to operate and provide its functions and services for the foreseeable future. There are no financial implications arising from this report. Failure to manage both our risks and/or opportunities effectively means that the council is exposed to a number of risks, many of which may have a financial impact. These risks are assessed and mitigating actions developed where required. Not applicable. 1

2 INTRODUCTION The consideration of the assessment is included within the remit of the Audit Committee under its terms of reference as follows: To scrutinise the Council s financial and non-financial performance, particularly in relation to the Council s exposure to risk and the strength of the control environment. Indeed, one the main functions of the committee as laid out in the terms of reference is: To review and approve the annual Statement of Accounts. This report supports that review. This assessment will be undertaken annually in the course of preparing the Council s financial statements for each year. BACKGROUND The concept of a going concern assumes that an authority, its functions and services will continue in operational existence for the foreseeable future. This assumption underpins the accounts drawn up under the Local Authority Code of Accounting Practice and is made because local authorities carry out functions essential to the local community and are themselves revenue-raising bodies (with limits on their revenueraising powers arising only at the discretion of central government). If an authority were in financial difficulty, the prospects are thus that alternative arrangements might be made by central government either for the continuation of the services it provides or for assistance with the recovery of a deficit over more than one financial year. Where the going concern concept is not the case, particular care would be needed in the valuation of assets, as inventories and property, plant and equipment may not be realisable at their book values and provisions may be needed for closure costs or redundancies. An inability to apply the going concern concept would potentially have a fundamental impact on the financial statements. Given the significant reduction in funding for local government in recent years and the potential threat this poses to the ongoing viability of councils as a consequence, External Auditors are placing a greater emphasis on local authorities undertaking an assessment of the going concern basis on their financial statements. In response this report sets out my view as S151 Officer of the financial position of Mendip District Council. THE FINANCIAL ASSESSMENT As with all principal local authorities, the Council is required to compile its Statement of Accounts in accordance with the Code of Practice on Local Authority Accounting for 2014/15 (hereafter referred to as the Code) as published by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA). In accordance with the Code, the Council s Statement of Accounts is prepared assuming that the Council will continue to operate for the foreseeable future and that it is able to do so within the current and anticipated resources available. The main factors which underpin this assessment are: 2

3 The Council s Current Financial Position (Revenue) A gross under spend for 2014/15 of 1.245m was reported to Cabinet in June This was due mainly from additional income generated. However, Services requested a number of carry forward requests against this under spend to assist with their committeemen s in 2015/16. The value of these exceeded the under spend and therefore created a minor over spend ( 159k) and therefore a small draw of General Reserves. As at the 31st March 2015, the Council held revenue reserves of 5.181m for specific purposes and 2.156m of uncommitted revenue balances. In addition, a small ( 100k) contingency is built into the base budget to help mitigate financial risks. These resources should be viewed against my estimated requirement to retain a minimum of 1.5m to meet unforeseen financial risks. Reserves therefore remain slightly higher than required for this purpose. A review of the reserves position is carried out and reported to Cabinet on a quarterly basis. The 2015/16 budget does not utilise balances and reserves for on-going expenditure. For 2015/16, the Council set a balanced revenue budget that maintains and even enhances the services provided by this Council. The budget included freezing Council Tax for a 6 th successive year and 1.489m of savings. These savings has been achieved through the innovative approach taken for service delivery, particularly in our leisure service which will deliver significant savings over the first 5-years of the new partnership with Fusion Lifestyle. The realignment of New Homes Bonus funding also relieves the pressure on frontline services, without compromising the local investment benefit it provides through the Local Legacy Funding. The Quarter 1 Budget Monitoring report recorded the budget savings as deliverable and posing no threat to the budget. That report projected the authority to have a minor over spend at year end of 4k. The Council s Projected Financial Position (Revenue) In October 2014, I reported to Cabinet a 4.8m funding shortfall across the 5-year financial planning horizon 2015/ /20. In setting the 2015/16 budget, decisions taken reduced that shortfall to less than 1.4m over the remaining 4-years. This is a significant improvement and an enormous step towards being financially self-sufficient. Plans to resolve the remaining 1.4m shortfall are now well underway with initial proposals identified for the full value. These will continue to be developed and brought to cabinet for approval at the appropriate times. Some of these proposals have a long lead time and implementation dates later in the planning timeframe. Therefore a Budget Smoothing Reserve has been created. This will enable the authority to smooth the impact on the Council Tax payer by drawing down in the early years (if required) and replenishing in later years once savings are realisable. The Council s Current and Projected Financial Position (Capital) Details of the Capital Outturn for 2014/15 were also reported to Cabinet in June. The report highlighted that gross spend was 3.6m compared to a revised budget of 2.7m. 3

4 The overspend largely related to the ambitious Shape Mendip project whose budget varied throughout its life as agreed by the Sponsorship board in response to the focus on long term savings and emerging opportunities. Most of the additional work was not included in the original scope but came about as a result of the success of the project, attracting more partners and thereby further enhancing the offering whilst having the potential to increase our income stream. The variance has been funded through a mix of additional revenue and capital contributions. The authority holds minimal capital reserves and is currently funding capital investment through internal borrowing ; finance provided by using the cash balances of the Council. Currently interest rates payable on an external loan exceed that earned on deposits. This is however a short term measure given the limited levels of reserves held. We will therefore need to borrow externally to fund future capital programme at some point. This approach requires a much more active approach to treasury management; rather than deciding at the beginning of the year how much we need to borrow and then automatically borrowing it during the year, we will need to borrow when we can get best value in terms of interest rates. The revenue implications are accounted for as part of the budgeting process, through the Mimimum Revenue Provision. The scope for realising capital receipts to finance capital expenditure is limited but is being explored. The Council s Balance Sheet as at 31st March 2015 A financial assessment of the draft Statement of Accounts for 2014/15 includes reference to the Council s balance sheet as at 31 st March Review of debts owed to the Council; The council has minimal external debt ( 182k), all of which related to loans undertaken before An assessment of the Council s net worth; The authority s net assets amounted to m. This is due to the inclusion of the pension scheme liability of m. Contributions to the pension scheme have been increasing to meet this liability over the longer term. Excluding the pension liability, the current net worth is m. Both the Current Ratio 1 and Acid Test 2 are favourable (1.57 and 1.38 respectively). The adequacy of risk-assessed provisions for doubtful debts; At 31 March 2015, the council had a sundry debtor balance of 1.275m. A review of significant balances suggested that an impairment of doubtful debts of 3% ( 35k) was appropriate. The range of reserves set aside to help manage expenditure Reported under current revenue position above. An adequate risk-assessed working balance to meet unforeseen expenditure Reported under current revenue position above. 1 (current assets / current liabilities) 2 (current assets stock / current liabilities) 4

5 The Council s Cash Flow As at the 31 st March 2014 the Council held 5.59m in externally managed investments. The return on this portfolio was lower than anticipated and therefore the cash balances were withdrawn and reinvested through our internal treasury management function (managed by Capita). This decision also reduced the fees associated with placing investments. Therefore, at year end, only 1.656m remains externally managed and is invested for longer than one year m is held in cash or cash equivalents and managed by Capita and is accessible within three months. This strategy reflects the advice given by our treasury advisers Capita Asset Services, but is currently being reviewed in order to generate additional income. The Council s Governance Arrangements The Annual Governance Statement has been reviewed taking into account external and internal audit reviews and feedback from each Corporate Manager. It includes a review of the effectiveness of the Council s governance arrangements and concludes that the existing arrangements remain fit for purposes and help provide reasonable assurance of their effectiveness. The External Regulatory and Control Environment As a principal local authority the Council has to operate within a highly legislated and controlled environment. An example of this is the requirement for a balanced budget each year combined with the legal requirement for Council to have regard to consideration of such matters as the Robustness of Budget Estimates and the Adequacy Of Reserves. In addition to the legal framework and central government control there are other factors such as the role undertaken by External Audit as well as the statutory requirement in some cases for compliance with best practice and guidance published by CIPFA and other relevant bodies. CONCLUSIONS It is considered that having regard to the Council s arrangements and such factors as highlighted in this report that the Council remains a going concern. RECOMMENDATION The Audit Committee is asked to note: The contents of this report and the conclusions reached through the financial assessment of the draft Statement of Accounts for 2014/15. Contact Officer: Paul Deal Corporate Financial Advisor (S151 Officer) Ext No: 405 Background Papers: 2014/15 Draft Statement of Accounts 2014/15 Outturn Report 5

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