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'Weaknesses' identified in council's finances following audit

An auditor discussed ‘weaknesses’ in the Royal Borough’s financial governance at a meeting on Monday.

Deloitte presented its statement of accounts for the council, including pensions, at the corporate overview and scrutiny panel at Maidenhead Town Hall on Monday.

Presenting its findings, Deloitte’s Aron Kleiman said ‘weaknesses were identified’ in work around budget, capital plans and the medium term financial plan.

It follows a damning report from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA), leaked in September, which criticised the borough’s financial management and was helped inform the audit.

Overall, Deloitte's findings mirrored that of the council’s annual governance statement (AGS), which is intended to demonstrate correct governance mechanisms are in place and identifies areas for improvement.

The AGS presented 11 actions points to work on, which panel members will be updated on regularly.

Mr Kleiman said: “With the exception of the matters reported, we are satisfied that in significant respects they [the council] have put in place proper arrangements.”

But, speaking about financial resilience, sustainability and the council’s budget overspend, he added: “That gives an indication that there are weaknesses in arrangements that form part of the exception in our conclusion.”

Cllr Lynne Jones (OWRA, Old Windsor) said the weakness in budget monitoring and the medium term plan are things she has bought up at scrutiny panels ‘for four years at least’.

She added: “Overview and scrutiny need to get better with actually following through comments from overview and scrutiny and getting answers to them, because if they had we wouldn’t be where we are now and I would say that none of my comments actually ever went through to cabinet.”

Cllr Simon Werner (Lib Dem, Pinkneys Green) added: “I was actually laughed at for suggesting that there might be some problems with the budget and it all turns out to be true.”

Deloitte also recommended adjustments to the Royal County of Berkshire Pension Fund (RCBPF).

The adjustments, worth approximately £74.5million, are due to two valuation issues.

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