Folkestone & Hythe District Council, have failed to publish their draft statement of accounts for 2022/23, by the statutory deadline of 31 May, 2023. This is the second year in a row they have failed to meet the statutory deadline to publish their accounts, and the issue according to the Council is “resourcing challenges“.
They have though published the notice of delay; which didn’t happen on time last year when former s151 Charlotte Spendley was responsible. Thankfully the interim s151 officer, Lydia Morrison, (pictured) has obliged the public with the Notice of Delay in Publication of Unaudited 2022/23 Statement of Accounts
The Accounts and Audit (Amendment) Regulation 2022, came into force on 22nd July 2022. These amended regulations require the draft accounts for 2022/23, be published by the 31st May, and final audited accounts by the 30th September. These regulations also require Authorities to publish a notice on their website if they fail to publish their draft accounts by 1st August.
The public right to inspect the Council’s draft accounts for 22/23, cannot begin until such time as the unaudited draft accounts are published. This delay in preparing and finalising the Statement of Accounts for 2022/23, has been caused by the delay in publishing the 2020/21, and 2021/22 accounts. As such this has caused resourcing challenges in publishing the 2022-23, resulting in a delay to the completion of the 2022/23 draft accounts, and consequently in the commencement of the public inspection period.
One notes the accounts for the last three years, 2019/20, 2020/21 and 2021/22, have not yet been signed off with either a Certificate of completion or a Conclusion of audit. And for the last two year’s 2021/22, and 2022/23 the draft Statement of Accounts have not been published on time.
If this were a company as per the companies act, they’d be struck off for this behaviour. However, they are not, and there is no accountability for the failures highlighted above.
How can we as residents, or even Cllrs, be assured that the financial position the Council is stable? And how can we know, if in the last four years we have received value for money on the contracts the council have procured?
Simply put, neither ratepayers, or our newly elected Cllrs can have any assurance in the financial position of the Council.
Let’s not forget, the Council drew down £10m from the Public Works Loan Board in Feb 2023, due to cash flow issues. This particular £10m must be repaid by Feb 28, 2024, which is nine months away. This is a council with a £16.5m deficit, and one which wishes to borrow a further £80m to keep Otterpool Park on track. This mess is for our newly elected Cllrs to sort out, regardless of who made the mess – it was the last Tory led administration.
The two persons responsible for the accounts are:
1 – The Deputy Leader of the Council, Cllr Tim Prater (Lib Dem) who is the Cabinet Member for Finance & Governance – and a former pub landlord (pictured below left),
2 – Chair of the Audit & Governance Committee, Cllr Liz McShane (Lab) – a former Marketing Manager & Freelance writer and researcher. Cllr McShane (pictured below) joined the Labour Party in 1995. She became the Labour Party Chief Whip in Sept 2014, after she was elected as a Haringey Councillor for a term of office between 2014 & 2018.
Lets hope between them they can get the draft statement of accounts for 22/23, published, and open for public inspection to you the residents, as soon as possible, as we have the right to know they’ve looked after our money well.
The Shepway Vox Team
Journalism for the People NOT the Powerful