Audit changes saves £100,000

Christopher Akers-Belcher
Christopher Akers-Belcher

CHANGES to the way a council’s finances are audited have helped save more than £100,000, to the delight of councillors.

Hartlepool Borough Council’s accounts are scrutinised every year to ensure the books are balanced and payments are accurate and genuine.

In the past, that work has been carried out by the Audit Commission. But after a shake-up of the system it was out-sourced and a private firm, called Mazars, is now doing the work.

In 2011-12 the Audit Commission billed the local authority £240,300 for the audit work and a further £45,000 for the certification process, which confirms that the accounts are balanced and accurate.

But for this financial year, 2012-13, the bill has been slashed to £144,180 for the audit process and £24,500 for the certification.

Councillors sitting on Hartlepool Borough Council’s audit committee declared that they are delighted with the annual saving, which they say will help protect frontline services in the future.

It comes as the council needs to save about £20m from its £90m budget over the next four years.

Labour group leader Christopher Akers-Belcher, chairman of the audit committee, said the work is being carried out by the same staff, but they have been transferred from the Audit Commission to Mazars, an international firm.

Coun Akers-Belcher said: “Mazars are offering a reduced fee which they are able to do because they have the economies of scale, being such a big firm.

“We had already written the saving into the budget because we knew that it was coming.

“At a time when we are making such savage cuts, it is very welcome to be able to make a saving of more than £100,000, year on year.

“That is a huge saving and will help protect frontline services in the future.”

He added: “It is the same people carrying out the audit, which ensures that the payments made by the council are accurate and genuine, but we are now just getting it cheaper.”

Conservative group leader Ray Wells said: “I am delighted that the private company is delivering such massive savings.”

Back in March 2012, the Audit Commission confirmed the award of five-year contracts to four firms to audit the country’s 9,800 smaller local public bodies. Mazars was awarded the contract for the North-East and North Yorkshire.