Auditors' findings 'a good result' for Hartlepool's fire authority

Hartlepool's fire authority continues to manage its finances ‘prudently and sensibly’ despite facing difficult circumstances, according to audit officers.

Tuesday, 2nd March 2021, 4:48 pm
Updated Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 8:08 am
Cleveland Fire Authority Headquarters. Picture by FRANK REID
Cleveland Fire Authority Headquarters. Picture by FRANK REID

The verdict came from a representative from Mazars, a global audit and accounting group, who updated councillors on the final 2019/20 annual audit letter.

Gavin Barker, from Mazars, told the Cleveland Fire Authority Audit and Governance Committee finances have been managed very well during years of austerity, but warned the situation was not getting any easier.

He added the findings were a ‘good result for the authority’ and they achieved positive ratings in all areas.

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Mr Barker said: “We always look particularly closely in recent times at sustainability because of the years of austerity and the financial challenges that the authority faces.

“We were content with the arrangements in place, the authority continues to manage its finances prudently in difficult circumstances, and that’s our overall conclusion.”

He noted one of the continuing issues for the fire authority is how the Government currently only provides a one year funding settlement for the sector, making it difficult to manage long term.

However Mr Barker said the authority continues to manage these difficulties in a ‘prudent and sensible way’.

He said: “The difficulty for the authority, and it’s understandable in the current circumstances that we’re in this position, is that you continue to work on a one year financial settlement.

“For an organisation of your size and complexity, it’s really difficult to plan for the medium term when you just know what your funding is going to be immediately for the next year, it’s clearly a difficulty.

“Our view at the moment is that the authority continues to manage that difficult position of not having future certainty in a sort of prudent and sensible way.”

He added while the letter covers the period before the Covid-19 pandemic, their work in the current year states they have no concerns at the moment.

Mr Barker added: “The forward look is a very difficult thing to assess at the moment because there are so many challenges facing not just the authority, but the entire community, country and world in terms of the pandemic, and you’d need a crystal ball to understand what’s going to happen next.

“We have and we continue to keep up to date with officers on how you’ve managed those arrangements after March 2020 and we haven’t got any concerns about that.”

Cllr Lynn Hall, Stockton-on-Tees representative on the committee, said she was ‘delighted’ with the general verdict on the overall accounts and thanked Mazars for their work.

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