Councillors welcome ‘positive’ review of Hartlepool Council financial management

Council bosses are doing a ‘positive’ job of managing internal finances and different departments, according to a report.

Thursday, 18th April 2019, 16:49 pm
Updated Thursday, 18th April 2019, 16:54 pm

The audit comes ahead of an external report by an outside accounting firm due later this year.

The internal audit outcome report for 2018/19 assessed the adequacy and effectiveness of the council’s internal management in different areas.

The report was presented to the Hartlepool Borough Council Audit and Governance Committee and it was noted it paints a positive picture for the council despite financial difficulties faced in recent times.

Noel Adamson, head of audit and governance, said the council had met expectations with its performance in the past year.

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He said: “I’m pleased to report we’ve had a stable year in terms of staff resources and that’s allowed us to complete a wide range of audits.

“I have reached the opinion that reliance can be placed on the adequacy and effectiveness of internal controls operating across the council in 2018/19.

“Given the constant extent of change the council continues to face, the reduction in resources and the ever increasing diverse nature of the internal audit plan this assurance opinion should be regarded as positive.

“Our performance across the course of the year has been in line with our expectations.”

Mr Adamson also presented an annual governance statement to the committee, highlighting issues it expects to be ‘significant’ in the coming year.

These included the impact of the boundary review, which will see the number of councillors increase to 36 and require a full election in May 2020.

Other issues included delivering regenerations programmes on time and in budget,  managing corporate risk areas and the delivery of the council plan, including the sustainability of services and housing growth.

Councillors on the committee commended the work finance officers are having to put in following council cuts and in times of austerity.

Coun Lesley Hamilton said: “In these times of real austerity, the demand placed on you guys [the council officers] must be really quite intense, and I suspect over the years has become even more intense, as the workforce has gotten ever smaller.

“Of course we have Brexit and I expect you guys [the council officers] will be asked to look at what kind of plan of action will be in place if we do come out, certainly with no deal.

“I can’t imagine the stress placed upon you currently.”

Chris Little, council director of finance and policy, said it was down to the team which they work with.

He said: “The support, for me personally, comes from the team who work with me, and just the fact there is teamwork. A lot of the work is underpinned by the hard work they do.

“I don’t think the basic job has changed, what’s changed is the environment we operate in.”

Nic Marko , Local Democracy Reporting Service