Council’s ‘Positive progress’ recognised in external audit

Members of The Highland Council have noted an overall positive external audit of the Council’s progress in delivering the Best Value Audit Report (BVAR) improvement plan and the positive progress on the Council’s financial position and financial management as highlighted in the external audit report.

Chair of Audit and Scrutiny Committee, Cllr Graham Mackenzie commended the report at a meeting of The Highland Council, he said: “This is a very welcome report and demonstrates significant improvement across a range of areas.”

Leader of the Council Margaret Davidson added: “This is an excellent audit report which reflects the hard work of officers and staff in driving forward improvement and delivering effective services during very difficult times.”

The Best Value Assurance Report (BVAR) of the Council was conducted by the Council’s external auditors Grant Thornton and Audit Scotland during summer - autumn 2019. The final BVAR was published by Audit Scotland in January 2020 with the Council considering the report and agreeing a BVAR Improvement Plan on 12 March 2021.

The external auditors Grant Thornton found that the Council continued to demonstrate sound financial management during a challenging financial year and improved financial performance, significantly improving the reserve position. They said: “In a year of unprecedented challenge, the Council has demonstrated good progress in addressing the recommendations of the Council’s BVAR.”

The auditors also found governance and transparency arrangements to be effective during the management of COVID-19 which were consistent with other public bodies. The Council re-established governance in a timely manner along with the establishment of a Recovery Board (now Recovery, Improvement and Transformation Board) recognising the importance of recovery activity.

They found that the Council had enhanced its performance reporting information and level of scrutiny against key strategic objectives, as well as providing transparent reporting of performance.
The external audit report also recognises the Council’s commitment made through the ‘Future Highland Strategy’ to working collaboratively with partners across a range of strategic matters.

The auditors noted that while good progress has been made further work is required to complete the Council’s BVAR Improvement Plan.

The Audit and Scrutiny Committee will receive an annual report on the external audit of the Council’s accounts and wider scope at its next meeting.

28 Oct 2021