Burnham council admits accounting errors

Burnham and Highbridge Town Council has admitted it failed to follow proper financial practices when recording its accounts last year, after an audit raised several concerns.

A report published by the Internal Audit for Local Councils (IAC) found that the council had not followed proper procedures when recording its annual return.

The report said the town council was required to include the income, expenditure and reserves of the Joint Burial Committee (JBC), which it participates in with a neighbouring council, ‘due to a change in the Practitioners Guide’, which sets out Proper Practices.

The council had two internal audit visits during the 2017-18 financial year.

The first took place on February 1. The council was visited again on May 8, 2018.

The IAC report stated: “Subsequent to the interim visit, on February 19, a report was issued to the council, which recommended, as a high priority, that the council should contact the external accountants to clarify how they intend to deal with these new arrangements.

“This should be agreed prior to the year-end closedown to avoid any potential audit issues at year-end.”

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However, when the auditors returned in May, they found that 100 per cent of the income and expenditure of the JBC had been included in the council’s accounts rather than just the council’s share, as required by the new guidelines.

Sam Winter, Burnham and Highbridge Town Council clerk, said: “The matter has been discussed by the policy and finance committee, and members are fully aware of the issues that arose in the previous financial year resulting in an error in the accounting statements and the subsequent adverse comments made by the council’s internal auditor.

“The finances of the council are now administered by a dedicated responsible financial officer, and the council has recently employed a qualified town clerk.

“The new councillors elected in May will be invited to attend induction training, which will include training on the council’s system of internal control and proper practices relating to how the council regulates and controls its accounting procedures.”