Finances at South Somerset District Council are secure as Transformation continues

The finances at South Somerset District Council (SSDC) have been given a clean bill of health as it moves through one of the most ambitious transformations in its history.

Independent auditor Grant Thornton UK has completed its audit of SSDC and concluded that it has "put in place proper arrangements to secure economy, efficiency and effectiveness in its use of resources".

It comes as the Council moves ahead with its Transformation programme to make SSDC fit for the future and ensure it can deliver for its communities with no cuts to services.

An audit is the review of an organisation's financial statements. It is carried out by a qualified, independent person who gives an opinion on whether those statements have been prepared in accordance with the specified requirements.

It is an essential tool for giving assurance that bodies are spending public money efficiently and effectively. And that is exactly what SSDC is doing.

In its report, Grant Thornton said: "We are satisfied that in all significant respects, SSDC put in place proper arrangement to secure economy, efficiency and effectiveness in its use of resources for the year ending 31 March, 2018."

The report was presented to the SSDC's Audit committee earlier this month and recognised that this good work was being achieved in the first full year of the Transformation programme which is designed to deliver savings while maintaining excellent service to our communities.

Grant Thornton noted that it will continue to monitor the Transformation programme to ensure risks are appropriately managed alongside monitoring the council's bold income generation plan.

The Council is currently operating in a complex financial climate, where between 2018 and 2022, it needs to deliver savings rising to £6 million per year. This is in addition to having cuts its costs by £12 million per year since 2010.

SSDC has sustained a 70 per cent reduction in its Government grant funding since 2010 and further reductions are likely in the future whilst demand for and costs of many services continues to rise.

In order to achieve these savings without cutting services - like our planning service, the way we deliver benefits, our play parks and beautiful public spaces like Yeovil Country Park and Chard Reservoir - it was decided that change was needed. SSDC has been rethinking the way it delivers services so that our staff and new website can provide everything you need as effectively as possible and deliver priority projects such as Yeovil Refresh and Chard Regeneration.

Our aim for Transformation is to build a council that works as one team, is ambitious for South Somerset and the communities we serve, and is financially secure. To do this we will be a modern and efficient organisation that is:

  • Great to work for
  • Excellent to work with
  • Leading the way in local government
  • Delivering a new commercial approach
  • Focussed on delivering for our communities

What this means for our services and customers is we will:

  • Get more customers online and tackle more issues at the first point of contact
  • Have 24/7 online access for our customers
  • Continue to ensure that customers - particularly those who cannot access digital services - receive face to face help when they need it, at a place and time convenient to them
  • To develop a flexible workforce and create a new council structure based on customer needs.

SSDC's portfolio holder for finance Peter Seib said: "A clean audit is always welcome, especially as the Council is part-way through restructuring. The Council's staff were under pressure last year, but they still found time to attend to details, including accurate accounts.

"The Auditors will be keeping an even closer eye on us this year as we change to new ways of working and move to generate commercial income.

"This is the taxpayer's money we're responsible for and the Council's focus is getting the best value out of it and being able to tell you how it was spent. I'm pleased the Auditors have said we achieved that last year."

SSDC's Deputy Leader and portfolio holder for Transformation Jo Roundell Greene said: "We have taken some very bold decisions as part of Transformation as we adapt to become a more modern council.

"That we have been able to achieve this with a balanced and secure budget which will allow us to invest in South Somerset's future is an outstanding achievement. It is a credit to our hard-working staff that we are in this position as we develop an effective, highly skilled council that is better able to deal with the needs of the 21st century."