A retired auditor explains how councils can “push back” on auditors’ demands

“… In all of the instances I have dealt with, there have been at least two reasonable positions that could be taken, one of which involves less disruption to the draft accounts than proposed by the auditor. In such circumstances, you would expect the auditors to be finding themselves a comfortable seat on the fence, from where to take in the admirable views available on both sides. Not standing on one side throwing stones. …

… Threats of audit qualification are usually fairly empty. They rely on the auditor being able to summarise their case against the authority succinctly, definitively and with quantification in the audit report and on the matter in hand being truly material (ie, that it might influence a decision to be taken by a user of the accounts). Most of the firms will also require qualified audit reports to be approved by a senior technical panel, so they are not at the discretion of the individual auditor.

Many accountants will at this point settle for what they judge the easier option and make the changes demanded. But there can be greater advantage in pushing back, asking the auditors to:

explain why your approach is not acceptable, rather than just different from theirs

provide comprehensive technical support for any counterarguments they put
be clear that the issue might have a properly material impact.

Sometimes the view of the auditor will need to be accommodated. But on many occasions issues are resolved simply by persuading the auditor to appreciate the authority’s approach to an area where there is room for differences of opinion.

So, two key messages. Auditors: retain your independence by avoiding dogmatic demands and engaging directly with what the authority has done. Accountants: don’t believe that an argument is necessarily stronger because it comes with the promise of a clean audit opinion.”


When is a question not a question? When you ask it of Theresa May!

Ian Blackford, the SNP Westminster Leader, said it all when he quipped: “I was under the impression that this was questions to the PM.”

At PMQs this week, Theresa May failed to answer almost every question that was put to her, which leaves one wondering why this theatrical spectacle is still continued.

Asked about the worry felt by the constituents of Oxford West and Abingdon about leaving the single market and how this would affect the local economy, Theresa May decided to accuse MP Layla Moran of providing misinformation to her constituents about Brexit. May claimed that the Tories are seeking a deal that “gives us access to the single market” – not something that has been announced as part of the Government’s confusing position on Brexit, but presumably that doesn’t matter.

When quizzed on the damning UN report detailing that the UK actively discriminates against disabled people through cuts, Theresa May claimed that “those who are most in need” are receiving help, and that the support they are providing has “actually increased”. Must all be in the UN’s imagination, then – not to mention the imaginations of disability charities, my esteemed colleague James Moore, and those processing Freedom of Information requests. The fact that the DWP was told to “discriminate” against claimants with mental health conditions is obviously part of May’s utopian plan to help out those in need.

On the next question, Theresa May refused to accept that a 1 per cent pay increase for police officers and prison officers, with 2.9 per cent inflation, was in fact a real terms pay cut. She went on to say that, actually, police officers had actually enjoyed a 32 per cent increase over the past seven years.

I’m sure it will come as a shock to many police officers on the beat that they’ve “never had it better”, particularly considering over 20,000 of their jobs have been slashed (as well as there being 7,000 fewer prison officers). She then failed to guarantee that there would be no further police and prison officer cuts. Transparency really isn’t one of May’s fortes.

Corbyn continued by asking what has happened to the average person’s bank account over the past seven years, which, to her due, she did answer. May detailed that the average person is £1,000 better off due to tax allowances. I’m sure many people will be sitting at home wondering if their extra grand has gotten lost in the post.

Getting a proper answer or some form of acknowledgement that there may be an issue for even one single person in the country during a period of protracted austerity and a skydiving pound has become a rarity for Theresa May. She seems to be under the impression that she is not accountable to the people in this country, and that she can continue to hide what the Government is doing behind rhetoric while the public sit at home and nod.

Criticism is justified on both sides of the benches when it comes to the lack of discussion on Brexit. One wonders if they think by not talking about it, we will forget that it’s happening. With talks being stalled for an extra week and two major votes through Parliament this week, you would think it would be worth mentioning.

Alas, only Layla Moran got a brief word in edgeways on the subject.

During the general election, it was widely publicised that Theresa May rarely engaged with a member of the public who wasn’t a paid-up member of the Conservatives – you’d think that perhaps, after all of that criticism, she’d have changed her tune. This is how Corbyn swiped many of her votes, after all. But it appears that the Prime Minister has simply retreated further into her shell, with her fingers firmly wedged in her ears.

If Theresa May does remain in her position until 2022, then we have an awful lot of answer-free PMQs to sit through until the next general election.”


It didn’t take long for the police union to call her a liar!


Exmouth Fun Park WILL close – even though there is no developer for the site

For – 21
Against – 26
Abstain – 0

Notice of motion is not agreed – it is the end of the debate – the fun park will close.

For full summary of what residents and councillors said, see:


Diviani no confidence vote defeated – Tories stand by their man, even though he ignored them in DCC health vote

For – 18
Against – 31
Abstain – 1
shouts of shame from the public

Diviani’s statement show in photographs in the article along with councillors comments

Mayor of Seaton said:

“The stance of the closure of the hospital beds is well-known in trying to get them saved. On April 1 at a meeting, Cllr Diviani attended a meeting and was vociferous in wanting the beds to remain open.

But I don’t know what evidence that he has seen that supports the closures, particularly about supporting the care at home model.

I don’t see evidence that rapid response is working 24 hours a day.

I was disappointed with how the DCC meeting was chaired, but I couldn’t listen to Cllr Diviani as his microphone was switched off for the whole meeting.

CCG still not provided any compelling evidence about the new model”


STRATA (EDDC, Exeter, Teignbridge shared computer service) down

Owl says: that’s the drawback of shared IT services – one out all out! Have they tried turning it off and on again!

One for EDDC councillor and computer whizz Phil Twiss in charge of getting broadband to not-spots in East Devon. Now, it’s all not-spots.

now that’s going to cause a few problems…

East Devon one of three councils hit by major IT fault

East Devon District Council’s phone lines and website have gone offline after a major IT fault.

Engineers have been tasked to fix the problem.

Services offered by Teignbridge District Council and Exeter City Council have also been affected.

A spokesman for Teignbridge District Council said it was working to fix this the fault as soon as possible.

Exeter City Council said people may not be able to make online payments as a result of the network issues.

It is asking people who want to get in touch to do so through social media.”


A response to Councillor Shaw’s response to Councillor Allen’s response to Diviani’s vote at DCC!

Comment post to Councillor Shaw’s post:

“If councillors like Mike Allen want to distance themselves from Paul Diviani and regain some respect from the electorate, the first step will be to vote against him at today’s council meeting.

Any councillor voting against the motion of no confidence, then they are aligning themselves with Diviani’s anti-democratic approach of ignoring the electorate, his own council, and other councils he was supposed to represent, and they are showing everyone that they are no better than he is.

And if Mike Allen was relying on Hugo Swi[r]ne and Neil Pari[s]ah to fix the NHS issues in East Devon he was backing the wrong horse.”

Independent councillor challenges Councillor Mike Allen’s letter on Tories and NHS

Independent East Devon Alliance councillor Martin Shaw (Seaton and Colyton) makes this observation on EDDC Tory councillor Mike Allen’s attempt to distance other EDDC and DCC councillors from Leader Diviani’s actions which led to the vote of no confidence meeting at EDDC tonight.

(Assemble Knowle 5.30 pm if you wish to make your presence felt for this meeting)

“It is not credible to say that Diviani acted alone – he may not have consulted other district councils, but remember that three of the East Devon Tories on Health Scrutiny (Randall Johnson and Richard Scott as well as Diviani) voted for ditching the hospital beds, with only Twiss against and Jeff Trail absent. Even at the time of the County Council elections in May, E Devon Conservatives advocated ‘bedless hospitals’, so Mike Allen’s story doesn’t add up. If they back Diviani tonight they will be consistent with their party’s betrayal of Honiton and Seaton.”

Letter referred to in post below and above: