Steve Freer, PSAA’s Chair, spoke to more than 350 delegates at the virtual LGA Finance Conference on Tuesday, 12 January. The Conference was particularly well-timed coming so early in the New Year after MHCLG had published its initial response to the Redmond Review on 17 December.
PSAA welcomes that MHCLG identified a raft of recommendations that it is keen to support and on which further work can now proceed at pace. MHCLG has promised a further announcement in the Spring which will hopefully enable more progress to be made. Ultimately, a carefully designed package of measures is required to enable the local audit system to be strengthened, made more resilient and placed on a more sustainable footing.
At the Conference, Steve commented on MHCLG’s position on Sir Tony Redmond’s principal recommendation to achieve stronger system leadership, the creation of a new Office of Local Audit and Regulation which would bring together a range of functions currently carried out by the NAO, FRC, ICAEW and PSAA.
“At the evidence gathering stage at the beginning of the Redmond Review PSAA outlined its fears that a structural solution of this sort – inevitably requiring primary legislation – would potentially lead to unhelpful delay and distraction at a time when neither can be afforded.”
“The bottom line seems to be that the Government accepts the need for stronger system leadership but wants if possible, to find another way of delivering it.”
In working towards a further announcement in Spring, MHCLG has outlined its intention to work closely with key partners to develop a better, more resilient system.
Steve told delegates:
“In the circumstances, I think that is the right approach. Not only do we need the ideas of organisations like the NAO, FRC, CIPFA, ICAEW, LGA and PSAA – not to mention audited bodies and audit suppliers – but, if we are to fix local audit, we also need these players to buy-in to an agreed solution which commands confidence. Remember too that we need to work with Health colleagues and find a joined-up solution which works for both sectors.”
He highlighted some of the key challenges which need to be tackled including “a $64,000 question: how can local audit be made more attractive to audit firms to ensure the continued involvement of current participants in the market and to encourage new entrants in the future?”
Tony Crawley, PSAA’s Chief Executive, added:
“We very much welcome the opportunity to work closely with officials and other stakeholders to find the best way forward. None of us can fix the system single-handedly, but everyone can make an important contribution to finding the answers and making the urgent improvements required.”