The Committee received a joint report of the Chamberlain and Executive Director Environment providing the Trustee’s Annual Report and Financial Statements for the Year ended 31 March 2021 for Epping Forest.
The Chairman highlighted that there were reports were on the agenda relating to the Commons strategies and he referred to his previous comments that he did not consider the way in which financial reporting was produced for this collection of charities was sufficient to allow for rigorous challenge as delegated trustees of the City Corporation.
The Chairman added how he was pleased to report that there had been some good progress on this with the Chamberlain appointing an individual with charitable expertise in financial accounting and dedicating them to Open Spaces initially to make sure there is standardised financial reporting at each meeting going forward. The Chairman referred to there being some errors within the report that he had picked up on and would reference to Audit and Risk Management Committee, with a Member referring to similar errors picked up in reporting of Markets Board.
A Member highlighted a need for ongoing expertise and of taking a long-term view on financial reporting and questioned how this would be achieved through appointing someone on a 12 month contract. The Chairman responded confirming there was certainly a desire to improve the expertise long term, but on occasions there was a benefit in having someone senior come in for a shorter period of time to make changes needed before handing back for including as part of due process. Chamberlain’s Department had also been quite radical in responding to the Target Operating Model and it was difficult to comment on what the long term objectives were for this.
The Chairman assured the Committee that there remained an ongoing discussion, with a follow up meeting planned next week to understand the Chamberlain’s position in terms draft reporting.
The Committee Chairman concluded the discussion and stated his intention to write to the Chairman of Audit and Risk Management Committee highlighting his concerns. A Member asked for the letter to be shared with the Committee, remarking on how there were other Committees with similar issues in relation to reporting.