Cheshire East Council – Report into historical issues provides learning for the wider local public services sector

18 January 2023

Cheshire East Council has published a report, provided by external auditors Grant Thornton, which provides details about the events, circumstances and organisational improvement following concerns raised about procurement with a local company in 2015.

The report recognises that the council has, over the last seven years, fully acknowledged these historical issues and undertaken extensive work to make significant improvements.  

The external auditors, Grant Thornton, determined that this report should be published as a public interest report, so that the public is appraised of the events and assured about the council’s successful track record in addressing these issues, and that other councils can learn from the report’s findings.

The external auditor’s work to produce the report was delayed for a number of years due to a police investigation between 2015 and 2020. That investigation determined there was insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction. The external auditor’s opinion is that public reporting and understanding about these historical issues to date has been limited because of the restrictions in place during that investigation. 

Publication of this report now provides a detailed account of the events and circumstances relating to the significant concerns raised at the time and the council’s successful work to improve culture and governance arrangements. It also concludes Grant Thornton’s audit work in relation to the relevant years of account and certificates of completion will now be issued for the council’s accounts for 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2017/18.

While the report does not make any recommendations for any specific remedial action to be taken, and acknowledges the council’s successful track record in dealing with the issues set out, it does make three recommendations to the council:

  • The first recommendation is that the council should carefully consider the report, noting the historical events and to give full and proper consideration to them; 
  • The second recommendation relates to the continuing internal audit assurance work in relation to land transactions;
  • The third recommendation is for the council to discuss the report with the current auditors and identify with the current external auditors any areas which may require consideration.  

The report will be discussed at a special meeting of Cheshire East Council (agenda and covering report to be issued shortly).

Dr Lorraine O’Donnell, chief executive of Cheshire East Council said: “In the years since the events set out in this report, there have been many changes to governance, leadership, processes and culture at the council. The report acknowledges these improvements and makes no recommendations for the council for any further remedial action to address the historical failings. It provides assurance that the council has done a great deal to move on from the period in question.

“The report focuses on the impact of an individual member’s behaviour and influence, which then led to wider impacts on governance and decision making.

“The report provides further information about the events in 2015. It also provides reassurance regarding the significant improvements made by the council and our ongoing commitment to openness and transparency.”  

Read the public interest report online.