Agenda for Audit, Standards and Governance Committee on Thursday 21st January 2021, 6.00 p.m.

Agenda and minutes

Virtual Meeting - Teams, Audit, Standards and Governance Committee - Thursday 21st January 2021 6.00 p.m.

Venue: Virtual Meeting - Teams

Contact: Joanne Gresham 

Media

Items
No. Item

35/20

Apologies for Absence and Named Substitutes

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillor C. Spencer and Mr. J. Cypher.

 

The Chairman noted the change of Committee membership, as agreed at the Council meeting held on 20th January 2021 and took the opportunity to thank Councillor S. Baxter and Councillor S. Hession for their contribution to the Committee. He also welcomed Councillor R. Jenkins and Councillor M. Middleton as new members.

 

36/20

Declarations of Interest and Whipping Arrangements

To invite Councillors to declare any Disclosable Pecuniary interests or Other Disclosable Interests they may have in items on the agenda, and to confirm the nature of those interests.

 

 

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest nor of any whipping arrangements.

 

37/20

To confirm the accuracy of the minutes of the Audit, Standards and Governance Committee meeting held on 24th November 2020 pdf icon PDF 232 KB

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting of the Audit, Standards and Governance Committee held on 24th November 2020 were submitted.  

 

Councillor P. Whittaker queried what the exact date would be for consideration of the item in respect of the Tree Protection Orders (TPOs) at full Council. The previous minutes stated that the item would be due for consideration at a full Council meeting in early 2021. The Democratic Officer present undertook to find out and report back to Members in due course.

 

RESOLVED that the minutes of the Audit, Standards and Governance Committee meeting held on 24th November 2020 be approved as a correct record.

38/20

Standards Regime - Monitoring Officers' Report pdf icon PDF 220 KB

Minutes:

The Principal Solicitor presented the report which covered activity since the last meeting.  It was reported that there were currently two outstanding complaints, one at Parish and one at District level. It was reported that these complaints were being dealt with by the Monitoring Officer and details would be reported back in due course.

 

Members were advised that the Model Code of Conduct had recently been published. The Principal Solicitor advised Members that a report would be bought before Members at the next Committee meeting for comment. It was confirmed to Members that there was a countywide Model Code of Conduct but that that tweaks could be made at a local level, if required.

 

The Chairman queried whether arrangements had been confirmed regarding Local Government meetings during the continuation of the pandemic. Officers advised that there had been no further updates in respect of this and it was confirmed that Members would be informed once any further information had been received.

 

RESOLVED that the Monitoring Officers' Report be noted.

 

39/20

Grant Thornton - Interim Audit Findings Report pdf icon PDF 198 KB

(Report to follow).

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Engagement Lead, Grant Thornton presented the Grant Thornton Interim Audit Findings Report and in doing so highlighted the following to Members:

 

·         It had been hoped that the final version of the Audit would be presented at the meeting, however there had been a delay and items were still outstanding for the Audit and that this was an interim report. It was confirmed that this meant that there was still further work to be carried before an Audit opinion could be provided. The remaining work had been identified and regular meetings were taking place with relevant officers and extra resource had been provided from both Grant Thornton and the Council in order to satisfactorily complete the Audit as soon as possible. Grant Thornton were pleased with the amount of work and support received from officers who had participated in the Audit. 

·         The Value for Money conclusion was reported to Members who were advised that the Council was in a good financial position but that it was important to still be cautious in the future. It was noted that there were potential longer-term gaps that needed to be monitored closely and that the use of financial reserves was not sustainable in the long term. Members were advised that the impact of Covid-19 was still unknown, and challenges were still being faced and it was important that savings in priority and non-priority areas were identified for the future. It was proposed that an unqualified Value for Money opinion would be offered for the financial year 2019-2020.

 

The Chairman invited the Head of Finance and Customer Services to comment on the report and in doing so thanked Grant Thornton for all of their work and additional resources that had been provided.

 

Some Members were concerned that officers had not been able to provide floor areas in order to provide an accurate valuation for land and buildings. It was clarified that the external valuers that had been procured to carry out work in this area had been exceptional and were undertaking a further project using software to provide floor areas of all Council land and buildings. It was confirmed that this was information that had not been required as part of the Audit in previous years and was part of the increased audit expectations. Members were assured that this work was being prioritised to ensure that the same issues would not be encountered in future years. The Engagement Lead, Grant Thornton advised the Committee that this request for additional information driven by the increased audit expectations could possibly impact the fees charged for the Audit.

 

The Engagement Lead, Grant Thornton explained to Members that the requirements for Value for Money were set out by the National Audit Office and considered the arrangements that were in place to ensure Value for Money and that individual contracts or Democratic decisions would not need to be specifically considered unless it was a key contract for the Council that perhaps had not delivered what was expected. As part  ...  view the full minutes text for item 39/20

40/20

Internal Audit Monitoring Report pdf icon PDF 629 KB

Minutes:

The Head of the Worcestershire Internal Audit Shared Service presented the Internal Audit Monitoring Report to Members and explained that this was the regular update report that was presented to the Committee and summarised the reviews and progress made in respect of the Audit Plan since the last Committee meeting.

 

During the presentation the following was highlighted for Members’ attention:

 

·         Since the last meeting the Markets Audit had been finalised and the Agency and Consultants Audit had been presented to the Corporate Management Team. In addition to this, a further four reports had been reviewed and two had been cleared. This was evidence of the continued progress being made. It was noted that a High Priority recommendation had been reported as part of the Markets Audit and further information was to be provided imminently from officers to update whether the recommendation had been satisfied.

·         The Compliments and Complaints Audit had been undertaken, and it was reported that the progress so far had been good. The Head of the Worcestershire Internal Audit Shared Service advised that further updates for this Audit would be provided to the Committee in due course. Any audits that had not been undertaken would be rolled forward to the new Internal Audit Plan which was due to come before the Committee in March 2021.

·         The Audit Improvement Plan continued to be implemented and indicated the development with the Internal Audit Shared Service.

·         The Internal Audit Plan had to be flexible during the previous 12 months, due to Covid-19. However, the number of audit days were progressing, and reporting was on track. It was clarified to Members that resource was balanced across the Shared Service and adjustments were made accordingly when billing for Q4.

·         In respect of the National Fraud Initiative, the deadline at the end of December 2020 had been met and that the uploading of information for Single Person Benefits and Elections was due at the end of January 2021.

 

RESOLVED that the Internal Audit Monitoring Report be noted.

 

 

 

41/20

Benefits and Compliance Update pdf icon PDF 236 KB

(Report to follow).

 

Minutes:

The Head of Finance and Customer Services provided the update in respect of Benefits and Compliance. Members were informed that there was a Compliance Team that carried out the following investigation work:

 

·         Investigation of Council Tax Support claims

·         Verification of HB claims

·         Processing of Housing Benefit Matching Service (HBMS) referrals

·         National Fraud Initiative (NFI) data matching

·         Police requests for information / liaison

·         Support to DWP in respect of Housing Benefit fraud cases

 

It was reported that the team had recovered £2.1million during the previous year. However, it was noted that not all of the funds would be received back directly to Bromsgrove District Council. Members were advised that a project was being undertaken to investigate the Council Tax discounts received by residents and it was hoped that this would provide an income stream in the future.

 

RESOLVED that the Benefits and Compliance Update be noted.

 

42/20

Risk Register Update - Verbal Update

Minutes:

The Head of Finance and Customer Services provided a verbal update regarding the Risk Register. In doing so, it was reported that there had not been significant changes since the previous meeting of the Committee. It was clarified that the arrangements for leaving the European Union had been agreed since the last meeting of the Committee and the Risk Register updated accordingly. Officers advised that plans were being implemented to provide support to any businesses and residents who might be affected by the new arrangements.

 

RESOLVED that the Risk Register Update be noted.

 

 

43/20

Risk Champion - Verbal Update Report (Councillor K. Van Der Plank)

Minutes:

Councillor K. Van der Plank, as the Committee’s Risk Champion, presented her most recent report regarding the Outcome of Motions & Written Questions that had been brought to Full Council meetings during the previous 12 months.

 

It was clarified by Councillor. K. Van Der Plank that it was not a formal audit and was undertaken to give a quick insight in an area that Members may be unfamiliar with.

 

It was observed during the preparation of the report that there was some confusion regarding the responsibility of following-up on Motions and Questions and it was clarified that it was the responsibility of the Member who brought the Motion or Question to follow up on the outcome and any associated actions.

 

Councillor K. Van Der Plank outlined her plan for the next meeting of the Committee and hoped to provide a summary of her role as Risk Champion over the previous two years in readiness for the next Risk Champion.

 

The Chairman thanked Councillor K. Van Der Plank for all of her work in the role of Risk Champion and that the work she had undertaken was invaluable and had been expertly carried out.

 

The Democratic Services Officer clarified that the written report that had been circulated by Councillor K. Van Der Plank prior to the meeting would be provided as an appendix to the minutes of this meeting.

 

RESOLVED that the Risk Champion update be noted.

 

44/20

Audit, Standards and Governance Committee Work Programme pdf icon PDF 116 KB

Minutes:

The Democratic Services Officer undertook to update the work programme to ensure that all items were considered at the appropriate time and to provide an amended version at the next meeting of the Committee.

 

RESOLVED that the Committee work programme be noted.

 

Appendix pdf icon PDF 832 KB