Agenda and minutes

Audit, Standards and Governance Committee - Thursday 7th March 2024 6.00 p.m.

Venue: Parkside Suite - Parkside. View directions

Contact: Joanne Gresham 

No. Item


Apologies for Absence and Named Substitutes


There were no apologies for absence.



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.




There were no declarations of interest.



To confirm the accuracy of the minutes of the Audit, Standards and Governance Committee meeting held on 18th January 2024 pdf icon PDF 242 KB


The minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 18th January 2024 were submitted for Members’ consideration.


With reference to minute number 52/23, Standards Regime – Monitoring Officer’s report, it was agreed that further details should be added to the third paragraph of that minute. Specifically, this would reflect discussion at the previous meeting about the ‘flow’ of information to the Committee to ensure consistency of presentation, that the Committee asked for further training about reports due to be included on its agendas and that the Chairman had shared details of the 2-day training event he was due to attend.


Arising from minute number 56/23, Accounting Policies Report Including Update on Council’s Statement of Accounts, the Deputy Chief Executive and Section 151 Officer reported that the Head of Finance and Customer Services was due to commence employment in the first week of April.


RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 18th January 2024 be approved as a correct record subject to the addition of the following at the beginning of paragraph 3 of minute number 52/23:


“Members commented that it was important that there was a flow of appropriate and timely information to the Committee and that it was presented consistently to support them in their work. It was suggested that in addition to the pre meetings suggested above, it would also be helpful to have training to understand the purpose of the reports. The Chairman reported that he was attending a 2 day training event to improve his knowledge of the work of the Committee.”





Standards Regime - Monitoring Officer's Report pdf icon PDF 234 KB


The Principal Solicitor presented the Monitoring Officer’s report and ind doing so highlighted that there had been one new member complaint since the last meeting, which was with the Monitoring Officer for consideration. The two Parish Council complaints reported to the previous meeting were ongoing; one was with the Police and the other was likely to reach informal resolution, and both were currently being dealt with by the Monitoring Officer.


Arising from the update about the Member Development Steering Group, the Deputy Chief Executive and Section 151 Officer referred to the less formal style delivered at the recent procurement training event which appeared to have been well received, and asked whether this was an approach that Members would like to see in future. Generally, Members supported this, but suggested for specific finance training it would be helpful to see examples of reports and documents to support relating the learning to what Councillors would deal with subsequently in meetings.


RESOLVED that the Monitoring Officer’s report be noted.



Dispensations Report - Individual Member Dispensations pdf icon PDF 251 KB

Updated List of Dispensations Requested by Members pdf icon PDF 179 KB


Grant Thornton - External Audit Progress Report and Sector Update pdf icon PDF 199 KB

Additional documents:


Internal Audit - Progress Report pdf icon PDF 424 KB


The Head of Worcestershire Internal Audit Shared Service presented a report updating the Committee on progress with the work of the service for the Council.


Plan delivery to the end of January 2024 in days was 56 per cent, with 4 audits complete and 9 in progress. Delivery was currently behind profile, which was due to a number of vacancies in the team. However, the structure of the service had been reviewed and advertisements had been placed for senior auditor posts. Additional resource had been obtained for 3 months to endeavour to complete the 2023/24 plan and minimise any impact on the 2024/25 financial year.


At its last meeting, in relation to the National Fraud Initiative, the Committee had asked for that future iterations of the internal audit progress report include reporting of statistics on matches and frauds identified. The Head of Worcestershire Internal Audit Shared Service reported that the National Fraud Initiative was one element of the Council’s counter fraud, bribery and corruption framework.  Officers could bring an annual report about fraud aligned with the required publication of the Council’s fraud data which would include this information and details of proactive work undertaken by the service.


During consideration of the report the following were the main points discussed:


·       In response to a member query, the Head of Service advised that a critical review referred to a deep dive into an area of work where changes were being made and advice given. This would usually be followed up with a formal report a year after implementation.

·       How likely it was that all the planned reviews would be completed by the end of the financial year. The Head of Service responded that additional resource had been secured by extending the contract of an interim employee, and the service was seeking another employee to complete the work in the Plan. Whilst it was not unusual for some work to roll into the first couple of months of the new financial year the intention was to be able to report completion in time for inclusion in the Annual Opinion. 

·       A Member suggested that the detail in Appendix 2 of the report did not give an accurate position in terms of the stages that each audit had reached. The Head of Service responded that he was reviewing the content of the report and could amend the information around each audit to indicate the level of complexity and when it was due to be completed.

·       Further to a request for further detail relating to the GDPR review, the Head of Service would circulate a written answer to set out what this covered and when it was due to be complete.

·       The Chairman referred to the Council’s Whistleblowing Policy and how a member of the public would raise concerns since the topic was not on the Council’s website. It was responded that the Council would be updating its website shortly and the Policy was also being reviewed as part of the Council’s HR policies. It would  ...  view the full minutes text for item 66/23


Quarterly Risk Update pdf icon PDF 1 MB


Accounting Policies Report including update on Statements of Accounts pdf icon PDF 594 KB


The Accounting Policies report was presented for Members’ consideration. It was highlighted that the table at paragraph 2.6 of the report set out returns due to the Government and the Council’s achievement of these.


The biggest challenge for the Council remained the closure of the accounts for 2020/21, 2021/22 and 2022/23. The key returns which had not been achieved were the Revenue and Capital Outturn forms for 2020/21 and 2021/22 and the VAT returns. Although the Government allowed these returns to be completed based on estimates, the level of uncertainty due to the Cash Receipting issues meant these could not be completed until the External Auditors signed off the Council’s take on balances and the Council provided the draft accounts to Audit for each Council.


During consideration of the report members discussed a number of compliance items, including:


·       Plans to improve the operation of the TechOne system and the alternative systems which were used for cash receipting elsewhere in the country.

·       In response to a question, it was confirmed that the whistleblowing policy would be updated as part of the HR policies update and would be uploaded on to the new website.

·       A Member queried the monitoring arrangements for the use of procurement cards and the Deputy Chief Executive and Section 151 Officer explained the current approach where receipts were provided, which was enabling monitoring to continue to take place.

·       Reference to the increase in use of contracts under procurement was queried in terms of how it was improving financial monitoring. It was explained that access to details of contracts enabled more accurate purchase orders to be placed and paid. Committee Members asked for data from the system to illustrate how the progress referred to was being achieved.


With reference to assessing the risk appetite of the Council, it was suggested that Councillor B. McEldowney, as the Council’s Risk Champion, should be involved to discussions about this at Cabinet level. The Cabinet Member for Finance and Enabling reminded the Committee that all members were welcome to attend Cabinet meetings.


RECOMMENDED that Cabinet invites the Council’s Risk Champion to attend its meetings when risk is considered.


RESOLVED that progress on the 2020/21 audit process be noted.


Audit, Standards and Governance Committee - Annual Report 2023-24 pdf icon PDF 855 KB


The Chairman introduced the Annual Report and thanked Members for their active participation in the work of the Committee and Officers for their support.  He highlighted the desire of the Committee to appoint an Independent Member and shared feedback from a recent training event he had attended where other authorities had recruited such a member to their committees.


Arising from consideration of the report, Members referred to the decarbonisation of the council fleet training which had not yet taken place.


The Chairman referred to the frequency of meetings and, in the light of regular reports and consistent member attendance, whether they could be reduced.  Members generally supported the suggestion of reducing the number of meetings back to 5, but considered there should be an understanding that additional meetings would be held when necessary. The view was expressed that if issues remained in closing statements of accounts for the 2020/21 to 2022/23 financial years then additional meetings would be required and it was noted that the Committee’s terms of reference made provision for these to be arranged.




1)    That the Audit, Standards and Governance Committee Annual Report 2023-24 be agreed, and


2)    That the number of meetings of the Committee be reduced to 5 in the next Municipal Year, subject to additional meetings being held where necessary.



Risk Champion - Verbal Update Report (Councillor B. McEldowney)


The Council’s Risk Champion, Councillor B. McEldowney, reported that following media coverage of harassment and abuse of Councillors, he considered it would be useful to establish whether District Councillors had experienced any problems. He had discussed this with the Chief Executive who had agreed to work with him to create a questionnaire to circulate to all Councillors. The results would be used to explore offering appropriate support if required.


During consideration of this item, Members suggested that this might be extended to Parish Councils, and this suggestion was supported. The Chairman referred to training about personal safety which had been provided by the Council and suggested this might also be offered to Parish Councillors.


Councillor B. Kumar offered to share with Committee Members a copy of the bullying and harassment policy recently produced by the Parish Council on which he sat.


RESOLVED that the Risk Champion Update be noted.




Audit, Standards and Governance Committee Work Programme pdf icon PDF 197 KB


It was noted that the next meeting of the Committee was planned for 23rd May 2024 and items currently scheduled for that meeting were:


  • Standards Regime – Monitoring Officer’s Report
  • Grant Thornton - External Audit Update Report
  • Financial Compliance Report
  • Internal Audit Plan 2024-25
  • Internal Audit Annual Report and Audit Opinion 2023-24
  • Risk Champion’s Update


RESOLVED that the contents of the Committee’s work programme as reported, be noted.