Agenda and draft minutes

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Contact: Sean O'Neill  01225 395090

Items
No. Item

171.

EMERGENCY EVACUATION PROCEDURE

The Chair will draw attention to the emergency evacuation procedure as set out under Note 7.

Minutes:

The Democratic Services Officer advised the meeting of the procedure.

172.

ELECTION OF VICE-CHAIR

To elect a Vice-Chair (if required) for this meeting.

Minutes:

RESOLVED that a Vice-Chair was not required on this occasion.

173.

APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE AND SUBSTITUTIONS

Minutes:

There were none.

174.

DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST

At this point in the meeting declarations of interest are received from Members in any of the agenda items under consideration at the meeting. Members are asked to indicate:

(a) The agenda item number in which they have an interest to declare.

(b) The nature of their interest.

(c) Whether their interest is a disclosable pecuniary interest or an other interest,  (as defined in Part 2, A and B of the Code of Conduct and Rules for Registration of Interests)

Any Member who needs to clarify any matters relating to the declaration of interests is recommended to seek advice from the Council’s Monitoring Officeror a member of his staff before the meeting to expedite dealing with the item during the meeting.

Minutes:

There were none.

175.

TO ANNOUNCE ANY URGENT BUSINESS AGREED BY THE CHAIR

The Chair will announce any items of urgent business.

Minutes:

There was none.

176.

ITEMS FROM THE PUBLIC - TO RECEIVE DEPUTATIONS, STATEMENTS, PETITIONS OR QUESTIONS

Minutes:

There were none.

177.

ITEMS FROM COUNCILLORS AND CO-OPTED AND ADDED MEMBERS

To deal with any petitions, statements or questions from Councillors and, where appropriate, co-opted and added Members.

Minutes:

There were none.

178.

MINUTES: 5TH DECEMBER 2017 pdf icon PDF 69 KB

Minutes:

These were approved as a correct record and signed by the Chair.

179.

EXTERNAL AUDIT UPDATE pdf icon PDF 60 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Mr Barber introduced this item.

 

Ms Morgan commented on the Grant Certification Letter issued on the 25 January 2018. Members noted that as a result of errors identified the Housing Benefit subsidy claim for 2016/17 was amended and qualified, though the financial impact of the error was relatively insignificant in relation to the total subsidy receivable. The number of errors, however, was quite high. She drew attention to the details of errors identified (agenda pages 13-14) and the recommendation that the Council should, as part of its internal quality assurance process, increase its focus or level of testing in the areas where errors had been identified.

 

A Member said that while the Council was fully prepared to accept criticism and to strive to improve its processes, he was concerned that the manner in which the information about errors was presented could create an unduly negative impression. It was a question of balance: the total extrapolated error was exceedingly small when expressed as a proportion of the total Housing Benefit subsidy claim. Public concern should not be aroused when it was not justified. Mr Barber responded that the Member had raised a very valid point, and in fact the Certification Letter stated in its fourth paragraph: “The extrapolated financial impact on the claim, which we have reported to the DWP, was relatively insignificant in relation to the total subsidy receivable”. However, the external auditors had a duty to report all Housing Benefit errors to the DWP, irrespective of their amount. Moreover the quantum and rate of error in Bath and North East Somerset was greater than he had seen elsewhere, and the direction of travel gave cause for concern, in that the number of errors had increased in successive years.

 

The Divisional Director – Business Support assured Members that the problems identified by the External Auditors were being addressed. The claims process had been reviewed, the amount of claim testing had been increased, with senior officers carrying out checks, there was now a training calendar for staff, and a quality dashboard had been introduced to ensure that improvements were made.

 

A Member said that the emphasis in the discussion had been on getting payments right from an accounting point of view. However, it should not be forgotten that it was important to get payments right in the interest of claimants, who needed these payments to get by, and did not have the flexibility in their personal budgets to be able to repay overpayments easily. It was important for them that both under- and over-payments were minimised. In response to a question from another Member, the Divisional Director – Business Support explained that overpayments made as a result of an error by the local authority could not be recovered from the claimant.

 

A Member asked whether there was any data showing how the roll out of Universal Credit was impacting on the error rates of different local authorities. Mr Barber replied that he was not aware of any. The Divisional Director –  ...  view the full minutes text for item 179.

180.

TREASURY MANAGEMENT STRATEGY pdf icon PDF 113 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Divisional Director – Business Support presented the report. She advised that there had been no major changes. The policy of funding capital expenditure from cash flow in preference to borrowing was being maintained because of continuing low interest rates on cash on deposit. Interest rates were monitored continually to ensure any borrowing was done at the best possible time. The Council was investigating the use of the CCLA Local Authorities Property Account, in which the Council would have to maintain an investment of £10m at all times.

 

RESOLVED to note:

 

1.  the actions proposed within the Treasury Management Strategy Statement (Appendix 1) to February Council and the Investment Strategy as detailed in Appendix 2 to February Council;

 

2.  the Treasury Management indicators detailed in Appendix 1.

181.

ANNUAL GOVERNANCE STATEMENT pdf icon PDF 93 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Audit Manager (Audit West) presented the report. He said that the aim of this item was to update Members and to allow them to contribute to the process. He drew attention to the diagram showing the high-level methodology used for preparing the Annual Governance Statement contained in Appendix 1, and said that he had met Divisional Directors during December and January to discuss events of 2017/18 and to consider  issues for inclusion in the Statement. The most important issue remained the financial challenge, as it had been for the previous two years. The previous day the Cabinet had received monitoring reports on the revenue and capital budgets and a paper on the 2018/19 budget, which would go forward to full Council. The current year end forecast for the 2017/18 budget was an overspend of £3.4m, with the largest overspend being in the Adult and Children portfolios. Measures are in place to mitigate the overspend, but further measures, such as use of reserves and capital receipts will be needed. In terms of savings £14.5m had to be delivered in 2017/18, of which £11.2m are on target to be achieved, but a balancing figure of £3.3m is at the moment unlikely to be achieved.

 

In terms of the 2018/19 budget there is a target of £26.8m savings, of which 61% are considered high  risk. The Operational Plan for 2018/19, which sets out the key activities and projects which the Council hopes to deliver in this period  (linked to the Corporate Strategy) had just been published.

 

The Divisional Director – Business Support said that Adult Social Services and Children’s Services had been reviewed with the aim of making them more sustainable.

 

The Audit Manager (Audit West) said that other issues to be considered for inclusion were the new Virgin Care contract, which commenced in 2017; the cancellation of the East of Bath Park and Ride; and the Modern Libraries Programme, all of which significantly impacted on the Council’s operations and resources.

 

A Member asked about the financial impact of the cancellation of the East of Bath Park and Ride, for which no assets had been created and for which he could not recall having seen a revenue reversionary notice. The Divisional Director – Business Support replied that a report on the revised capital programme had been included in the budget papers to Council. The Park and Ride Project was being replaced by a Strategic Transport Improvement Programme and some of the work done for the Park and Ride would contribute to that, though this had not been quantified yet.

 

A Member asked about the management of risks associated with the contracting out of services to companies, particularly those with very diverse businesses, such as Virgin, Capita and Carillion. The possibility of their failure was a reputational as well as a financial risk to the Council. The Audit Manager (Audit West) advised that an audit of the governance of the transfer of services to Virgin Care had recently been  ...  view the full minutes text for item 181.