Agenda and draft minutes

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Contact: Enfys Hughes  01225 394410

Items
No. Item

72.

WELCOME AND INTRODUCTIONS

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

Minutes:

The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting by explaining that this meeting is being held under The Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panels (Coronavirus)(Flexibility of Local Authority and Police and Crime Panel Meetings) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020. The Council has agreed a protocol to cover virtual meetings and this meeting would operate in line with that protocol. The meeting has the same status and validity as a meeting held in the Guildhall.

73.

APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE AND SUBSTITUTIONS

Minutes:

There were apologies from Councillors Lucy Hodge and Andy Furse.

74.

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.

75.

TO ANNOUNCE ANY URGENT BUSINESS AGREED BY THE CHAIR

The Chair will announce any items of urgent business.

Minutes:

There was none.

76.

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

Minutes:

There were none.

77.

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.

78.

MINUTES - 4TH FEBRUARY 2021 pdf icon PDF 143 KB

Minutes:

On a motion from Councillor Brian Simmons, seconded by John Barker (Independent Member) it was

 

RESOLVED to note the minutes of the last meeting as a true and correct record.

79.

AUDIT & ASSURANCE ANNUAL REPORT 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 297 KB

Minutes:

Andy Cox presented the report, reporting on the year end position and summary of audit performance and giving the Chief Auditor Executive’s opinion on the internal control framework.  He explained, as had been agreed previously, that the number of planned audit reviews had been reduced due to unplanned work and there was likely to be further unplanned work this year.  He went on to explain the performance dashboard highlighting the impact of working from home on audit work.

 

It was reported that two audit reviews carried out during the year had be assigned a ‘Weak’ - Limited Assurance Level, one was a contract management review of the IDOX IT application and the second was Property Compliance (management of key property risks such as water, electric and gas systems, fire safety and asbestos).  This area was last audited in 2015 and that resulted in a ‘Poor’ assessment and Property Management subsequently attended the March 2016 Audit Committee meeting to explain action taken and planned.  As the 2020/21 Audit Review identified similar weaknesses in the management of Property Compliance this was highlighted early to the Council’s Chief Operating Officer (Mandy Bishop) who was taking a lead role in a broader Property Services Review. Mandy Bishop commented on the findings of the audit review and actions being taken to correct the governance/system weakness.  She stated that following the 2015 audit there had already been work on compliance (asbestos, legionella, fire, gas safety) and a significant amount of work to establish frameworks for maintenance and construction.  Following the 20/21 Audit, terms of reference for the Health, Safety and Well-being Committee had been redrafted, compliance duties were being reviewed, building surveys are planned and work to address data input weaknesses and systems had commenced.  She stated Alan McCarthy (Interim Head of Property Transformation) had been appointed to assist with implementing the action plan and would be working closely with the Council’s Section 151 Officer, Audit Team and Corporate Health and Safety Manager.  She commented on the high-risk areas (governance, scrutiny of Property Compliance) and the medium risk areas (construction maintenance and estate structures and recruitment of a Fire Officer).  Governance structures would be formalised following the Council AGM on 4th May 2021.  There was further work to be completed on data requirements, the risk register, KPIs and condition surveys.  The outcomes of this work would feed into the medium-term financial strategy for 2021-22.

 

A follow-up audit was planned for 2021-22 and the advice and guidance provided by Internal Audit was welcomed.  She thanked the team for their support in supporting service improvement.  She concluded that she would be happy to report to this Committee at a future date.

 

The following issues were raised:

 

In terms of Property Compliance Audit Review –

 

·  It would be an 18-month work programme moving forward;

·  radon gas in properties was not picked up in this audit;

·  the Chief Operating Officer would report back on the implementation of agreed actions;

·  hi-risk weaknesses focussed on governance and scrutiny and allocation of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 79.

80.

INTERNAL AUDIT PLAN - 2021/2022 pdf icon PDF 140 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Andy Cox presented the report and explained that in line with Public Sector Internal Audit Standards the Internal Audit Plan must be prepared every year and an Audit Charter needs to be maintained and reviewed annually.  There were only some minor amendments to the Audit Charter, i.e. job titles.

 

In respect of the Audit and Assurance Plan this had gone through consultation with statutory officers and senior managers.  A significant proportion was in response to Covid-19.  In addition to the core audit plan, work relating to governance, fraud and risk management would be carried out.  There was likely to be more unplanned work in respect of Covid-19 including investigations and grant administration and scrutiny and challenge of that.  Therefore, the plan must remain flexible and kept under review with a report back to Audit Committee at half year.  There was no contingency time allocated in the Plan as resources available had been fully allocated so if there was further unplanned work, audits would be taken away from the bottom end of listing (based on risk scoring).

 

During discussion the following issues were raised:

 

·  The plan was in priority order, but things do change during the year and the plan would be re-assessed;

·  only high priority items were in the audit plan, no low risk items were in the plan and this was following consultation with this Committee and senior management and through the risk assessment process and reasonable assurance model;

·  risk was dynamic and moving so it could change in 6 months following discussion with senior officers;

·  the focus of the audit review could change significantly and trend analysis could be useful or have limitations;

·  audit plans must remain current and relevant.

 

It was proposed by Councillor Brian Simmons, seconded by John Barker and

 

RESOLVED

 

1)  to approve the Audit & Assurance (Internal Audit) Plan 2021/22; and

2)  to approve the Internal Audit Charter.

81.

EXTERNAL AUDIT UPDATE pdf icon PDF 101 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Peter Barber (Grant Thornton) presented the report – the annual audit letter aimed at stakeholders so should be available on your website.  It gives a clear opinion on your financial statements and value for money (VFM).  The next part of the report (page 71) gives the final proposed fees for the Council. It reflects the changes in fees which were outlined.  When the plan was presented around 12 months ago, uplifts were proposed and had been agreed in principle on increased focus and risk.  Since Covid-19 there has been a significant impact on delivery and resource input.  In addition, with the accounts for 2019-2020 it was unclear if Aequus, ACL and ADL would be consolidated into the main part of the accounts.  This resulted in a large number of procedures that had to be undertaken and incurred another uplift.  As always the final fees are subject to sign off and approval.  Evidence to support the need for this work has been submitted.

 

As regards the Pension Fund there is a similar scenario (page 74).  There was a focus on level 3 investments, then a further increase due to work driven by Covid.  Given the inherent risk within the valuation, some extra expertise had been brought in from their valuation team.

 

Additional fees was an area for discussion and the following points were raised:

 

·  Further explanation was given as to how the work on additional fees was verified;

·  public sector audit appointments are responsible for 490+ councils and pension funds and things have moved on in terms of regulations in terms of challenge and scope of the audit and there are expected uplifts across every council that vary depending on the size of the portfolio;

·  an example when Aequus first went into the group accounts in 2019-2020 which resulted in extra work;

·  further changes in VFM can’t be done until 2021-22;

 

In respect of the audit plan for 2021 for the Council, currently in 2021-22 and we have only just received the plan for 2020-21, so not where we would wish to be nationally and we are 2-3 months behind in the audit cycle.  There are still some 2019-20 audits outstanding.  In terms of opinion it would be similar to 2019-20 and it will be land and buildings that takes a lot of input.  There will be focus on the Pension Fund liability.  There will be a proposed materiality figure of 7 million and anything over that will be subject to audit procedures.  Introduction of VFM will change new areas of focus in 2021-22.  2021 was a better outturn position at the beginning of Covid-19, then with clarity and funding/grants from central government there was confidence to deliver the budget in 2021-22.  However, things change in 2022-23 with lots of uncertainty and gaps.  Governance is a key role for the Council and within the Council it was good but there was need for further work with partners and subsidiaries to be effective and proportionate.  The last area is economy  ...  view the full minutes text for item 81.