Agenda and draft minutes

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Contact: Sean O'Neill  01225 395090

Items
No. Item

26.

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.

27.

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.

28.

APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE AND SUBSTITUTIONS

Minutes:

Apologies were received from Councillor Colin Blackburn.

 

29.

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.

30.

TO ANNOUNCE ANY URGENT BUSINESS AGREED BY THE CHAIR

The Chair will announce any items of urgent business.

Minutes:

The Chair announced that this would be the last meeting of the Committee to be attended by the Interim Director – Finance, as she would be leaving the Council. Members thanked her for her support to the Committee and wished her well for the future.

 

31.

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

Minutes:

There were none.

 

32.

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.

33.

MINUTES: 21 NOVEMBER 2019 pdf icon PDF 73 KB

The Committee is invited to approve the public and exempt minutes of the meeting of 21 November 2019 as a correct record.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

A Member pointed out that ‘Barker’ in the first line of the second paragraph on page 7 should be ‘Barber’ and that ‘Barber’ in the second line of the third paragraph on the same page should be deleted. The minutes were approved subject to these amendments.

 

The Committee went into exempt session to receive an update on the exempt minutes.

 

34.

EXTERNAL AUDIT UPDATE REPORT pdf icon PDF 58 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Mr Barber presented the report and appendices.

 

Appendix 1 was the Audit Progress Report for the Council and Avon Pension Fund. Draft audit plans for the 2019/20 audit of the Council and the Pension Fund would be presented at the next meeting of the Committee. At the previous meeting it had been reported that work was ongoing in relation to Housing Benefit Subsidy claim and on the Teachers’ Pension claim. Work on these were now completed. There had been a great improvement in the compilation and accuracy of the 2018/19 Teachers’ Pension claim compared with previous years, and the External Auditor had been able to sign it off without any adjustments or amendments.  Information had been given to the Committee at the previous meeting of some of the challenges relating to the Housing Benefits Subsidy claim. The External Auditor had found many income and pension errors in the initial testing. Errors had been compounded by a technical issue that was not the fault of the Council, namely that the Excel workbooks supplied by DWP were corrupted. These were returned to DWP and the problem was corrected. Following completion of the work the claim was qualified and the amended claim signed off on 9th January, one day before the extended deadline. Errors noted are listed on agenda pages 20-21. There would be an additional fee for this work. Mr Barber drew attention to the information about the Redmond review of local audit given on agenda page 24.

 

Appendix 2 was the Fees Letter. This explained the increasing pressure from various quarters for more detailed and challenging audits and set out the areas in which more detailed work will be required in future. There would need to be additional work on Value for Money, for example. Pressure on resources meant that the External Auditor was already unable to complete audits for all its clients by the target date of the end of July; an audit for one client had only recently been signed off, six months late. However, Grant Thornton completed more audits by the deadline than any other audit firm. The External Auditor had to recruit additional staff with the appropriate skills, though that was difficult in this highly specialized area. Fees would need to be increased substantially for 2019/20.

 

The Chair responded that while he Committee wanted a quality audit that gave assurance about the soundness of the Council’s financial statements, and understood that there had to be additional fees for specific additional work, it seemed that what was being proposed was a 20% increase in the general level of fees in relation to a financial year that was almost complete, for reasons that were entirely outside the control of the Council, during the life of an existing audit contract. A Member suggested that the changes in audit requirements were regulatory changes that the Auditor simply had to accept as part of the framework within which it operated. Mr Barber explained that the External Auditor did not have a  ...  view the full minutes text for item 34.

35.

TREASURY MANAGEMENT STRATEGY pdf icon PDF 88 KB

Appendices to follow.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The two appendices to the report had been published as a late supplement. The Head of Corporate Finance presented the report. He reminded Members that the CIPFA Code on Treasury Management in the Public Services required the Council to approve a treasury management strategy before the start of each financial year. The strategy could also be updated during the year. The Committee was given the opportunity to comment on the strategy before it was submitted to Council for approval. There had been no significant changes in the strategy from last year. Interest rates were forecast to remain low for a long period of time and the present policy of using cash balances to offset borrowing would continue. The Government’s decision to increase the interest rate charged by the Public Works Loan Board by 1% in October 2019 made the use of PWLB a relatively expensive option for long-term loans, so the Council would now consider long-term loans from other sources, as detailed in paragraph 4.2 of Appendix 1. The strategy also set out the indicators used to manage risk.

 

The Chair asked about the risk register for Treasury Management activity referred to in paragraph 6.4 of the covering report and asked if this could be presented to the Committee. The Head of Corporate Finance explained that it was included in the Q3 financial performance report to Cabinet. He agreed that this report would be provided to the Committee.

 

After discussion it was RESOLVED to note:

 

1.  the actions proposed within the Treasury Management Strategy (Appendix 1) to be approved at February Council;

 

2.  the Treasury Management Indicators detailed in Appendix 1.

 

 

36.

INTERNAL AUDIT PLAN pdf icon PDF 225 KB

Minutes:

The Service Director – One West presented the report.

 

He said that his team were in the middle of planning the audit process for 2020/21. The report showed the methodology used to formulate the plan and the Committee as a key stakeholder had an opportunity to input into the planning process. The final plan would be presented to the Committee in April for approval. The methodology was based on eight themes, which together assessed what good governance would look like for the Council. This model, which had been used for several years, had won a public finance award several years ago. The Internal Audit team consulted with senior officers, gathered evidence on each of the themes, and carried out an assessment. The level of assurance and level of risk in each area were used to prioritize areas for the audit plan as the plan could not cover everything; it took a snapshot of the Council at a point in time and matched areas most needing scrutiny to the time and resources available. It was useful to get as much input as possible into that process, so that it was as relevant as possible. Paragraph 3.10 of the covering report listed the ten key areas which the Chartered Institute of Internal Auditors considered that organisations should take account of when preparing their audit plans. He said that Members were welcome to submit comments on the draft plan by email up to the end of March, when it would be finalised.

 

In response to a comment from a Member the Service Director – One West replied that IT security was being given increasing attention, as it underpins so much of what the Council does. A benchmark 5% of internal audit resources would be dedicated to this area. There was a need for an increase in the quality of staff engaged in IT audit; IT audit staff were the most difficult and expensive to recruit. Fortunately, recruitment last year had secured an IT audit manager, around whom a specialist team would be built. Responding to another Member, he said that the Council had already transitioned from Windows 7 to Windows 10.

 

A Member expressed dissatisfaction with the level of analysis in information provided to Members of PDS committees. She suggested that the quality and presentation of information to Members was an area that might be worth reviewing. The Service Director – Audit West replied that the quality of financial information provided to staff was something that had been looked at previously, but not that provided to Members. He said that he would note the suggestion and consider whether it might be included in the plan. The Interim Director – Finance said that it was always possible to provide additional information to Members, but she expressed concern that they might be subjected to information overload.

 

RESOLVED to note the comments made on the audit planning methodology and areas for inclusion for the Internal Audit Plan for 2020/21.

 

37.

ANNUAL GOVERNANCE STATEMENT pdf icon PDF 85 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Service Director – One West presented the report.

 

He explained that the Annual Governance Statement is a statutory statement that forms part of the annual accounts. The statement is a management statement that is signed off by the Leader of the Council and the Chief Executive. Under its terms of reference, the Committee has a duty to consider the Statement, including the list of significant issues, before it is signed off. It is public-facing statement explaining the Council’s governance arrangements and identifying any significant issues. The threshold for inclusion as a significant issue is fairly high, and does not relate to the ordinary risks facing the Council in conducting its normal business. In recent years the Statement has focused on the financial challenge, and the resulting pressures on services and the need for cost control. Appendix 3 contained the Statement for 2018/19, which was approved in July 2019. The purpose of today’s report was to give Members an overview of the process. At the next meeting there will be an update, when the process will be very nearly complete.

 

RESOLVED to note the process to be followed to produce the Annual Governance Statement within the prescribed timescales.