Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Civic Suite, North Warehouse, The Docks, Gloucester, GL1 2EP

Contact: Democratic and Electoral Services 

Link: Watch meeting

Items
No. Item

50.

Declarations of Interest

To receive from Members, declarations of the existence of any disclosable pecuniary, or nonpecuniary, interests and the nature of those interests in relation to any agenda item. Please see Agenda Notes

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

51.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 143 KB

To approve as a correct record the minutes of the meeting held on 15January 2024.

Minutes:

51.1       The Chair pointed to paragraph 44.5 of the previous minutes. He asked whether there would be a specific audit on the topic of homelessness. The external auditor responded that this work had begun and would probably be issued by April 2024.

 

51.2       RESOLVED that: - the minutes of the meeting held on 15th January 2024 were confirmed and signed by the Chair as a correct record.

 

52.

Public Question Time (15 minutes)

The opportunity is given to members of the public to put questions to the Chair provided that questions do not contravene the provisions set out Council Procedure Rule 10.01.

 

To ask a question at this meeting, please submit it to democratic.services@gloucester.gov.uk by 12 noon on 28 Wednesday or telephone 01452 396203 for support.

 

Questions and responses will be published at least 24 hours before the meeting. Supplementary questions may be put and answered during the meeting, subject to the relevant time limit.

Minutes:

There were no public questions.

53.

Petitions and Deputations (15 minutes)

The opportunity is given to members of the public to present a petition or deputation provided that any such petition or deputation does not contravene the provisions set out Council Procedure Rule 11.01.

 

To present a petition or deputation at this meeting, please provide the subject matter to democratic.services@gloucester.gov.uk by 12 noon on 28 Wednesday or telephone 01452 396203 for support.

Minutes:

There were no petitions nor deputations.

54.

External Audit Update

To receive a verbal update from the extenal auditors.

Minutes:

54.1       A representative of Delloitte attended the meeting to provide a verbal update to the Audit and Governance Committee.

 

54.2       The Chair stated that he had hoped to see a report  on the 2021/22 accounts at the meeting. He asked when the report would be completed and whether there were any issues that had arisen. The Head of Finance & Resources stated that he believed it would be useful for the representative from Deloitte to give a verbal update to Members for clarity on the position in relation to the 2021/22 accounts.

 

 

54.3       The external auditor stated that the backstop date was scheduled for the end of September 2024. She stated that the consultation had not closed yet, noting that while the consultation process had not ended, it was expected that Deloitte would be expected to complete the Value for Money (VFM) audit as a priority. She stated that Deloitte was looking to see what the consultation meant in regards to resources and prioritisation that would be required. The external auditor advised that as a minimum, there would be a priority to complete the VFM audit before 30 September 2024.

 

54.4       The Chair asked if this meant that the date to publish the 2021/22 accounts had been pushed further back. The Head of Finance & Resources stated that it was not a static figure and that it had been moved back to the September deadline (subject to legislation).

 

54.5       In response to a question by the Chair in relation to where the finance team were in getting the accounts for 2021/22 signed off, the Head of Finance & Resources stated that this was still to be determined as a response to the consultation.

 

54.6       The Chair asked if the VFM audit was nearly complete and whether it was likely that a related report would come before the Audit and Governance committee at the next meeting (July 2024). The external auditor replied that this was the intention.

 

54.7       In response to a question about what the plan was in relation to the accounts for the financial year of 2022/23, the Head of Finance & Resources stated that the plan was to produce the accounts as soon as was possible. The accounts would then be subject to public consultation.

 

54.8       The Chair noted that there had been an intention to get a draft version of the accounts for 2022/23 before the May 2024 Local Elections. He asked whether this was still the intention. The Head of Finance & Resources responded that this was correct.

 

54.9       The Chair asked if there were any issues with the accounts thus far. In response, the representative of Deloitte stated that they had not commissioned that piece of work yet. She stated that they were waiting for the consultation date to be finalised.

 

54.10   In response to a question by Councillor Gravells, the Head of Finance & Resources stated that he would be submitting a response to the Consultation for the City Council and that he would provide a link to the consultation  ...  view the full minutes text for item 54.

55.

Statement of Accounts 2021-22 pdf icon PDF 2 MB

To receive the accounts for 2021-22

Minutes:

55.1       The Chair noted that it was useful to include a narrative in the report. He further noted that the accounts had been published on the City Council website in draft form.

 

55.2       RESOLVED that Audit and Governance Committee NOTE the content of the report.

 

 

56.

INTERNAL AUDIT ACTIVITY PROGRESS REPORT 2023/24 pdf icon PDF 133 KB

To receive the quarterly progress report on Internal Audit activity.

 

Includes the final audit opinion on s. 106 agreements.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

56.1       The Head of Audit Risk Assurance (ARA) presented the report, the purpose of which was to inform the Audit and Governance Committee of the Internal Audit activity progress in relation to the Internal Audit Plan 2023-24. He stated that they had issued three reports since the previous Audit and Governance Committee meeting. He mentioned that his team had identified seven financial irregularities reported in the previous financial year, and the latest of these irregularities was due to be closed shortly.

 

56.2       The Chair highlighted the fact that the Benefits Team were not performing reviews of existing claims for Housing Benefits and Council Tax Reductions.

 

56.3       In response to a question by the Chair regarding why page 101 of the report indicated that the ARA had not participated in the National Fraud Initiative matching exercise, whereas page 110 suggested that they had, the Head of Audit Risk Assurance stated that owing to the Cyber Incident, there had been a partial attempt at the matching exercise as they did not have all data points. He explained that the Initiative collected data from various areas (such as Payroll, Council Tax, etc.) and compared it to other public bodies, but due to the incident, full participation was not possible.

 

56.4       In response to a further query from the Chair regarding the National Fraud Initiative matching exercise, the Financial Services Manager stated that due to the Cyber Incident, the Cabinet Office would not allow Gloucester to connect to their systems. He expressed his belief that this issue had now been resolved.

 

56.5       The Chair asked whether the Benefits team were aware of the extent of possible fraudulent claimants. The Audit Officer stated that he could not currently give an exact figure.

 

56.6       The Chair asked if the issue regarding Housing and Benefits could be followed up on as soon as possible. 

 

56.7       In response to a question by the Chair about s106 agreements, the Director of Communities stated that she could not provide a date regarding when the issues regarding previous S106 agreements would be updated in Exacom (CHECK). She mentioned that the Council was prioritising the S106 agreements that were new and live. She explained that all new S106 agreements were going straight onto Exacom, so it was just the retrospective work that was experiencing delays. 

 

56.8       Councillor Gravells noted his disappointment that not all the serious recommendations outlined in the report had been resolved. (CHECK) In response, the Head of Finance & Resources stated that he understood Councillor Gravells' concerns. He added that management accepted the recommendations in the report. In response to an additional question by Councillor Gravells, the Head of Finance and Resources stated that they had to prioritise high-level concerns, and that controls over s106 aligned closer to governance than finance. The Director of Communities noted that there were steps that needed to be taken before they could achieve full reconciliation. She stated that in relation to the recommendations that were not yet closed, a couple related to the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 56.

57.

Draft Internal Audit Plan 2024/25 pdf icon PDF 133 KB

To consider the draft plan for the coming financial year.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

57.1       The Head of Audit Risk Assurance (ARA) presented the report. The report provided the Committee with a summary of the draft risk based Internal Audit Plan 2024-25, as required by the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015 and the Public Sector Internal Audit Standards (PSIAS) 2017.

 

57.2       The Chair asked if there were any issues with how Freedom of Information Requests were handled by the Council. In response, the external auditor responded that there were no particular concerns about how Freedom of Information requests had been dealt with, but there had been an increase in their number. This was why the risk had increased. 

 

57.3       The Chair asked how much the average Freedom of Information request cost the Council. In response, the Head of Finances and Resources stated that there were currently a wide range of Freedom of Information requests, each with varying requirements, and there were set limits regarding which requests could be refused. He mentioned that he could not provide a figure at this stage. 

 

57.4       Councillor Patel stated that he had made a freedom of information request to Gloucester City Council and the County Council for similar information. He mentioned that while the County Council had provided the information, the City Council had not. He noted that the City Council had stated in the previous week that information could now be provided to Members, and asked for clarification as to whether there had been a change in policy at the City Council. He further askedwhy this had happened if so, and whether there was political pressure being exerted in relation to such cases. The Deputy Leader of the Council, Councillor Norman, noted that there was no political pressure being exerted in relation to Freedom of Information requests by any member of the Cabinet. The Director of Communities stated that she could not comment on the specific case that Councillor Patel had raised. However, she was aware of a number of similar requests, and therefore advice was sought on the matter, which had led to the review of the approach and the resulting email to Members relating to Freedom of Information requests. The Monitoring Officer noted that there was a spectrum of opinion on the law regarding Freedom of Information requests, which was why different authorities could have provided different advice. 

 

57.5       In response to a question by Councillor Gravells seeking clarification regarding the ‘significant backlog’ in relation to Debt Recovery, the external auditor stated that he would provide more specific figures in the form of a written answer after the meeting. 

 

57.6       RESOLVED that the Audit and Governance Committee:

 

i.               Agree that the Internal Audit Plan for 2024-25 reflects the risk profile of the Council; and

ii.              ii. Approve the Internal Audit Plan 2024-25 as detailed in Appendix A.

 

 

58.

Capital Strategy 2024/25 pdf icon PDF 104 KB

To consider the report of the Cabinet Member for Performance and Resources proposing that Members recommend that Council approves the draft Capital Strategy 2024/25.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

58.1       The Accountancy Manager (Systems Accountant) presented the report. The purpose of the report was for the Audit and Governance committee to formally recommend that Council approves the attached Capital Strategy, which was attached as appendix 1 of the report.

 

58.2       The Chair noted that it was a well-written report. He questioned where the figure of £6,000 came from in relation to recognizing individual assets. The Head of Finance and Resources stated that this figure had been the general limit for a long time. It allowed for assets under £6,000 to be grouped together. 

 

58.3       The Chair noted that the report indicated that the required council investment for the Forum would be £107m. He asked whether this figure was a fixed value. In response, the Head of Finance and Resources stated that this was the figure and that he was not aware of any additional costs for the project at this stage. 

 

58.4       In response to an additional question by the Chair regarding where the proposed £2.7 million in capital revenue would come from, the Head of Finance and Resources stated that he believed the vast majority of this funding would come from the Whitefrairs apartments, which were built as the first phase of the Forum project. 

 

58.5       RESOLVED that the Audit and Governance Committee RECOMMEND that the Capital Strategy be approved by Council.

 

59.

Treasury Management Strategy 2024-25 pdf icon PDF 124 KB

To consider the report of the Cabinet Member for Performance and Resources seeking Members to recommend that Council approves the Treasury Management Strategy, the prudential indicators and notes the Treasury activities.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

59.1       The Accountancy Manager (Systems Accountant) presented the report. The purpose of the report was for the Audit and Governance Committee to formally recommend that the Council approved the Treasury Management Strategy, the prudential indicators, and note the Treasury activities. 

 

59.2       In response to a query from the Chair, the Head of Finance and Resources stated that the borrowing rates listed on page 155 of the Council report were based on gilt rates (CHECK) as opposed to the bank rate. 

 

59.3       The Chair asked whether it was a requirement to use the Public Works board (CHECK). In response, the Head of Finance and Resources stated that the Council was not required to work with any specific body. 

 

59.4       Councillor Morgan asked whether the Council expected to be borrowing more money in the next few years. In response, the Head of Finance and Resources stated that with projects such as the Forum, the Council would expect to see an increase in borrowing to invest and complete the capital program. 

 

59.5       RESOLVED that the Audit and Governance Committee RECOMMEND that the Treasury Management Strategy be approved.

 

60.

Audit and Governance Committee Work Programme pdf icon PDF 64 KB

To consider the work programme.

Minutes:

The Chair noted that whoever was Chair after the Local Elections (May 2024) would work through setting a work programme and that he would be willing to assist.

 

61.

Date of Next Meeting

Monday 15 July at 6.30pm in the Civic Suite, North Warehouse, The Docks

Minutes:

Monday 15 July at 6.30pm in the Civic Suite, North Warehouse, The Docks