Agenda and minutes

Audit and Governance Committee
Monday, 18th January 2021 6.30 pm

Venue: Virtual Meeting - Microsoft Teams

Contact: Democratic and Electoral Services 

Link: Click to view live meeting from 6:30pm on 18th January 2021

Items
No. Item

38.

Declarations of Interest

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

Minutes:

38.1    There were no declarations of interest.

39.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 212 KB

To approve as a correct record the minutes of the meeting held on 16 November 2020.

Minutes:

39.1    The minutes of the meeting held on 16th November 2020 were confirmed as a correct record.

40.

Public Question Time (15 minutes)

To receive any questions from members of the public provided that a question does not relate to:

 

·       Matters which are the subject of current or pending legal proceedings, or

·       Matters relating to employees or former employees of the Council or comments in respect of individual Council Officers

 

If you would like to ask a question at this meeting, please contact democratic.services@gloucester.gov.uk as soon as possible and by Wednesday 13th January at the latest.

Minutes:

40.1    There were no public questions.

41.

Petitions and Deputations (15 minutes)

To receive any petitions and deputations provided that no such petition or deputation is in relation to:

 

·       Matters relating to individual Council Officers, or

·       Matters relating to current or pending legal proceedings

 

If you would like to present a petition or deputation at this meeting, please contact democratic.services@gloucester.gov.uk as soon as possible and by Wednesday 13th January at the latest.

 

Minutes:

41.1    There were no petitions or deputations.

42.

Internal Audit Plan 2020/21 - Progress Report pdf icon PDF 215 KB

To receive the quarterly update of the Head of Audit, Risk and Assurance.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

42.1    The Audit, Risk and Assurance (ARA) Group Manager introduced the newly promoted Principal Auditor to Members and introduced the report, highlighting key features.

 

42.2    It was outlined that the report confirmed the position against the revised audit plan, including an  update on counter fraud team activity. Outcomes from November 2020 and December 2020 were reported, with new activity streams reflected due to risks and issues arising from the Covid-19 pandemic. The Group Manager informed Members that there had been considerable assurance activity as well as wider ARA activity relevant to the partner Council’s Covid-19 efforts.

 

42.3    The Group Manager highlighted that the report contained outcomes across six audit areas. This included three follow up audit outcomes, which reflected a positive direction of travel. There were also two assurance outcomes – council tax refunds and debt management. Due to the impact of Covid, a new activity outcome was also reported through the Lost Sales, Fees and Charges claim 1 review.

 

42.4    With regard to the follow up audit, the Chair queried whether there was further work to be done on the purchasing follow up. The Head of Policy and Resources confirmed that actions on this area were in progress and had not been actioned in their entirety at the point of audit follow up.

 

42.5    The Chair sought clarification on who was responsible for collecting debts owed to the Council. The Head of Policy and Resources confirmed that Civica managed debts on behalf of the Council and that service managers were responsible for debts which fell in their area.

 

42.6    In respect of the claim for lost fees and charges during various lockdowns, the Chair noted that only minor adjustments were necessary and thanked the finance team for the good work they had undertaken in compiling and submitting the claim. 

 

42.7    RESOLVED that: - The Audit and Governance Committee (1) Accept the progress against the Revised Risk Based Internal Audit Plan

2020/21; and (2) Accept the assurance opinions provided in relation to the effectiveness of the Council’s control environment comprising risk management, control and governance arrangements as a result of the Internal Audit activity completed to date.

 

43.

Management update - Limited Assurance Report - Health and Safety pdf icon PDF 246 KB

To receive the limited assurance management update.

Minutes:

43.1    The Head of Communities outlined that the original audit took place in March 2019 prior to the Council moving premises to Shire Hall and the Gateway. It had been agreed that some of the improvements would be made once the Council had left the HKP warehouses.  This had enabled new risk assessments to be carried out and to examine what the improvements would look like in the new setting.

 

43.2    Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, a number of the Council’s premises had been closed and some services had made significant adjustments to how they worked such as the vast majority of staff working from home. The Head of Communities outlined that risk assessments were carried out in respect of home working in tandem with line managers and that risk assessments required changes where changes in government guidance were announced. She also advised that some activity was continually risk assessed such as visits to high risk premises.

 

43.3    The Head of Communities noted that the original audit had found that service managers had displayed a positive attitude to the health and wellbeing of their team members and that the health and safety of Council staff was at the forefronts of everyone’s minds, particularly in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. She provided a summary of a survey that had been conducted among managers and team leaders. Since March 2019, the number of those with line management responsibilities who had completed a risk assessment had more than doubled. Awareness of responsibilities under health and safety legislation had also increased as had the numbers who had undertaken specific training.

 

43.4    The Head of Communities confirmed that all services had up to date risk assessments having been updated in light of Covid. The reason there was a delay between assessing and auditing was in order to test that there were not any gaps in the risk assessments. She advised that inspections had begun and that the Museum of Gloucester and Guildhall audits had been completed.

 

43.5    With regard to an outstanding recommendation on training, the Head of Communities advised that a number of staff had been undertaking ‘on the job’ training and a staff budget for training had been secured and it was hoped a range of courses would be organized for staff.

 

43.6    On the provision of clarifying the roles and responsibilities between the asset management team and service managers, the Head of Communities confirmed that a piece of software had been purchased which would record all health and safety information across all the Council’s premises. She informed Members that this system would allow for different people to be named for different elements.

 

43.7    Councillor D. Norman stated that it was encouraging that there had been improvements despite some unavoidable delays and that there were more staff who understood their responsibilities under health and safety legislation. He advised caution in respect of any future claim against the Council if a member of staff responded negatively to training they had received  ...  view the full minutes text for item 43.

44.

Review of Appointments to and Representation on Outside Bodies pdf icon PDF 280 KB

To consider the report of the Corporate Director.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

44.1    The Corporate Director introduced the report and advised that the matter had arisen from the Work Programme in January 2019. It was requested that a review be conducted to examine the Council’s operation and effectiveness of appointments to Outside Bodies and whether improvements could be made.

 

44.2    As part of a working group, Councillors Wilson, D. Norman and Hampson had met with a number of representatives of Outside Bodies to gather information. A number of Outside Bodies had also been invited to attend the Audit and Governance Committee as part of the review process. All organisations had been surveyed as had the Members appointed to those bodies.

 

44.3    The Corporate Director outlined the three areas for recommendation. The first finding showed that the City Council did not provide enough guidance and advice to manage the expectations of Outside Bodies and help Members be effective in their role.  A draft guidance note had now been produced to help representatives on Outside Bodies. This would be included in the Constitution following the Council’s endorsement of the guidance.

 

44.4    The second issue looked into the mechanisms in place to allow Members to report back on their work as appointees to Outside Bodies. The findings showed there had been some disengagement in this area. There had been a lack of feedback presented in relation to any work as part of the organisation. 

 

 

44.5    The proposed three new mechanisms were:

 

1.             Produce an annual report – a template would be supplied to each representative on Outside Bodies to provide an update on the work they are undertaken. This would seek to ascertain whether the Council’s appointment to the Outside Body was worthwhile for the Member, the Council and the organisation they were appointed to.

 

2.             Provide a 15 minute slot at Council meetings to allow representatives on Outside Bodies to give an update on their work

 

3.             Open invitation to all Outside Bodies to share their work which can be included in the Members’ Bulletin

 

44.6    The Corporate Director advised that the report had been considered by the General Purposes Committee which had recommended that Llanthony Secunda Trust and Gloucester United Schools Charity to be moved from Group C to Group B. He also advised that there had been discussion as to whether it would be more appropriate for reporting to take place at the Overview and Scrutiny Committee rather than full Council.

 

44.7    Councillor Lugg noted that, previously the Overview and Scrutiny Committee had considered urgent matters relevant to outside bodies. She suggested that a slot at the Overview and Scrutiny be introduced to consider such matters. Councillor Lugg also noted that the Gloucester United Schools Charity was a significant asset holder and that it would be appropriate to maintain a presence on this board and, as such, move it from category C into category C as recommended by the General Purposes Committee.

 

44.8    Reflecting on his role as part of the working group, Councillor Hampson advised that it had been a  ...  view the full minutes text for item 44.

45.

Annual Governance Statement Improvement Plan 2019/2020 Update pdf icon PDF 156 KB

To provide an update on progress on work as part of the Annual Governance Statement 2019/20 Improvement Plan.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

45.1    The ARA Group Manager outlined the report, highlighting key points. She advised that the Annual Governance Statement 2019/20 contained three governance actions to be taken forward. The report was facilitated by ARA and included the up to date position on each action provided by the lead officers. A final update against the action would be agreed and confirmed through the 2020/21 Annual Governance Statement report to be considered by the Committee in July 2021.

 

45.2    The Chair queried when the legislation governing virtual meetings of the Council expired. The Corporate Director stated that this information would be circulated to Members.

 

45.3    RESOLVED that:- The Audit and Governance Committee NOTE the report.

46.

Appointment of an Independent Member to the Audit and Governance Committee pdf icon PDF 440 KB

To receive an update on the position regarding appointing an Independent Member.

 

(Briefing note to follow)

Minutes:

46.1    The Head of Policy and Resources provided a briefing in relation to the Appointment of an Independent Member to the Committee. Following its withdrawal from the Council agenda in January 2020, it was expected to be formally approved at the Council meeting scheduled for March 2020. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown, this meeting had been cancelled and the Managing Director had used his delegated authority to approve it following this meeting’s cancellation.

 

46.2    It was noted that original intention was to progress the recruitment process following the now postponed elections in May 2020. It was suggested that the appointment process begin following the newly scheduled elections due to take place in May 2021. Councillor Wilson stated that this seemed logical and Members were in agreement.

 

46.3    RESOLVED that:- The Audit and Governance Committee NOTE the briefing and the recruitment of an Independent Member to the Audit and Governance Committee commence following the next elections to the City Council.

47.

Audit and Governance Committee Work Programme pdf icon PDF 74 KB

To consider the Work Programme.

Minutes:

47.1    RESOLVED that: - The Audit and Governance Committee NOTE the Work Programme.

48.

Date of Next Meeting

8 March 2021 at 6.30pm

Minutes:

Monday 8th March 2021 at 6.30pm