Agenda and minutes

Governance & Audit Committee
Wednesday, 29 March 2017 7.30 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Fourth Floor, Easthampstead House, Bracknell

Contact: Hannah Stevenson  01344 352308

Items
No. Item

32.

Declarations of Interest

Members are asked to declare any disclosable pecuniary or affected interests in respect of any matter to be considered at this meeting.

 

Any Member with a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest in a matter should withdraw from the meeting when the matter is under consideration and should notify the Democratic Services Officer in attendance that they are withdrawing as they have such an interest. If the Disclosable Pecuniary Interest is not entered on the register of Members interests the Monitoring Officer must be notified of the interest within 28 days.

 

Any Member with an affected Interest in a matter must disclose the interest to the meeting and must not participate in discussion of the matter or vote on the matter unless granted a dispensation by the Monitoring officer or by the Governance and Audit Committee.  There is no requirement to withdraw from the meeting when the interest is only an affected interest, but the Monitoring Officer should be notified of the interest, if not previously notified of it, within 28 days of the meeting.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

33.

Minutes - 25 January 2017 pdf icon PDF 234 KB

To approve as a correct record the minutes of the meetings of the Committee held on 25 January 2017.

Minutes:

RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on the 25 January 2017 be approved as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

34.

Urgent Items of Business

Any other items which, pursuant to Section 100B(4)(b) of the Local Government Act 1972, the Chairman decides are urgent.

Minutes:

There were no urgent items of business.

35.

External Audit Plan 2016/17 pdf icon PDF 106 KB

To note the Audit plan for the 2016/17 financial year.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Helen Thompson from Ernst and Young, presented the External Audit Plan for 2016/17.

 

The Plan set out the proposed audit approach and scope for the 2016/17 audit and covered the work planned to provide the Council with:

 

·         An audit opinion on the financial statements of Bracknell Forest Council; and

·         A statutory conclusion on the Council’s arrangements to secure economy, efficiency and effectiveness.

The Audit Plan also outlined the principle financial statement risks facing the Council:

 

·         The risk of management override.

·         Group Accounting Considerations.

·         Private Finance Initiative (PFI) – Accounting Model Review.

In regards to securing economy, efficiency and effectiveness, a significant risk had been identified around the significant financial challenge that the Council faced due to the reduction in funding from central government and  the Council’s ability to deliver the savings required to meet the budget gap in 2016/17 and the years beyond.  The Auditors’ assessment would include focusing on reviewing details of the Council’s savings plans for 2017/18, the medium term financial strategy and long term arrangements.

 

The Audit Plan set out the timetable for carrying out all audit work and reporting. As well as including the indicative fee scale for the 2016/17 audit.

 

As a result of the Member’s questions and comments the following points were made:

 

·         The Group accounting consideration was a measure of judgement. If as projected the Local Housing Company scheme was to double the Auditors would expect there to be group accounts in the next Financial Year.

·         Members requested that work reviewing Downshire Homes be included in the work schedule asap.

·         The Auditors aimed to produce the External Audit Plan 2017/18 much earlier next year and be able to bring it to an earlier committee. The 2016/17 External Audit was aimed to be completed by July 2017.

·         The estimated fee of £25,125 for the certification of the housing benefit subsidy claim was in addition to the indicative fee scale for the audit of Bracknell Forest Council. Auditors were currently trialing a different approach with the Housing Benefit team taking on more of the auditing work themselves, which would lead to a fee reduction.

 

RESOLVED that the Committee NOTE the Audit Plan for the 2016/17 financial year.

36.

Internal Audit Plan 2017/18 pdf icon PDF 488 KB

To approve the Internal Audit Plan for 2017/18.

Minutes:

The Committee considered a report setting out the underlying principles applied in the Internal Audit planning process and sought approval of the Internal Audit Plan for 2017/18. The report also clarified the responsibilities for risk management.

 

The Audit Plan had been developed in consultation with the Directors, Chief Officers, Group Accountants and IT Officers.

 

The key change for  2017/18 audits would be the approach to school audits, the current approach of auditing schools on a rota every three years could not be achieved going forward given the pressures on resources. Instead schools who were currently on the rota to be audited in the next financial year would be risk assessed to determine whether the audit was necessary. The risk assessment would look at the schools statement of financial values, a self assessment completed by the school and the most recent OFSTED report. The Director of CYPL had requested that any schools on the rota who had poor OFSTED ratings would need to be audited. There was a number of schools who had achieved limited assurance in 2016/17 audits had been included in the 2017/18 plan and would be followed up.

 

The Audit Plan contained a breakdown of the audits both Council wide and in each Directorate, amounting to 555 days in total.

 

As a result of the Member’s questions and comments the following points were made:

 

·         Academies were excluded from being audited.

·         Schools were only required to undertake audits themselves for private funds.

·         It was estimated that half the schools on the rota for 2017/18 would need to be audited following the risk assessment. If there was more then the plan and audit priorities would need to be revaluated.

·         Less time would be spend in individually auditing schools but more themed audits had been requested by senior management going forward. This would include personal education plans and pupil premium.

·         Concerns were raised about reducing the number of schools being audited as this was the biggest area of audit concern within the Council.

·         Many Local Authorities didn’t audit individual schools, as this approach was not wanted. The new approach would be monitored over the next year and if there were any issues then the approach would be reviewed.

·         Even though Ranelagh was an academy, they would be included in a cross cutting audit on their SEN Unit. Assurance needed to be sought that finances had been used appropriately within these units.

·         The Governing Body had the overall responsibility to monitor and challenge the process of the school. It was suggested that early input and support be given to the Governing Bodies.

·         There was no mechanism where schools could be required to present audited accounts. This was currently only a requirement for academies.

·         It was suggested that auditing of schools could be offered as a chargeable service.

·         Not all schools personal education plan and pupil premiums would be audited, these would be a sample of schools which would be agreed with the Education Authority.

·         Coral Reef and Binfield Learning Village were currently  ...  view the full minutes text for item 36.

37.

Review of Constitution pdf icon PDF 245 KB

To seek approval changes to the Council’s Constitution

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered a report which recommended changes to the Constitution for approval by Council.

The report proposed changes to Chief Officer: Property delegations which had previously been agreed by Governance and Audit Committee in June 2016. The existing delegations were no longer considered operationally fit for purpose as land and rent values had significantly increased since the existing levels had been set in the Council’s constitution. The proposed delegation levels for property transactions had been included in Appendix A and B of the report. This included increasing the authorisation of acquisition of freehold purchases to £400k from £100k.

The Committee proposed an amendment to the proposed delegation for negotiating and completing consents, rent reviews and lease renewals. Anything up to the statutory entitlement limit would be delegated to the Chief Officer: Property but anything higher would need to be agreed in consultation with the Executive Member and  Director; Corporate Services.

As a result of the Member’s questions and comments the following points were made:

·         The increase in the authorisation of acquisition of freehold purchases to £400k from £100k was more inline with the market conditions.

·         Tenants were protected and had a statutory right to reapply for a 15 year lease and the council had to legally comply to this request. As it was a legal obligation the council were unable to object.

Following the changes to the constitution made in response to the Overview and Scrutiny review of planning in 2016, it became apparent that one area of the Chief Officer: Planning, Transport and Countryside delegations needed to be updated. This was in relation to the 3-5 objection procedure. The changes of the delegations to the Chief Officer: Planning, Transport and Countryside was included in Appendix C of the report.

In some instances there were changes that could be made to the constitution that didn’t warrant referral to Council if delegation were to be given to the Borough Solicitor to be authorised to make minor amendments such as legislative amendments and alteration in post titles.

The Committee proposed that they monitor the changes that were made over the next twelves months bu the Borough Solicitor. The Borough Solicitor would notify the Chairman of Governance and Audit Committee of the proposed changes and it would be at the Chairman’s discretion to apply the changes. The Chairman would then forward on any changes to the rest of the Governance & Audit Committee Members.

As a result of the Member’s questions and comments the following points were made:

·         The Bracknell Forest Council Website showed the most up to date version of the Council’s constitution as well as showing previous versions.

·         The proposed amendments wouldn’t change the context of the constitution.

·         The change of job titles to staff members was not necessarily substantive. It was suggested that an email could be sent to Committee Members when these changes were made to monitor  how frequent the changes were.

·         Minor changes depended on the individuals view to whether they were deemed minor or not. If  ...  view the full minutes text for item 37.

38.

Annual Standards Report pdf icon PDF 306 KB

To note the Standards output in 2016/17.

Minutes:

The Borough Solicitor presented a report to the Committee advising of the activity within the Councils Standards framework during the last twelve months to 31 March 2017.

 

During 2016/17 changes had been made to the Standards Framework including:

 

·         Dissolution of the Standards Committee.

·         A revised procedure for dealing with Member Code of Conduct Complaints.

·         An updated process for granting of dispensations to Members.

 

In the period between 1 April 2016 and 31 March 2017 the Monitoring Officer had received seven complaints which alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct for Members. The grounds of each complaint had been summarised within the report.

 

The number of complaints received represented a significant increase compared to previous years with no particular trend or reason identified. A number of the complaints had been dismissed as Members had not been acting in official capacity when the alleged breach of the Code of Conduct had occurred.

 

Since the report had been written, two further Code of Conduct Member complaints had been made about Parish Councillors.

 

As a result of the Member’s questions and comments the following points were made:

·         The number of complaints for 2016/17 would be included in the table within the report.

·         The third bullet point in paragraph three on page 36 should read “…of Disclosable  Pecuniary Interests and Affected Interests.”

 

RESOLVED that the Committee NOTE the Standards output in 2016/17 as set out in this report.