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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. 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.
There were no declarations of interest.
To approve as a correct record the minutes of the meetings of the Committee held on 27 March and 22 May 2019.
RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting of the committee held on the 27 March 2019 be approved as a correct record, and signed by the Chairman.
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.
There were no urgent items of business.
To present the Committee with the Annual Governance Statement for 2018/19, update the Committee on progress against the Action Plan agreed in June 2018 and to make recommendations for further actions arising from the report.
Sanjay Prashar, Borough Solicitor, attended the Committee and presented a summary of the Annual Governance Statement for 2018/19.
Members were directed to the Executive Summary which reported on the effectiveness of the Council’s governance arrangements during 2018/19 and took note of a diagram of the overview of the Council’s governance framework.
The statement included a summary of assurance for each of the seven principles on which the Statement was based, which were:
The progress to address 3 important governance improvement areas from 2017/18 were highlighted:
PROPOSED ACTION: Continue to take a proactive approach to counter fraud and whistle blowing, promoting the Council’s policies and focussing internal audit activity on areas of high risk.
UPDATE: Fraud Newsletters now produced regularly. Seven fraud awareness training Sessions open to all staff already held in quarter 4 of 2018/19.
PROPOSED ACTION: Review by Standards Framework Working Group of the efficacy of introducing specific requirements in the Councillor Code of Conduct relating to the use of social media.
UPDATE: Social Media Training including in Member Development Programme agreed by Member Development Charter Working Group.
PROPOSED ACTION: To undertake a review of current compliance with GDPR and take any remedial steps as necessary (6 month post implementation review).
UPDATE: Compliance activity undertaken by DPO and IMG against action plan.
Update provided to CMT in December 2018.
Sanjay advised the Committee that the key action points – and their owner – for the year ahead were:
In response to questions from Members, Sanjay Prashar, Borough Solicitor advised the Committee that:
To advise the Committee of activity within the Council’s Standards Framework from 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019.
Sanjay Prashar, Borough Solicitor, presented a summary of the Annual Standards Report.
The report set out the current framework for the handling of complaints alleging a breach of the Code of Conduct for Members.
The data showed an increase in complaints received in 2018/19 from the 10 previous years; the figure being 9 complaints against a high of 7 complaints in 2016/17. The majority of complaints received in 2018/19 were against Parish and Town Councillors, and the grounds for each complaint and outcome were set out in appendix B of the Report.
Following a consultation on Local Government Ethical Standards launched in January 2018 by the CSPL, the findings of the review were published in a report in January 2019. Members were directed to the reports main recommendations for central government which were not expected to be made into legislation for some time. The recommendations included the reintroduction of the power to suspend Councillors for a period of up to six months and also for Councillors to be given the right to appeal to the Local Government Ombudsman against such a sanction.
The report also included a list of best practice recommendations directed to local authorities, most of which were already adopted by the Council. Where there was some divergence, those areas would form the basis of a separate report later in the year following consideration by the Code of Conduct Working Group.
In response to discussion and questions from Members, Sanjay Prashar, Borough Solicitor advised the Committee that:
1 The Standards outputs in 2018/19 as set out in appendix Bof the Annual Standards Report be noted.
2 The Best Practice recommendations set out in the report of the Committee for Standards in Public Life (CSPL) into ethical standards in appendices C and D and the proposal in paragraph 11 of the Annual Standards Report for these recommendations to be considered by the Monitoring Officer in consultation with ... view the full minutes text for item 8.
To present the updated Strategic Risk Register
Sally Hendrick, Head of Audit and Risk Management attended the Committee and presented the Strategic Risk update.
The Strategic Risk Register was last reviewed by the Governance and Audit Committee on 30January 2019, by SRMG on 8 May and by CMT on 5 June 2019.
Key proposed changes reviewed and agreed at SRNG and CMT were:
Internal Audit Annual Opinion which was currently being investigated and
actioned by the Corporate Management Team;
government funding and delays in delivering transformation savings. This
mirrored the increase in risk in the Central directorates risk register;
Comment was made that risk 12 of the Register - Business Continuity Plans and procedures inadequate or not clearly communicated and understood – should have a current rating of red, and not amber, if the unmitigated and current residual risk rating were both 4 x 4, and in light of the fact that the risk had increased over the last 3 years. Sally Hendrick agreed with this assessment and said the scoring would be revisited.
Sally advised the Committee that Risks do drop out of the Register and when that occurs they remain in view and continue to be monitored.
It was noted there was a new Risk to the Register – Continuing Health Care. A question arose from the Committee as to why the rating was amber when the rationale for the score described the potential for considerable financial impact to the Council. Sally Hendrick agreed this was confusing and said the Risk was very new and still being looked at and that an External Consultant was due to undertake a review of CHC. Stuart McKellar, Director of Finance, said the Risk had been discussed earlier in the day at CMT and from this it discussion at CMT the rating should be changed to red.
With regard to Risk 10 - IT controls or staff vulnerabilities fail to prevent a cyber attack and/or unable to respond effectively to an attack to enable IT services to be sustained – Sally Hendrick said that ICT had provided the description and risk scores. David St John Jones said the Risk Register must reflect what the current situation was and he sought assurance that ICT were responding to the Risk as a priority.
It was discussed that the ... view the full minutes text for item 9.
To receive the annual Internal Audit opinion.
Sally Hendrick, Head of Audit and Risk Management presented the Internal Audit Annual Assurance Report 2018/19.
Sally Hendrick directed Members to her overall opinion in the Report concluding that Limited Assurance could be given that the framework of internal control, risk management and governance was adequate during 2018/19 as a whole.
The Report contained details of audits where a Limited Assurance/priority 1 recommendation had been given including one area of concern, debt management which had been highlighted as a concern across several audits in addition to the Council wide audit of debt management.
Concern was raised in respect of Creditors System where Limited Assurance had been given for the past four years. Stuart McKellar said this was largely due to a glitch in the Agresso system. A senior consultant, who happens to be an expert in Agresso, has been covering long-term sickness in the department, and if any problems occur, he will be able to dig deep to find out what the issue is. Stuart McKellar added that the issues usually related to the workflow after authorisation.
The Chairman said as the Executive Director, Delivery was attending the next meeting, he would be able to update on the Delivery audits where a Limited Assurance had been given, some of which were repeats on previous years.
Discussion took place about audits being deferred due to a lack of resource within departments which was putting pressure on the delivery of the Annual Audit Plan. Sally said when faced with a request for deferring she had no option other than to assume the area remained at its previous assurance level. Stuart McKellar advised members that CMT had requested quarterly updates from Sally, focusing on Limited Assurances and to be notified of any requests for deferral and the rationale for them. The Chairman proposed that the report on deferrals given to CMT be brought to the September meeting for review by the Committee; the proposal was seconded by Councillor Peter Heydon and all other Members were in favour.
The People Directorate had the most Limited Assurances in 2018/19. Sally said she understood that, the Directorate needed time to address the audit findings. In some cases, they were also focusing on a wider review of some of their services rather than prioritising the specific issues which had been identified by the audits
With regard to absence management, one priority 1 recommendation had been raised in October 2018 in relation to uncertainty about the completeness of sickness recorded. The audit had focused on whether staff were disclosing that they were sick and whether managers were managing the sickness absence properly. Sally said that automated reports had been introduced that were sent to managers which showed the level of absence recorded within teams for managers to check completeness. However, HR & OD had committed to further automating the reports to provide for a facility whereby managers had to confirm they had spoken to team members in order to confirm that absence reporting was correct for ... view the full minutes text for item 10.