Venue: The Breckland Conference Centre, Anglia Room, Elizabeth House, Walpole Loke, Dereham, NR19 1EE
Contact: Democratic Services 01362 656870
To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 28 July 2021.
The Minutes of the meeting held on 28 July 2021 were agreed as a correct record.
Actions arising from the Minutes (if any) (standing item) (Agenda item 2)
Apologies (Agenda item 3)
To receive apologies for absence.
An apology for absence was received from Councillor Grey.
Urgent Business (Agenda item 4)
To note whether the Chairman proposes to accept any item as urgent business, pursuant to Section 100(B)(4)(b) of the Local Government Act 1972.
Declaration of Interests (Agenda item 5)
The duties to register, disclose and not to participate for the entire consideration of the matter, in respect of any matter in which a Member has a disclosable pecuniary interest are set out in Chapter 7 of the Localism Act 2011. Members are also required to withdraw from the meeting room as stated in the Standing Orders of this Council.
Non-members wishing to address the meeting (Agenda item 6)
To note the names of any non-members wishing to address the meeting.
Councillors Robinson, Sherwood and Birt were in attendance.
Training (Standing item) (Agenda item 7)
Members are asked to note that the Treasury Management training will be held on Thursday, 14 October after Full Council at 2pm in the Anglia Room.
This will be a hybrid training session; therefore, Members will have the choice of meeting face to face or via Zoom.
The Zoom invite will be sent to all Members in due course
Members were informed of the Treasury Management training session that would be held after the Full Council meeting on 14 October 2021 at 2pm in the Anglia Room. It was noted that this training was open to all Members and would be a hybrid session for those Members who wished to join from home rather than meeting face to face.
A Zoom invite would be sent out shortly.
Report of Rob Walker, Executive Director of Place & Delivery and Monitoring Officer.
Rory Ringer, the Democratic Services Manager presented the report.
Members were provided with a brief overview of standards work that had taken place from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021.
The number of complaints had decreased in comparison to the previous year and 3 cases had yet to be resolved. In response to a concern, a brief explanation of what the 13 cases related to in the previous year as well as the percentages within the table was provided.
Members found the table quite confusing, and it was agreed that a further column would be added in future.
Councillor Clarke asked when the next Standards review would be. Members were informed that the LGA Model Code of Conduct had recently been published and the guidance had now been received, the draft revised Code would be brought to a future meeting in due course. Training for all Members would then follow and would form part of the Member Induction programme in 2023.
Councillor Birt asked if any complaints related to complaints against members from members. The Democratic Services Manager explained that 90% were in respect of parish councillors, the number of internal councillor complaints was relatively small.
The report was otherwise noted.
Report by the External Auditors, Ernst & Young.
Mark Hodgson, the External Auditor presented the Value for Money (VFM) Risk Assessment.
The purpose of this report was to provide Members with an update on the VFM which had been flagged as requiring completion in the provisional Audit Plan dated 21 May 2021.
It was noted that there were no changes to report to the planned audit approach and risk assessment that had been set out previously.
Members were being asked to consider the assessment so that the Audit Plan could be concluded (see agenda item 14).
The Vice-Chairman, Councillor Kybird believed that there was no longer a requirement to express an opinion on VFM but only to ensure that arrangements were in place and asked if this was correct.
Members were informed that this was indeed correct, and the reason was explained.
Councillor Birt referred to page 22 of the agenda pack as he had noticed that the 2020 Code had no criteria and was particularly interested in the second bullet point under Governance. He referred to the recent O&SC meeting where Members agreed to use a balance score card in respect of the Council’s Performance Framework but this, in his opinion, did not feel like informed decision making and asked if there were any high-level tests in place.
The External Auditor explained that this was clearly the Council’s own decision and appropriate arrangements would be put in place and was satisfactory from an audit perspective.
The report was otherwise noted.
Report of Maxine O'Mahony, Executive Director, Strategy and Resources.
Mark Robinson, Executive Member for Customer, Digital & Performance presented the report.
Members of the Governance & Audit Committee granted an extension to the Policy at their meeting held in February 2021 to allow officers to conduct a more thorough review.
The review had now been concluded and no major changes had been made (see paras 1.4 to 1.6) and the Policy itself remained in line with best practice.
Ryan Pack, the Innovation & Change Business Partner stated that the Policy itself was now in a fairly strong position and was happy to take any questions.
Mr Plaskett, the Independent Lay Advisor, felt that the Policy was fine and read very well and covered everything apart from a couple of typographical errors on pages 32 and 34 of the agenda pack:
The Director of Place and
Given the diversity of
Council services and the wide range of potential risks,
Councillor Monument was intrigued by the wording on page 37 of the agenda pack under the heading partnerships where it stated that a Partnership Policy was available and asked if this was something that had been developed previously.
Members were informed that the Council had a partnership register that listed all the partners that the Council had as an organisation which he believed was available on-line.
Councillor Birt drew Members’ attention to page 44 of the agenda pack, the Likelihood table, particularly under the probability line, column 4 and queried the distribution and the rationale behind that.
In terms of the said the table, the Innovation & Change Business Partner pointed out that this had not been changed as part of the review as it had worked for the organisation, and unfortunately, he did not have the technical insight as to why the table had been set like that
The Chairman explained the methodology behind it and stated that this quantified the percentage likelihood and was obviously a tool that the Management Team used.
(1) the Governance and Audit Committee recommend the adoption of the draft Risk Management Policy to Full Council on 14th October 2021; and
RECOMMEND to Full Council that:
(2) the draft Risk Management Policy be adopted.
Report of Maxine O’Mahony, Executive Director, Strategy and Resources.
Mark Robinson, the Executive Member for Customer, Digital & Performance presented the report and provided Members with a summary of changes.
Several risks had been added to the strategic risk register since it was last seen by the Committee:
· Sustainability strategy
· Waste consultation
· Leisure reopening
· Impact of national HGV driver shortage on local critical services (waste collection).
A number of other risks had also been altered as part of the risk review:
· The COVID-19 risk had now been broken into two specific risks related to both impacts on the district and on service delivery.
· The GDPR risk had now been merged into the cyber security risk due to both overlapping and there no longer being a need for a specific strategic risk.
· The investment portfolio and business rates risks had now been merged into the medium-term financial plan risk. This was because of overlapping between the risks and there not being a strong enough need for three separate strategic risks.
Ryan Pack, the Innovation & Change Business Partner pointed out that the new format had been put together following feedback from the Governance & Audit Committee.
He informed Members further to the changes above, the contract monitoring risks had been removed as it no longer met the criteria for a strategic risk. This risk had been introduced for historic reasons and no longer met the criteria as a strategic threat to the council as it was more appropriate for inclusion on the operational risk register.
Since this Committee last saw sight of the strategic risk register, it was noted that one of the most notable changes to outstanding risks was the emerging policy risk. This was specifically in relation to the impact of the Environmental bill. The bill was not as yet at a point where a separate risk needed to be considered but could occur in the future if deemed necessary.
The Council had also developed a significant risk around potential outcomes to the current waste consultation. Whilst this was a fluid situation, it was expected that the Council would at least be impacted in some significant way in relation to its current service delivery.
Councillor Clarke felt that the new layout was very helpful as it now mentioned any changes made to the risks. He asked however, if the impact of the risk changed and once it had been reviewed by the Corporate Management Team (CMT), would it be brought to this Committee or Cabinet for discussion. Additionally, looking at the information contained within the register, for example, the increased demand on housing services, he asked if such information would be provided to the Overview & Scrutiny Commission (O&SC).
Members were informed that all risk owners updated the register on a quarterly basis, if there were any significant changes prior to that, then an interim assessment was carried out and reported to CMT, the Portfolio Holder or Cabinet. In terms of the Overview & Scrutiny Commission, key performance indicator reports were already taken to their meetings for discussion as it was important ... view the full minutes text for item 56/21
Report by Faye Haywood, Head of Internal Audit for Breckland DC.
Faye Haywood, the Head of Internal Audit presented the report.
The report provided Members with the position on the progress made by management in implementing agreed Internal Audit recommendations as 17 September 2021.
In terms of progress in delivering these recommendations and since the report was published, appendices 2 and 3 highlighted the three important and urgent priority recommendations that were still outstanding. The first one relating to Planning & Building Control and the S106 processes was up to date due to the Team facing unprecedented delays due to the pandemic but there had been some progress made over the last few weeks, and Internal Audit had been provided with an update and would hopefully be resolved by year end.
The second one outstanding that related to Information & Governance had since been completed and all issues had been resolved.
The third one on page 81 of the agenda pack, evidence had now been requested to demonstrate completion and was on track but would have to be independently verified before this one could be closed.
The Chairman thanked the Head of Internal Audit for her very positive report.
Mr Plaskett was always disappointed when seeing sight of so many outstanding actions from 2018/19 even though some were classed as low priority but felt that the organisation should really take better notice of some of these dates and get them completed on a more reasonable timeframe. He did not believe that Officers really understood the importance of internal audit and the reports that came from it - the response to those actions had always been approved by management and should be followed up by management and taken more seriously.
The Head of Internal Audit welcomed Mr Plaskett’s comments but pointed out that there had been some positive changes and were now seeing such recommendations prioritised and some had been completed. The focus this time was to mainly close down the urgent high priority recommendations but now the focus would turn to the outstanding historical actions from 2018/19, and meetings had already been arranged.
Councillor Clarke echoed Mr Plaskett’s comments.
Councillor Monument referred to page 80 of the agenda pack under Planning where it stated that an issue remained with open space in that the Team was yet to track down the right person to take on this role. She felt that this was getting desperately urgent as the original date was 31 December 2019 and even then, there were already a great deal of S106 problems in existence. The pandemic had not prevented people from applying for planning permission and there were more and more S106 agreements coming through with a number not actually applying with Planning Policy and therefore needed to be dealt with as soon as possible, and with no staff to be able to do this work was, in her opinion, very concerning.
The Head of Internal Audit agreed that it was an important priority recommendation and was well overdue but had been comforted by the fact that some progress ... view the full minutes text for item 57/21
Report by Faye Haywood, Internal Audit Manager for Breckland DC.
The Head of Internal Audit presented the progress report on Internal Audit activity up to 17 September 2021 in relation to the completion of the Annual Internal Audit Plan for 2021/22.
No significant changes had been made to the Plan since its approval in June 2021. 15 days of programmed work had been completed by Internal Audit providers TIAA and ARP Auditors, totalling 8% of the revised Audit Plan. There were not any final executive summaries to discuss and in Appendix 1 there was one profile in Quarter 2 that ended on 30 September 2021. The deadline for draft reports was 10 working days after the quarter ends and discussions were being had with the auditor involved in respect of the private housing sector report and was on track.
The Head of Internal Audit advised that the findings would be brought to the Committee at its next meeting for discussion. There was not a great deal to report for this period.
Mr Plaskett had been surprised how little, just 8% of the Plan, had been completed bearing in mind that it was halfway through the year, notwithstanding the pandemic but asked if there was a problem with TIAA in respect of staffing or was it in regard to how the schedule had been set up. He further asked if the Head of Internal Audit was confident that all the audits would be completed by the end of the year.
Members were informed that it was a matter of profiling in this case (see Appendix 1 of the report) and there were many that would be forthcoming in quarters 3 and 4. There had been many issues along the way to contend with one of which was the lateness of the Plan being approved in June instead of March 2021. Additionally, TIAA had been dealing with staff sickness and remote working challenges.
The report was otherwise noted.
Report by External Audit, Ernst & Young.
Mark Hodgson, the External Auditor presented the report and highlighted the following matters.
On page 92 of the agenda pack, the materiality level had been updated to £1.415m on receipt of the draft financial statements that was marginally different from had been planned and was therefore reporting anything above £70,000 for this audit difference.
In respect of the ‘Status of the Audit’ section on 93 of the agenda pack, Members were provided with an update on all of the outstanding audit procedures, most had now been closed/completed and therefore there were no issues to report, subject to:
· Accounts Payable - Completed and one further issue to report. An April 2021 invoice was found in respect of the PFI Leisure contract that should be a 2021/22 item. It had been included twice in short-term debtors and once in short-term creditors. It should be only be shown once in short-term debtors as a pre-payment. The amount of £182,000 had therefore been overstated in both debtors and creditors and an adjustment for the difference would be made.
· Property, Plant & Equipment. Additions all complete. Test checking was being carried out on some valuations in respect of floor areas of which the valuations had been based. There were some assets held by the Council that did not include floor areas/plans and procedures were being deployed by the External Auditors to gain assurance.
In response to an observation made by the Chairman, the External Auditor explained that investment property, in particular, had increased and clearly a great deal of those assets were driven by yield, hence the floor area was now being taken into account and was an international auditing standard that applied not just for Breckland Council.
· Pension Liability –the necessary assurances from the Pension Fund auditors had been received but assurances in respect of the emerging issue set out on page 103 of the agenda pack were still awaited.
· Whole of Government Accounts procedures - the guidance from HM Treasury had not as yet been received but was expected in December 2021; therefore, this could not be completed but it did not impact the audit opinion or VFM arrangements work; however, closure of this audit could not be certified.
All risks and assurances had been completed (see page 96 of the agenda pack) subject to the property plant and equipment and pensions issues.
Attention was then drawn to page 115 of the agenda pack, there were still no uncorrected audit differences to report except for the two adjusted differences in respect of the pension liability and the PFI contract and these were explained.
Taking all the above into account and once the pension and property, plant & equipment issues had been closed an unqualified opinion would be proposed.
Members were informed that a valid objection to the accounts had been received (see page 120 of the agenda pack) but no issues of significance had been found and the objection was dismissed.
The audit opinion should have been signed off at this meeting; however, further time ... view the full minutes text for item 59/21
Report of Maxine O'Mahony, Executive Director Strategy & Resources
Alison Chubbock, the Assistant Director of Finance & S151 Officer presented the Statement of Accounts for 2020-21.
This report followed on from the previous report and these accounts had been updated accordingly since the June meeting.
The External Auditor had already taken Members through the major changes that had been detailed on page 138 of the agenda pack at paragraph 1.2 of the report and the £182k addition. Therefore, the Accounts had changed taking into account that £182k adjustment and the short-term debtor and creditor amounts had been reduced by the same value. It did not change the net financial position of the Council it only had an affect on the balance sheet, the short-term debtor and creditor notes, the financial instrument notes and the cash flow.
The report also included the annual governance statement that had not been changed since the June meeting which had been approved by the Leader & Chief Executive. The report also included the letter of representation to E&Y which could be seen on pages 249 to 255 of the agenda pack.
Due to the pension issues, the recommendation as it stood was unable to be approved and would have to be changed. Recommendations 1 (b) and 1(c) could be approved but the wording that was being proposed for 1(a) would be amended as follows:
The Governance & Audit Committee approves the financial statements of the Council as presented, having taken account of the External Auditors report. The Chair of the Governance & Audit Committee is authorised to sign and date the financial statements, once the auditor has completed their outstanding procedures as described, on the basis no material audit differences are identified.
If those procedures identified any material audit difference, which would require adjustment to the financial statements, the Governance & Audit Committee would be notified and updated accordingly and a new motion to approve the revised financial statements made at the next available Governance & Audit Committee meeting.
Mr Plaskett had compared the two sets of Accounts and only found one error that he felt should be addressed on page 182 of the agenda pack under ‘other differences’ the total 8,717 should be 6,891. Also on page 233, under short-term creditors had been changed from 635 to 633 and asked if that was just a timing difference.
The Assistant Director of Finance thanked Mr Plaskett for his observations as he was indeed correct in respect of the typo on page 182 and on page 233 this had been adjusted following the audit of Breckland Bridge accounts.
Out of interest, on page 199 under short term investments, Councillor Birt had noticed that there was a great deal of long-range investments in other councils and wondered why this approach had been taken and how that had come about. Members were informed that Breckland Council applied the security liquidity yield principle where the security was applied first, followed by the liquidity of this Council and then the yield rate – in other words, local government was very secure.
The Chairman stated ... view the full minutes text for item 60/21
A copy of the Committee’s work programme is attached. The Committee is asked to consider whether any additions, deletions or amendments to the programme are required.
In terms of Standards (Code of Conduct), the Chairman asked the Democratic Services Officer to find out when this was likely to be brought to this Committee as he would like it shown on the work programme.
The Vice-Chairman asked if this Committee was anticipating any further changes to the constitution that should be included in the work programme. It was agreed that this should be added to the December meeting. As a report was going to Full Council he asked if Members could be issued with a revised document once it had been approved.
· Internal Audit progress report
· Internal Audit follow up report
· Code of Conduct update
· Amendments to Constitution
*NB: Following discussion with the Democratic Services Manager, and following a recent Monitoring Officer Conference, the Standards Review (Code of Conduct) work will be delayed until 2022 so that any changes can be tied into the new Member induction in 2023. Work Programme. Confirmation awaited and dates tbc.
Next Meeting (Agenda item 16)
To note the arrangements for the next meeting on Thursday, 2 December at 10am in the Breckland Conference Centre, Anglia Room, Elizabeth House, Walpole Loke, Dereham.
The arrangements for the next meeting on Thursday, 2 December at 10am in the Anglia Room were noted.
Chairman's Closing Remarks
As this was John Plaskett’s last meeting, the Chairman thanked him for his service to Breckland Council over the past 4 years. He had been an incredibly important member of this Committee and it had been an absolute pleasure to work with him and felt that this Council had been very lucky to have the benefit of his wisdom and experience and wished him all the very best for the future.
Mr Plaskett thanked the Chairman for his very kind words.