Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: The Breckland Conference Centre, Anglia Room, Elizabeth House, Walpole Loke, Dereham, NR19 1EE

Contact: Democratic Services  01362 656870

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No. Item

30/22

Minutes (Agenda item 1) pdf icon PDF 176 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 23 June 2022.

Minutes:

The Minutes of the meeting held on 23 June 2022 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman subject to the following additional wording:

 

1.     Minute No. 23/22 – Q1 Risk Report (Last paragraph) to add the following word:

 

… the level of attendance had not dropped below pre-covid levels.

 

2.     Minute No. 25/22 - Annual Internal Audit Opinion 2021/22 (4th paragraph), to add the following wording:

 

… 3 low priority recommendations were being reported at Breckland, the lowest number across the consortium in Norfolk.

31/22

Actions arising from the Minutes (if any) (standing item) (Agenda item 2)

Minutes:

None.

32/22

Apologies (Agenda item 3)

To receive apologies for absence.

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Clarke and Grey.

33/22

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.

Minutes:

None.

34/22

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.

 

Minutes:

None declared.

35/22

Non-members wishing to address the meeting (Agenda item 6)

To note the names of any non-members wishing to address the meeting.

Minutes:

Councillors Birt, Cowen, Hewett, Kiddle-Morris, Morton and Suggitt were in attendance.

 

Councillors Cowen, Hewett and Suggitt were in attendance in their capacity as Executive Members.

36/22

Training (Standing item) (Agenda item 7)

To note if there are any training issues/ requests.

Minutes:

The Chairman reminded Members that some training requirements had been requested at the previous meeting and a number of choices had now been provided.

 

Training to be provided by Faye Haywood, the Internal Audit Manager.

 

There would be no additional cost, as this was already covered in the Council’s existing agreement.  There were 3 options for Members to choose from:

 

1.    Internal Audit could produce a video covering content for all members (subject to confirmation that the video content can be supported by South Norfolk District Council’s internal teams).  This would not allow for Q&A during the session, but questions could be sent to the Head of Internal Audit separately.

 

2.    A face-to-face session for Members delivered by the Head of Internal Audit.

 

3.    An online session for Members delivered by the Head of Internal Audit.

 

The content would be around, purpose of the G&A Committee, Governance, skills & knowledge, the work of the G&A committee (internal & external audit, risk management, financial reporting, etc) and continuous Improvement.

 

Training to be provided by CIPFA

 

There would be a charge for this training dependent on the number of Members in attendance.

 

The Vice-Chairman, Councillor Robert Kybird felt that option 3 would be the most reasonable one to choose as having an on-line training session would allow for more Members to attend.  He also felt that there should be more of a comprehensive training session in place for Members after the Elections in May 2023.

 

It was agreed that Option 3, an on-line training session should be arranged for all Members not just for Members of the Governance & Audit Committee.  The Head of Internal Audit would make the necessary arrangements.

37/22

External Audit Plan - Year Ended 31 March 2022 (Agenda item 8) pdf icon PDF 5 MB

Report by Mark Hodgson, External Audit Ernst & Young LLP.

Minutes:

Mark Hodgson, the External Auditor, Ernst & Young LLP provided Members with the key highlights in respect of the External Audit Plan.

 

Attention was drawn to page 20 of the Agenda pack that set out the materiality levels that was based on the draft financial statement for the year as set out at Agenda item 12. External Audit was working at a materiality level of £1.456m for the Council’s accounts and £10k higher than that for the Group’s accounts. Any audit differences above £72,800 would be reported to the Committee.

 

In terms of audit risks on pages 18 and 19 of the Agenda pack, the Committee could take good assurance that they were broadly consistent with the previous year.  There were two fraud risks and four inherent risks around property, plant & equipment, pension valuation, National Non-Domestic rates (NNDR) appeals provision and the recoverability of debtors which were all consistent with the previous year.

 

Three new areas of focus had been added for this year, which would not have a material impact on the accounts or the audit opinion, but clearly required some element of audit work.  These were in relation to the change in management structure, following the separation of shared management arrangements with South Holland District Council, and the impact that had on the statements and the related party transactions.

 

There was a new national issue around infrastructure assets, and whilst the Council’s balance was not material, with the figure that had been calculated, some further disclosure requirements could be necessary. In terms of Group accounts, there was a new entity within Breckland Bridge Ltd so there was a need to ensure that the consolidation methodology followed the standard that had been provided in previous years, in that the new entity was incorporated correctly.

 

In terms of Value for Money, a risk assessment would be carried out as part of the audit procedures and a separate risk assessment would be brought to the Committee in due course.

 

The audit was scheduled for October/November 2022 and the results would be produced soon after the procedures had been concluded and presented at the February 2023 meeting.

 

On the issue of the meeting timetable, the Chairman asked Alison Chubbock, the Assistant Director of Finance & S151 Officer if the dates were suitable for audit requirements in particular the February meeting.  Members were informed that normally the timetable was absolutely fine but for this year, due to the changes in timings, it did not quite fit and there was an agenda item of possibly moving the February meeting back slightly.  The Assistant Director of Finance suggested having a special meeting in either December 2022 or January 2023 just for the accounts subject to agreement of Members and the External Auditor.   

 

The Vice-Chairman, Councillor Robert Kybird pointed out that there was already a meeting scheduled for 15 December 2022 and asked the Auditor if he would be unable to present to this meeting.  Members were informed that there was potential to report to that meeting if  ...  view the full minutes text for item 37/22

38/22

The Planning Register and Planning Website and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (Agenda item 9) pdf icon PDF 321 KB

Report of Cllr Sarah Suggitt, Executive Member for Strategic & Operational Planning and Cllr Paul Hewett, Executive Member for Property, Projects & Procurement.

Minutes:

Simon Wood, the Director of Planning & Building Control presented the report.

 

Kirsty Porter, the Data Protection Officer and Sarah Wolstenholme-Smy, the Legal Services Manager were also in attendance for this item.

 

As Members were aware, the Council considered planning applications and consulted with both statutory and non-statutory consultees.  The non-statutory consultees were third parties i.e generally neighbours, and on occasion where it was appropriate to do so, site notices were displayed, and applications were advertised in local newspapers to ensure that the public were aware. This procedure was clearly set out in the Statement of Community Involvement that had been presented to the recent Cabinet meeting and was adopted. 

 

The Council’s present policy was to publish third party comments on-line and reflected the current position within the Statement of Community Involvement. Advice was also provided on the Planning website to members of the public that if they were going to submit on-line comments (using the form set out on the website) that their name and address would be published. If they did not wish for their personal details to be added, comments pertaining to the application could be emailed to the Planning Team or in the form of a letter. It was a matter of course not to accept totally anonymous comments.

 

This had always been difficult in terms of ensuring that what goes on the website was properly redacted as the Council had a duty of care under the General Data Protection regulations to ensure that certain information was not made public, and that the rights of the individual were protected.

 

As a Planning service, 1000s of letters were received each year in respect of planning applications and all had to be read and redacted to make sure that private information in relation to issues such as ethnicity, health conditions etc as well as potential defamatory comments were not published.  This was considered to be a significant risk to the Council if it continued to publish those comments.

 

There was no regulatory requirement to publish these comments, Councils could choose to but would have to ensure that all conformed with the GDPR.

 

As it was considered to be a significant risk and given the amount of work involved it was therefore being recommended that the Council cease to publish all third-party comments on the website and only publish comments from statutory consultees, including parish councils and any registered amenity groups. This would minimise and remove the risk to the Council. 

 

The Director of Planning & Building Control appreciated that this was a sensitive issue and that transparency in decision making was also important.  All letters received and all planning considerations highlighted within comments from third parties were already summarised in the officer report and would be addressed as such.  It would also be the responsibility of Officers to ensure that any issues raised by third parties that needed to be addressed to make sure the development was acceptable were raised with the applicant and/or the agent through the decision-making process.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 38/22

39/22

Annual report on write off's over £10,000 (Agenda item 10) pdf icon PDF 464 KB

Report of Alison Chubbock, Section 151 Officer.

Minutes:

The Accountancy Manager presented the report.

 

Members had previously requested that all write-offs over £10,000 be brought to the Committee on an annual basis for consideration.

 

During 2021/22, 7 x debts over that amount had been written off totalling just over £220,000.  This was in the context of total business rates received of £29.2m for 2021/22 and the Council receiving £19.67m in income from fees, charges and other sundry debtors.

 

Councillor Birt had been asking various questions on this matter on many occasions at Full Council meetings as he felt that this was a particularly important measure to show the health of the economy in the Breckland area so that the Council could be proactive when the economy was not performing as well.  At the meeting held on 19 December 2021, he had noticed that the supplementary pack had indicated the sum of £91,578.76 but had not included the £129,984.64 and presumed that those businesses were not within Breckland’s portfolio but now that this report was only disclosing debts over £10,000, he asked what the affect would be if all business rate defaults were to be disclosed and the scale of how much the figures could increase.

 

The Accountancy Manager did not have the figures to hand but would get back to Councillor Birt with a response.

 

With no further questions being asked the report was otherwise noted.

40/22

Treasury Management Policy and Strategy 2022-23 (Agenda item 11) pdf icon PDF 249 KB

Report of Cllr Philip Cowen, Executive Member for Finance, Revenues and Benefits.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Phil Cowen, the Executive Member for Finance, Revenue & Benefits presented the report that had already been to various Committee meetings and had not changed.

 

The reason for it being presented to this Committee was due to the key changes to the Treasury Management Code of Practice as detailed in the background information as detailed at section 1.1 of the report.  It reflected new guidance driven by CIPFA and was all about regulatory changes that the Council needed to adopt through its accounting process, as identified in the appendices attached to this report.  

 

The Accountancy Manager explained that the main purpose of these statutory changes was to prevent Councils from borrowing purely to invest for a financial return.  Many authorities had borrowed and had invested in commercial properties outside of their districts and these changes would prevent this from happening in future.

 

A new debt liability benchmark treasury indicator would need to be adopted to support the financing risk management of the capital financing requirement but as this Council was not expecting to borrow externally this year, this had not as yet been developed but would be considered when developing plans for next year.

 

This report also recommended an increase in the maximum amount that could be invested in counterparties where Link had recommended that investments could be made for up to 1 year or more, from £5m to £7.5m.  This would allow more flexibility in managing the Council’s cashflows. Attention was then drawn to page 123 of the agenda pack where a list of suggested counterparties for lending for Breckland Council had been highlighted.

 

Councillor Birt had noticed that the Council put a great deal of reliance on CIPFA data and had tried to find some background information but had found that they charged £495 + VAT for any individual to access such information. He asked if the Council had access to such information that could be provided to Members on request.

 

He then drew attention to page 81 of the agenda pack where he had noticed the wording ‘as the Council had an underlying need to borrow’ but when he had previously asked at a Full Council meeting for more information on the Council’s Reserves, he was shown a graph that highlighted the fact that the Council had over £18m in Reserves and therefore did not understand the need to borrow at this stage.

 

In response to Councillor Birt’s first question, the Accountancy Manager explained that the Council did have electronic copies of the Prudential Code and the Treasury Management Code and could not see any reason why Members should not see sight of them.

 

In respect of the second point, Members were informed that some of the Reserves were already earmarked for particular purposes and therefore could not be used for Capital purchases, any borrowing requirements would be solely for capital expenditures/investments.

 

The Assistant Director of Finance & S151 Officer agreed with the point about sharing the CIPFA guidance, but it had been made very clear that they  ...  view the full minutes text for item 40/22

41/22

Un-audited statement of accounts 2021-22 (Agenda item 12) pdf icon PDF 161 KB

Report of Alison Chubbock, Section 151 Officer.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Accountancy Manager presented the un-audited Statement of Accounts 2021-22 and the Annual Governance Statement (AGS) for comment and information.

 

Members’ attention was drawn to page 130 of the agenda pack, section 1.7 where the key changes to the balance sheet had been highlighted.  Additionally, in answer to one of Councillor Birt’s earlier points, the figures were available in respect of business rates collected and the collection rate achieved (page 136 of the agenda pack).

 

Mr Fowler drew attention to page 131 of the agenda pack at section 1.8 and referred to the small surplus balance of £713k and wanted to know if this was then split with the other precept organisations. Members were informed that Parish Councils did not form part of the collection fund.  

 

A number of typographical errors were then highlighted including page 190 – Note 14: the dates should be 2021 and 2022, and on page 215, the second line under Breckland Bridge the wording did not make sense and should be accelerated not accelerate.   

 

The un-audited Statement of Accounts and the Annual Governance Statement for 2021/22 were otherwise noted.

 

42/22

Work Programme (Agenda item 13) pdf icon PDF 12 KB

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.

Minutes:

As previously discussed, the December meeting would be moved to a date in January 2023.

 

Members have since been notified of the new date, which is Thursday, 19 January 2023.

 

The Work Programme was otherwise noted.

43/22

Next Meeting (Agenda item 14)

To note the arrangements for the next meeting to be held on Thursday, 29 September 2022 at 10am in the Anglia Room.

 

Following a request from the Head of Internal Audit, Members are asked to consider changing the date of the February 2023 meeting to a date in early March 2023 (if possible).

Minutes:

The arrangements for the next meeting on Thursday, 29 September 2022 at 10am in the Anglia Room were noted.