Agenda item

Q3/Q4 Risk Report (Agenda item 8)

Report of Cllr Jane James, Executive Member for Customer & Corporate Services.


Councillor James, the Executive Member for Customer & Corporate Services introduced the report.


She was pleased to inform Members that the strategic risks identified by the Council had reduced by one to 11, this risk related to Leisure Centres reopening that was discussed at the previous Committee meeting in September.  Attention was drawn to the waste consultation and Nutrient Neutrality risks.  It was noted that there had been movement in regard to these risks in relation to announcements and proposed ways forward, however, whilst these were steps in the right direction the Council had taken the decision not to change the current risk ratings.  The reason for this decision was that these announcements had yet to be translated into tangible mitigations that could possibly lower the risk.  She had not doubt that these announcements would be possible steps forward, but time would have to be allowed for them to become fully realised and implemented.


Ryan Pack, the Innovation & Change Business Partner provided further details in respect of the Leisure risk. This risk had been removed based on the fact that the levels of participation had now recovered and were back to pre-Covid levels and therefore was no longer considered to be a strategic risk to the Council.   Other risks mentioned were the rescoring of the IT cyber security and GDPR.  The IT cyber security risk had been rescored at the request of this Committee and the GDPR risk had been rescored at the request of the Auditors who believed the score to be too high. 


In response to a question about whether it was anticipated that the risks mentioned earlier in respect of Nutrient Neutrality and Waste consultation could eventually be moved into a lower category, the Innovation & Change Business Partner explained that there was nothing specific that he was currently aware of that would warrant decreasing those risks at the moment.


Mr Fowler, the Independent Lay Advisor drew attention to page 19 of the agenda pack under the rising temporary accommodation usage risk in respect of the potential consequences and asked what was meant by ‘large’ costs. Referring to the same risk, he also referred to the national awareness that had been raised in regard to poor housing conditions and asked if the Council considered this as a risk. Additionally, he queried the date of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) review that could be found on page 23 of the agenda pack, as he was aware that this consultation was currently taking place at the moment and not in 2024 as mentioned in the register.


The Vice-Chairman, Councillor Kybird agreed with the latter query as a report had been included on the agenda for the forthcoming Cabinet meeting.


Mr Fowler then referred to a typo on page 31 of the agenda pack, 3rd line down, the word ‘and’ should be changed to ‘are’, to read ‘As the contracts ‘are’ all long-term’. He then mentioned the Planning & Building Control contract that was due to end in 2024 and felt that as there would be procurement and TUPE implications, this, in his opinion, should start to be considered now to ensure continuation of service.


In terms of costs to the Council, the first question asked, the Innovation & Change Business Partner explained that he had hoped to bring the latest figures to this Committee meeting but due to staff sickness, the figures would be emailed to Members instead. In terms of housing conditions, category 1 hazards were already included in the performance report, and these were recorded in the number of notices served, there was nothing around standards as Breckland Council did not own any housing stock.  As far as the date of the NPPF was concerned this would be checked with Planning Officers.  Contracts continued to be monitored but if Members would prefer to receive further information on contract renewal end dates, such information could be added moving forward. 


Referring to the large costs in respect of housing, Alison Chubbock, the Assistant Director for Finance, advised that such costs were reported in the quarterly financial performance report to Cabinet, and the quarter 3 report that was due to be reported at the forthcoming Cabinet meeting, the additional costs for housing was just over £300k and the additional cost for housing benefit was just under £800k.  These were significant costs but were being mitigated through the purchase of a number of properties by this Council and therefore such costs would decrease overtime.  She agreed with the comments made in respect of contracts but assured Members that these were already considered prior to renewal.


Mr Fowler questioned the Council owned properties as there seemed to be some contradiction.  The Innovation & Change Business Partner apologised for the confusion, the housing that the Assistant Director of Finance referred to was temporary accommodation and the standard of such accommodation would be taken into account.


In terms of housing standards, Faye Haywood, the Head of Internal Audit stated that some audit work was currently being undertaken on issues such as mould, damp etc and this information would be provided at the next meeting.


Councillor Birt also mentioned the Leisure Centre re-opening and the risk being removed but felt that this was still a significant risk in terms of the increase in energy costs and the exceptional costs of running heated swimming pools with many being closed.  He was aware that the Council would not be in a position to close the Leisure Centres in Dereham and Thetford due to the PFI contract that protected the profits of the providers, but this would mean that this Council could be at risk of very high energy bills costs that this authority would have to pay. The other aspect that should be taken into account was that Leisure Centres were one of the Council’s highest carbon emitters and there was no plan in place to address such a matter and as such was likely to cost money going forward.


The Head of Internal Audit explained that this would be included in next year’s programme as could be seen within the next agenda item (agenda item 9, page 56) sustainability and climate change where it was proposed to provide a de-carbonisation plan in 2024/25.


Councillor Birt then drew Members’ attention to the sustainability strategy risk on page 22 of the agenda pack.  He had raised this as a concern at the previous meeting as he felt that this risk would become elevated.  The carbon footprint 2021/22 had already been presented to Cabinet on 21 November 2022 that showed despite some very speculative ideas, including hydrogenated vegetable oil as road fuel, and all the effort put in by this Council, only half of the target by 2035 would be reached.  Therefore on the basis that this Council did not actually have a plan, let alone an implementation of that plan, he could not understand why the score had not changed and had remained static since its fruition.   


The Innovation & Change Business Partner felt that this was a fair point and was happy to take a look at this again, but this was a long-term risk to the Council, until 2035, and the reason that this risk had not moved was because there was still a significant amount of time.


Councillor Birt felt that it should still be looked at.  He then drew attention to pages 24 and 29 of the agenda pack, the critical breach of ICT security risk and the General Data Protection regulation risk. He had noticed that in both cases, the likelihood of those events had been reduced but the impact had risen which he felt was suspicious as there was nothing in the text about why the impact rating had increased. 


The Innovation & Change Business Partner explained that this had been mentioned earlier and was in respect of the rescoring, and the reasoning behind this was explained. 


Referring to the GDPR risk, the Vice-Chairman asked if there had been any improvement on the numbers of Members completing the training and would there be a programme of training for new Members immediately following the Election.


In response, Councillor James pointed out that there was an outline of the Member training programme on the next General Purposes Agenda and was an intrinsic part of the new Member support package. All Members were soon due for a refresher course on Hut Six and she urged Members to complete the current training programme if they had not done so already.


The contents of the report were noted.

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