Venue: Kennet Room - County Hall, Bythesea Road, Trowbridge, BA14 8JN. View directions
Contact: Tara Hunt Senior Democratic Services Officer email: email@example.com
Apologies and Membership Update
To receive any apologies or substitutions for the meeting.
To note that at Full Council on 16 May, the annual appointment of committees took place. Cllr Mark Connolly, the former Chairman of the Audit and Governance Committee stood down from the role and from the Committee, and Cllr Iain Wallis was appointed to the Committee as the new Chairman. All other membership remains the same.
The Chairman, Cllr Iain Wallis, noted that at Full Council on 16 May 2023, the annual appointment of committees took place. Cllr Mark Connolly, the former Chairman of the Audit and Governance Committee stood down from the committee and Cllr Wallis was appointed to the committee as the new Chairman.
The Chairman also highlighted that since publication of the agenda, at Full Council on 18 July, the committee membership was updated again. Cllr Edward Kirk was no longer on the committee and was replaced by Cllr Howard Greenman. The Chairman welcomed Cllr Greenman to the committee.
The Chairman passed on thanks to both Cllr Mark Connolly and Cllr Edward Kirk for their work on the Committee.
Apologies for absence had been received from:
· Cllr Adrian Foster, who was substituted by Cllr Ross Henning
· Cllr Mike Sankey, who was substituted by Cllr Pauline Church
Minutes of the Previous Meeting
To consider the Part I (public) minutes of the meeting held on 26 April 2023.
The Part I (public) minutes of the last meeting held on 26 April 2023 were presented for consideration and it was,
To approve and sign the Part I (public) minutes as a true and correct record.
Declarations of Interests
To receive any declarations of disclosable interests or dispensations granted by the Standards Committee.
There were no declarations of interest.
To receive any announcements from the Chairman:
There were no formal announcements, however the Chairman reminded Members that following the meeting here would be a brief training session from SWAP on the ‘AuditBoard’ internal audit portal.
If you would like to make a statement at this meeting on any item on this agenda, please register to do so at least 10 minutes prior to the meeting. Up to 3 speakers are permitted to speak for up to 3 minutes each on any agenda item. Please contact the officer named on the front of the agenda for any further clarification.
To receive any questions from members of the public or members of the Council received in accordance with the constitution.
Those wishing to ask questions are required to give notice of any such questions in writing to the officer named on the front of this agenda no later than 5pm on 18 July 2023 in order to be guaranteed of a written response. In order to receive a verbal response questions must be submitted no later than 5pm on20 July 2023. Please contact the officer named on the front of this agenda for further advice. Questions may be asked without notice if the Chairman decides that the matter is urgent.
Details of any questions received will be circulated to Committee members prior to the meeting and made available at the meeting and on the Council’s website.
There were no public questions or statements received.
Internal Audit Reports
To receive the Internal Audit updates from SWAP:
Sally White (SWAP) presented the Internal Audit update.
The SWAP representative highlighted some key points in the report. SWAP had offered a reasonable audit opinion on work to date. One limited assurance opinion had been issued regarding Section 106 (S106) Financial Controls. An agreed action plan was in place to improve internal control around this key area of income.
Regular review was being maintained on the three previously reported significant corporate risks, which were Pension Fund Key Controls, ICT Network Boundary Defences and the Pension Payroll Reconciliation Project.
There were still some gaps in internal audit coverage, but these had reduced and SWAP were working with senior managers to close the remaining gaps.
The new ‘AuditBoard’ portal where Members could check the internal audit rolling work plan was highlighted, and it was hoped that Members would visit this regularly to keep up to date with internal audit work.
SWAP were working with relevant directorates regarding overdue priority 1 and 2 actions, to confirm that actions were being properly implemented and they hoped to demonstrate an improvement in the figures. SWAP were continuing to roll out Cifas, which had been successful at other local authorities.
In response to questions on the S106 audit, it was stated that SWAP thought the £125,000 that was not raised sat within the £3.45 million for the 7 applications which SWAP looked at. The approximately two thirds of the £3.45 million that had been collected was thought to be by value, not volume. It was thought that the elements looked at were the Wiltshire Council elements and not the total which would include contributions due to parish councils. Further details could be given when the service came to Audit and Governance Committee, it was confirmed that they would attend the September meeting.
In relation to the level of samples taken, it was explained that they had intended to look at 14 S106 agreements, however there were issues with the first 7 which were looked at and therefore they stopped at that point. This was a standard internal audit approach as control weaknesses had been identified. The service would then check all agreements.
In response to further questions, it was clarified that strategic risks were identified by management, by the strategic risk process and register. Internal audit looked at risks from that and any highlighted by directors. Some Members felt that the delays to the audits and accounts should be included as a strategic risk. Some also felt that strategic risk should be looked at in terms of value, for example to look at adult social care as that was where a lot of the council’s budget was spent.
SWAP highlighted that the training session on the ‘AuditBoard’ would help to show how the internal audit rolling plan was put together, for example by risk, the corporate plan and SWAP’s top 10 risks and recommended areas of coverage. Members would be able to access this at any time.
Members queried the risk ... view the full minutes text for item 31.
Annual Governance Statement 2022/23
To consider the Annual Governance Statement 2022/23.
David Bowater, Senior Corporate Support Manager, presented the draft Annual Governance Statement (AGS) 2022/23.
The officer explained that the draft AGS 2022/23 had been prepared in line with the Local Code of Corporate Governance and following advice from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA).
The government had recently released draft statutory guidance on the Best Value Duty for local authorities, which had been developed in response to interventions at other authorities. This set out what it saw as a well functioning council. One measure was an AGS, prepared in line with the CIPFA / SOLACE framework, so Wiltshire Council was already meeting that element of the guidance.
Senior officers met regularly to deliver meaningful review through the AGS and would also respond to the consultation on the Best Value Duty guidance.
Any improvement actions identified in last year’s AGS which were still amber rated were rolled forward to this year’s AGS, so that the Committee could monitor the actions. Comments from the Committee and from the external auditor would be reflected in the final draft of the AGS which would be brought back to the Committee for formal approval when the Statement of Accounts were considered.
Maria Doherty, Head of Democracy, Governance and Customer Services spoke to paragraph 13 of the report (page 28 of the agenda) and the yellow highlighted section in Principle G of the AGS (page 40 of the agenda). This section had been left incomplete as the letter from the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) had yet to be received at the time of agenda publication. A copy of the letter had now been received, which would be presented to the Standards Committee for consideration. A summary of the key findings was given. The percentage of complaints upheld (of those the Ombudsman chose to investigate) was 58%, with the average for a similar council at 72%. Compliance with Ombudsman recommendations was 100%, whereas in similar councils the average was 99%. With regard to satisfactory remedies provided prior to Ombudsman involvement, the figure was 6% as opposed to 13% in similar councils. This would be looked into further.
Perry Holmes, Director Legal and Governance and Monitoring Officer, spoke to paragraph 10 of the report (page 27 of the agenda) regarding the Monitoring Officer comments included within the AGS (page 39 and 40 of the AGS). As Monitoring Officer, he had a statutory duty to report any illegality by the council, he had chosen to report on this within the AGS.
The first comment was regarding the placement of two children in unregistered provision. Unregistered provision was when a child who was being provided with some form of ‘care’ was living somewhere that was not registered with Ofsted. There were very good reasons why those decisions were made by the Director of Children’s services in her statutory role. In response to questions it was confirmed that the two children were still in the unregistered provision. There was a full audit trail of all ... view the full minutes text for item 32.
Accounts and Audit Update
To receive an accounts and audit update.
Lizzie Watkin, Director of Finance and Deputy Section 151 Officer, presented the Accounts and Audit update.
The officer highlighted the brief covering report, which explained the reasons for the agenda item. Alongside the covering report there was an update report from the external auditors, and the management response to the issues raised in the report. The Committee had previously had sight of both the external auditors report and the management response, but in order to ensure full transparency they would be discussed at the meeting.
It was stated that the Committee had received many reports and progress updates on the status of the 2019/20 accounts. Everyone involved was disappointed in the progress made.
On 1 March 2022, a report was brought to the Committee requesting delegation be given to the Section 151 Officer in conjunction with the Chairman of the Audit and Governance Committee to approve the final Statement of Accounts 2019/20 and the Letter of Representation for those accounts, following completion of the audit. At that time, it had been thought that there may be a few minor changes, however since then significant further work had been undertaken. Whilst all material issues had been addressed, there were significant technical accounting aspects, many of which went back to 2015/16 which had required unpicking. Many of the errors and misstatements identified related to asset and lease accounting, these did not affect cash flow, reserves, usable funds or the provision of services to the public. Wiltshire Council had set a balanced budget for the next three years and the latest Outturn report detailed a significant increase in the delivery of savings.
Wiltshire Council were not alone, nationally there was significant stress within the sector in fulfilling auditing requirements, with many audit opinions outstanding across councils.
The delays to the completion of audits and accounts did however have a cost to the taxpayer, as there was a significant amount of extra work for the Council, which had to be resourced and the costs for the external auditors would also increase.
Details were given regarding a statement from Lee Rowley MP and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities plans to ‘reset’ the audit system to clear the backlog of outstanding audits and prevent a recurrence. The officer would provide a briefing note to the Committee which would summarise the aspects involved.
In terms of whether the situation was a strategic risk, as mentioned by Members earlier in the meeting, it was explained that usually companies had a set of accounts which people read and lenders looked at to see if they could borrow. However, as a local authority, the council tended to borrow from government backed schemes so that did not really apply. All borrowing was controlled by the Treasury Management Strategy, which was sound. As highlighted in the Annual Governance Statement (AGS) the Council were not complying with the timelines for publication of the accounts, however, details regarding the delays were publicly available.
The officer pondered the question of how to ... view the full minutes text for item 33.
Forward Work Programme
To note the Forward Work Programme
The Forward Work Plan for the Committee was presented for consideration, and it was,
To note the FWP and to add to the plan regular updates for the Committee on Accounts and Audit progress.
Date of Next Meeting
To note that the next regular meeting of the Committee will be held on 19 September 2023 at 2.30pm.
It was announced that the next regular meeting of the Committee would be held on 19 September 2023 at 2.30pm.
Any other items of business, which the Chairman agrees to consider as a matter of urgency.
There were no urgent items.
Exclusion of the Press and Public
To consider passing the following resolution:
To agree that in accordance with Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972 to exclude the public from the meeting for the business specified in Item Number 13 because it is likely that if members of the public were present there would be disclosure to them of exempt information as defined in paragraph 3 of Part I of Schedule 12A to the Act and the public interest in withholding the information outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information to the public.
The Committee considered whether or not to hold the next item in closed session and it was,
To agree that in accordance with Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972 to exclude the public from the meeting for the business specified in agenda item number 13 because it was likely that if members of the public were present there would be disclosure to them of exempt information as defined in paragraph 3 of Part I of Schedule 12A to the Act and the public interest in withholding the information outweighed the public interest in disclosing the information to the public.
Minutes of the Previous Meeting
To consider the Part II (private) minutes of the meeting held on 26 April 2023.
The Part II (private) minutes of the meeting held on 26 April 2023 were presented for consideration and it was,
To approve and sign the Part II (private) minutes as a true and correct record.