Agenda and draft minutes

Governance and Audit Committee - Thursday, 9th November, 2023 6.30 pm

Venue: Meeting Room 1, Council Offices, Priory Road, Spalding

Contact: Democratic Services  01775 764693

Items
No. Item

22.

Declaration of Interests

(Where a Councillor has a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest the Councillor must declare the interest to the meeting and leave the room without participating in any discussion or making a statement on the item, except where a Councillor is permitted to remain as a result of a grant of dispensation).

 

Minutes:

There were none.

23.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 204 KB

To sign as a correct record the minutes of the Governance and Audit Committee meeting held on 19 September 2023 (copy enclosed).

Minutes:

Members considered the minutes from the 19 September 2023 Governance and Audit Committee meeting and made the following comments:

 

  • Members referred to the minutes of the ‘2021/2022 Audit Results Report – Updated’ item regarding the ‘Other Reporting Issues – Recommendation to Council’ and asked whether all Related Party Disclosures had been returned to the Finance Team.
    • The Chief Finance Officer (PSPS) responded that the audit commentary had applied to the 2021/2022 accounts and that action had been taken to ensure as full returns as possible for 2022/23.

 

  • Members noted that the post titles of officers were included in the attendance section of the minutes. It was agreed that the names of attending officers would be emailed to members alongside the minutes.

 

AGREED:


That the minutes of the Governance and Audit Committee meeting held on 19 September be signed by the Chairman as a correct record.

 

24.

Actions pdf icon PDF 188 KB

An update on actions which arose at the 19 September 2023 Governance and Audit Committee meeting and the tracking of previous outstanding actions (enclosed).

Minutes:

Updated responses to actions which arose at the 19 September 2023 Governance and Audit Committee meeting and the tracking of previous outstanding actions were presented to the committee.

 

Members considered the update and made the following comment:

  • Members were satisfied with the responses and were pleased that progress was being monitored and documented and that actions were being completed.

 

AGREED:

 

That the actions from the Governance and Audit Committee meeting held on 19 September 2023 and the tracking of previous outstanding actions be noted.

25.

Q2 Risk Report 2023/2024 pdf icon PDF 252 KB

To provide an update on the Council’s current strategic risks (report of the Assistant Director – Governance enclosed).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Assistant Director – Governance which provided an update on the Council’s current strategic risks.

 

The Business Intelligence and Change Manager introduced the report by giving the following overview of the current status of the Council’s strategic risks:

  • All of the risks had been reviewed however there had not been any changes to risk scores for Q2;
  • Two new risks had been identified, as follows:
    • The delivery of the Council’s work programme and corporate objectives; this risk highlighted capacity issues with increased workloads within existing resources; and
    • The resilience and quality of service delivery arrangements with third parties, specifically the potential for failure of a major supplier of Council services or partners with whom the Council co-delivered/enabled provision of services and operations.
  • Full details of identified risks were outlined in the SHDC Strategic Risk Register at Appendix A

 

Members considered the Q2 Risk Report 2023/2024 and made the following comments:

 

  • Members were pleased that the two new stated risks had been acknowledged as these had been identified during the investigations of the Joint Scrutiny of the S&ELCP Task Group.

 

AGREED:

 

That after consideration of the Q2 Risk Report 2023/2024 and Appendix A, which detailed the latest assessment of the Council’s strategic risks, the report be noted by the Committee.

26.

Progress Report on Internal Audit Activity pdf icon PDF 504 KB

To provide the Committee with details of audit work carried out from 01/03/23 to 31/10/2023 (report of the Internal Audit Team Manager – Assurance Lincolnshire)

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Internal Audit Team Manager – Assurance Lincolnshire which provided the Governance and Audit Committee with details of audit work carried out from 1 March 2023 to 31 October 2023.

 

In addition to the published papers within the agenda and agenda supplement, a further updated Internal Audit Progress Report for November 2023 was circulated to members at the meeting (and appended to the minutes).

 

The Internal Audit Team Manager – Assurance Lincolnshire introduced the Progress Report on Internal Audit Activity report and gave an overview of the following main areas of the report:

  • The role of internal audit;
  • The purpose of the report; it was noted that there had been a change to the assurance categorisation used since 2022/2023;
  • Performance dashboard; delivery of the audit plan was on track and whilst engagement from officers had been forthcoming, auditors were aware that officers across the partnership and PSPS had heavy workloads;
  • An update on Internal Audit Activity:
    • Two Limited Assurance ratings had been identified which applied to Housing Compliance; and Control Account Reconciliation (payroll).  Both the Assistant Director – Housing and the Chief Finance Officer (PSPS) were in attendance to respond to the audit assessment and to answer member questions; and
    • Assurance levels had been granted for a further 12 audits which were summarised from page 93 of the agenda supplement.
  • Executive summaries of the two Limited Assurance opinions (the full audits were appended to the agenda supplement from page 113); and
  • Responses to overdue high priority actions; and overdue medium and low priority actions. The responses had evidenced that Managers had reacted to the findings of audits.

 

The Assistant Director – Housing was in attendance to present a briefing note to the committee regarding the Limited Assurance audit rating given by TIAA in respect of Housing Compliance. The briefing note had been included within the published agenda supplement and outlined the following information:

  • Background/contextual information which included an explanation for the service’s disagreement with the Limited Assurance rating;
  • Inspection performance relating to gas safety; electrical safety; fire safety; asbestos management; and water safety; and
  • Key considerations and next steps which included action relating to electrical safety and procurement; and governance in respect of policies and procedures, system improvements and compliance reporting.

 

The Assistant Director – Housing stated that a range of responsibilities endured in respect of electrical safety. SHDC had a legal requirement to:

  • Maintain electrical installations ‘in repair’, which was carried out by the Housing Repairs Team; and
  • Inspect electrical installations as part of tenancy changes, for example, due to a re-letting or mutual exchange.

These areas were not tested as part of the audit.

 

The Assistant Director – Housing acknowledged the view of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) that a ‘patchwork of legislation’ governed electrical safety, the corollary of which meant that adherence to such legislation was open to interpretation. Whilst it was considered best practice to conduct electrical safety inspections every five years, this was not  ...  view the full minutes text for item 26.

27.

Mid Term Treasury Report 2023/2024 pdf icon PDF 237 KB

To provide members with an update on Treasury Management performance and activity to ensure best practice is maintained (report of the Deputy Chief Executive - Corporate Development (S151) enclosed).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Deputy Chief Executive - Corporate Development (S151) which provided members with an update on Treasury Management performance and activity to ensure best practice was maintained.

 

The Chief Finance Officer (PSPS) introduced the report on behalf of the Interim Treasury and Investment Manager (PSPS) and the following main points were raised:

  • The report detailed the treasury position as at 30 September 2023 and had been written in accordance with the requirements of the CIPFA Code of Practice on Treasury Management;
  • The Treasury Management function was administered by PSPS on behalf of the Council;
  • The regulatory environment placed responsibility on members for the review and scrutiny of treasury management policy and activities on a quarterly basis and the Council had delegated these duties to the Governance and Audit Committee;
  • The Mid Term Report 2023/2024 at Appendix A included updates on the following areas:
    • Economics and Interest Rate Forecast;
    • Treasury Management Strategy Statement (TMSS);
    • The Council’s capital position;
    • Borrowing;
    • Debt rescheduling;
    • Compliance with Treasury and Prudential Limits;
    • Annual Investment Strategy; and
    • Changes in Risk Appetite; and
  • Appendix A1 detailed the following:
    • General Fund Capital Expenditure 2023/2024;
    • Financing of General Fund Capital Expenditure 2023/2024; and
    • Housing Revenue Account Capital Expenditure 2023/2024.

 

Members considered the report and made the following comments:

 

  • Members thanked the Finance team for their work.

 

  • Members queried the £67.456million HRA debt:
    • Was the interest rate of the loan fixed for the whole period; and
    • Had authorities with HRA loans collectively appealed to central government to cancel the debt;
      • The Chief Finance Officer (PSPS) confirmed that the rate was fixed until expiry of the loan period. Enquiries with external advisers were being made to ascertain whether a discount could be obtained if the debt was repaid early; and
      • No appeal had taken place to central government regarding the HRA debt.

 

AGREED:

 

a)    That after consideration by the Governance and Audit Committee, the report and treasury activity detailed at Appendix A be noted; and

 

b)    That the comments of the Governance and Audit Committee be noted and considered by Council at their meeting on 22 November 2023.

 

28.

Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) 2000 Update pdf icon PDF 224 KB

To advise members of any RIPA regulatory activity in the last 12 months and any work needed to ensure arrangements remain up to date and provide assurance that our legal obligations are effectively managed (report of the Assistant Director - Regulatory and Senior Responsible Officer (SRO) for RIPA enclosed).

 

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Assistant Director – Regulatory and Senior Responsible Officer (SRO) for RIPA which advised members of any RIPA regulatory activity in the last 12 months and any work needed to ensure arrangements remained up to date and provided assurance that our legal requirements were effectively managed.

 

The Assistant Director – Regulatory (SRO) presented a verbal summary of the context and main points of the report, which included that:

  • RIPA governed the use of covert and directed surveillance by public authorities;
  • RIPA also governed how surveillance was used to gather evidence that could be utilised in pursuit of enforcement action;
  • No RIPA related activity had taken place in the last 12 months or since the last audit by the Investigatory Powers Commissioners Office (IPCO) in 2017;
  • The last audit was undertaken when SHDC had a shared management arrangement with Breckland Council and with whom RIPA related policy and practice was also shared;
  • A review of the SHDC RIPA Policy 2017 was now required and this presented an opportunity for the development of a single RIPA policy and the sharing of responsible named officers with designated policy roles across the S&ELCP; and
  • The Commissioner’s Office had been due to conduct a RIPA audit for SHDC in 2023 however this had been postponed to 2024 when a combined audit of all three Councils in the S&ELCP would be undertaken.

 

Members considered the report and made the following comments:

 

  • Members asked when BBC and ELDC had most recently been audited in respect of RIPA and would any changes to sovereign constitutions be required for the creation of an aligned RIPA policy.
    • The Assistant Director – Regulatory (SRO) stated that a combined audit for BBC and ELDC had taken place in 2020;
    • Alignment of the policy across the partnership would not necessitate amendment to SHDC’s constitution; and
    • The revision of the policy sought to ensure common and consistent practices across the partnership which fulfilled the councils’ legal obligations and complied with Home Office guidance.

 

  • Members queried the approval timescale should SHDC need to apply to the courts in order to conduct covert surveillance.
    • The Assistant Director – Regulatory (SRO) responded that the approval timescale was subject to an application process which included assessment by a designated officer and approval by the Magistrates Court. As such, the timescale could not be defined; and
    • Non-RIPA surveillance routes would be exhausted prior to any court application however the use of covert surveillance had largely diminished due to the high evidential burden necessary to satisfy judicial approval and the alternative overt surveillance technologies that had become available.
  • Members asked for examples of when covert surveillance could/would be used.
    • The Assistant Director – Regulatory (SRO) gave the following examples:
      • Investigations related to fraud such as benefit claims whilst working or single property occupancy claims;
      • Investigation of early presentation of waste; and
      • Councils also used non-RIPA governed ‘overt’ surveillance techniques to encourage changes in behaviours, for example the use of visible CCTV  ...  view the full minutes text for item 28.

29.

Governance and Audit Annual Report 2022/2023 pdf icon PDF 232 KB

To note the Governance and Audit Annual Report 2022/2023 prior to its presentation at Council (report of the Assistant Director - Governance (Monitoring Officer) enclosed).

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Assistant Director – Governance which asked the committee to note the Governance and Audit Annual Report 2022/2023 prior to its presentation at Council.

 

The Democratic Services Officer introduced the report and highlighted the following points:

  • The Governance and Audit Committee was required to report annually to Council on its work activities undertaken during the previous municipal year;
  • The Governance and Audit Annual Report 2022/2023 was at Appendix A and included the following aspects:
    • The role and function of the Governance and Audit Committee;
    • Committee membership for 2022/2023;
    • Meeting dates and summary of work undertaken;
    • Internal and external audit;
    • Governance;
    • Treasury and Accounts;
    • Risk Management; and
    • Training and Development;
  • The emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic had seen a pause in the creation of the report over the last few years however this had been reinstated and would be produced annually.

 

The Assistant Director – Governance made the following comments:

  • Thanks were expressed to the Democratic Services Officer who had led on the production of the revised report format. The report format had been rolled-out across the partnership and would be a template for the production of the report in future years; and
  • The presentation of the Governance and Audit Annual Report 2022/2023 to Full Council sought to raise the profile of the committee’s work with all members and enabled observations to be made.

 

Members considered the report and made the following comment:

 

  • A member was keen to know whether the sign-off date for completed audited accounts had been fixed as this had slipped in the past. The member would seek assurance directly with the Deputy Leader.

 

AGREED:

 

That after consideration by the Governance and Audit Committee, the Governance and Audit Annual Report 2022/2023 be noted and recommended to Council.

30.

Governance and Audit Committee Work Programme pdf icon PDF 176 KB

To set out the Work Programme of the Governance and Audit Committee (report of the Democratic Services Manager enclosed).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Democratic Services Manager which set out the Work Programme of the Governance and Audit Committee.

 

The Democratic Services Officer introduced the report and updated the committee on the following changes to the Work Programme:

 

  • The ‘Audited Financial Statements including Annual Governance Statement 2022/23’ and the ‘Information Governance Annual Report’ had been moved from the 9 November 2023 meeting to the 18 January 2024 meeting; and

·       The ‘External Audit Plan 2023/2024’ item had been moved from the 9 November 2023 meeting to the 14 March 2024 meeting.

 

Members considered the report and made the following comments:

 

·       Members requested to see advanced copies of draft reports as soon as these could be made available.

o   The Assistant Director – Governance advised the committee that the Risk Management Framework would be informally shared with members in advance of the 18 January 2024 Governance and Audit Committee meeting.

 

AGREED:

 

That the Work Programme of the Governance and Audit Committee be noted.

31.

Any other items which the Chairman decides are urgent.

 

 

NOTE:            No other business is permitted unless by reason of special circumstances, which shall be specified in the minutes, the Chairman is of the opinion that the item(s) should be considered as a matter of urgency.

Minutes:

There were none.