Agenda and draft minutes

Performance, Governance and Audit Committee - Thursday 24th September 2020 1.00 pm

Venue: Members to access the meeting via Teams. Members of the press & public may listen to the live stream on the Council's website:https://democracy.maldon.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=284&MId=2180

Contact: Committee Services 

Media

Items
No. Item

1206.

Chairman's Notices

Minutes:

The Chairman welcomed everyone to the remote meeting, held under new regulations which came into effect on 4 April 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. She  took Membersthrough some general housekeepingissues,togetherwiththe etiquettefor the meeting and then asked Officers present tointroducethemselves.

 

This was followed by a roll call of Committee Members present.

 

1207.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors N Skeens and W Stamp.

1208.

Minutes of the last meeting pdf icon PDF 166 KB

To confirm the minutes of the Committee held on 30 July 2020, (copy enclosed).

Minutes:

RESOLVED that the Minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 30 July 2020 be approved and confirmed.

 

1209.

Disclosure of Interest

To disclose the existence and nature of any Disclosable Pecuniary Interests, other Pecuniary Interest or Non-Pecuniary Interests relating to items of business on the agenda having regard to paragraphs 6 – 8 of the Code of Conduct for Members.

 

(Members are reminded that they are also required to disclose any such interest as soon as they become aware should the need arise through the meeting.)

Minutes:

Councillor Mrs P A Channer, CC,  declared a non-pecuniary interest as a Member of Essex County Council in relation to any items on the agenda pertaining to that organisation.

 

Councillor M F L Durham, CC, declared a non-pecuniary interest as a Member of Essex County Council in relation to any items on the agenda pertaining to that organisation.

 

1210.

Public Participation

To receive the views of members of the public, of which prior notification in writing has been received (no later than noon on the Tuesday prior to the day of the meeting).

 

Should you wish to submit a question please complete the online form at: www.maldon.gov.uk/publicparticipation.

Minutes:

No requests had been received.

1211.

Internal Audit Reports - Progress; Follow-Up of Recommendations; Corporate Governance; and Flooding Risk Management pdf icon PDF 303 KB

To consider the report of the Director of Resources, (copy enclosed).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

 

     

 

      The Committee considered the report of the Director of Resources and associated appendices that covered three reports from the Internal Auditors BDO LLP, the Internal Audit Progress Report; Follow-up of Recommendations Report; Corporate Governance Audit and Flooding Risk Management Audit, all as at September 2020.

 

The Chairman introduced the report and deferred to the Internal Auditors to present the detail.  The Internal Audit Partner then presented the Progress and Follow-up of Recommendations reports.

 

He drew Members’ attention to page 17 of the Progress report noting that the two audits due for consideration today concluded the 2019/20 programme of work.  Progress on a number of other audits for this current year was currently underway despite a slow start due to COVID-19.  The internal auditors were also completing two pieces of advisory work 1) Fraud Risk Assessment that still had some actions to follow-up together with training and support and 2) Accountancy Standards IFRS 16, accounting for leases where training and support would be provided to Officers.  This would not result in an audit but form part of the work programme.

 

The Follow-up of Recommendations report had only one recommendation for completion, the Waste Strategy and once this had been incorporated into the Climate Strategy it would be ready for sign-off.  He felt that overall good progress had been made despite the difficulties.

 

In response to a question regarding the assessment of fraud as high priority and the number of fraud cases since January 2020 the Director of Resources reported that the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) had taken over fraud related Housing Benefit issues.  Other types of fraud relating to supply or payments was low to non-existent.  The Internal Audit Partner reminded Members that at the last meeting the recommendation was for an up-to-date Fraud Strategy together with an action plan to address the strategy.  This was a regulatory requirement from the Government and incumbent on all authorities to have in place.  Given the action plan was not in place at that time the high priority rating was maintained, and all appropriate actions had now been taken.

 

The Director of Service Delivery in response to a question regarding the delivery of the Community Safety recommendations in October advised that work was on track and would meet the October 2020 implementation deadline.

 

The Lead Specialist Community in response to a query regarding the timing of the Climate Change and Waste Strategy report to Strategy and Resources Committee advised that a version with a much wider scope was currently being worked on and shared with internal partners.  It would be submitted to the Strategy and Resources Committee in December 2020.                   

 

The Internal Audit Manager then presented the two audits starting with the Corporate Governance Audit .  She took Members through the report and advised that they had undertook a review of arrangements and conducted interviews with key officers and members to determine the operational effectiveness of current structures.  The final assessment was moderate in both Design and Operational Effectiveness.  She reported  ...  view the full minutes text for item 1211.

1212.

External Audit Fees Report 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 226 KB

To consider the report of the Director of Resources, (copy enclosed).

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered the report of the Director of Resources that informed the Committee of the audit fee for Deloitte LLP, the Council’s External Auditor for the audit of the 2019/20 financial year.

 

The chairman introduced the report and deferred to the External Audit Partner to present.  He informed the Committee that there was nothing specific to report given that the Director of Resources and Section 151 Officer’s input to the report incorporated the content of all discussions held with External Audit.

 

The Chairman acknowledged this and informed the Committee that both she and Councillor Jarvis, the Vice-Chairman, had discussions with the External Auditor prior to production of the report and negotiated a considerably reduced fee.

 

In response to a query on benchmarking the Director of Resources and Section 151 Officer advised that benchmarking on fee levels had been undertaken across Essex with like organisations.  Similarly, benchmarking with other Audit firms working with those organisations and acting on advice from the Public Sector Audit Appointments Ltd (PSAA) who had the ultimate say on fee levels.  The end result was a sample showing similar fee levels across the county, varying slightly for different reasons.

 

The Chairman moved the recommendation that the report be noted, and this was seconded by Councillor Nunn. She then put the recommendation to the Committee and it was agreed by assent.

 

RESOLVED that the content of this report be noted.

 

 

 

 

 

1213.

External Audit Update - 2019/20 Audit pdf icon PDF 299 KB

To consider the report of the Director of Resources, (copy enclosed).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered the report of the Director of Resources that provided the Committee with an audit update from Deloitte LLP, the Council’s External Auditor, for the audit of the 2019/20 financial year, attached at Appendix 1.

 

      The Chairman introduced the report and deferred to the External Audit Partner to present the content.  He took the Committee through the report and drew Members’ attention to the key observations.

 

      He advised that the audit was nearing completion and with the exception of asset valuation and pension liability, all outstanding work was related to normal finalisation procedures.  The scope of the work remained broadly in line with the audit plan with 2 key impacts 1) the elevated risk around valuation of Property, Plant and Equipment from an area of focus to significant risk and 2) the impact of COVID-19 which was included as a summary in the report.  Other key impact areas included the provision of additional narrative and disclosure reports in the accounts.

 

      He provided further clarification around a number of areas included in the report and made particular mention that the Council had made good progress on the Property Valuation recommendations from last year, with 95% complete by 2 July 2020.  He reassured members that the clause in the report, included due to volatility in the market, was a common feature of all valuation reports prepared to 31 March 2020 and that valuation of pensions was in the final stages, awaiting information from the actuary.

 

      He concluded by thanking the Director of Resources, the Interim senior Specialist Finance, James Carter and the Finance Team for their hard work, meeting the challenges of the past year with the added complexity of the pandemic and having to deliver the audit remotely.    

 

      The Chairman acknowledged the External Audit Partner’s comprehensive report and thanked him for the appreciation shown towards the Council Officers.

 

      The Chairman then moved the recommendation that the report be noted, and this was seconded by Councillor Durham.  There being no further questions the Chairman put the recommendation to the Committee and it was agreed by assent.

 

      RESOLVED that the content of the report be noted.

 

1214.

Quarterly Review of Corporate Risk pdf icon PDF 216 KB

To consider the report of the Director of Strategy, Performance and Governance, (copy enclosed).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

 

The Committee considered the report of the Director of Strategy, Performance and Governance that required the Committee to undertake a quarterly review of the Corporate Risk Register as assurance that the corporate risks were being managed effectively.  Appendix 1was attached to the report for this purpose.

 

The Chairman introduced the report and deferred to the Programmes, Performance and Governance Manager to take the Committee through the report.

 

The Manager advised that the report dealt with Quarter 1 Risk (covering April-June 2020). In summary for changes since Quarter Four (Q4) there were two risks that had seen a decrease in score: R17- Failure to maximise services through promotion and engagement and R29- Failure to deliver services as a result of COVID- which was added as the pandemic hit, but by June 2020 the Corporate Leadership Team (CLT) had a better view on service impact.

 

There were two risks recommended for closure, namely, R22- Contract Management as the monitoring steps were now in place and R17 - Promotion and engagement as this was now in place.  She then drew Members’ attention to paragraph 3.2.2 where three risks had seen an increase in score,  R7- 5 year housing land supply, R8- meeting affordable housing need and R10 – Creating jobs to support the growing population. The increases were due to the wider impacts of the current pandemic.

 

In response to questions raised Officers responded as follows:-

 

·       That R14-Recruitment and Retention reported the same score as in the previous quarter report.  This was because it related to a specific skillset, that of planning officers.  The Council was experiencing continuing difficulties in recruiting to this area.

 

·       That details of turnover and recruitment (R14) in specialist areas would be provided to the Committee outside of the meeting to determine if the Council was carrying gaps in these areas. Subsequent to the meeting a recruitment update was circulated to all committee members on 29 September 2020.

 

·       In  respect of R8- Failure to meet the affordable housing need- that at the time of writing the report the refusal of the strategic site stood as this report covered matters up to the end of June 2020.  The site had subsequently been approved in August 2020 and the impact on the risk level would be reflected in the next iteration of the Risk report.

 

·       That in respect of R10 - Officers were focussing on how to maximise promotional opportunities arising from the pandemic which would be reflected in the COVID-19 Economic Response and Recovery Plan.

 

Councillor Durham informed the Committee that in his county council role he was Chairman of Visit Essex and about to embark on a series of activities promoting the Essex Coast and Maldon would feature prominently in that promotion.  The Chairman welcomed this opportunity for Maldon.

 

There being no further questions the Chairman moved the recommendations in the report and they were seconded by Councillor Durham. She then put the recommendations to the Committee and they were agreed by assent.

 

resolved

(i)           That Members  ...  view the full minutes text for item 1214.

1215.

Quarter One Review of Corporate Performance pdf icon PDF 237 KB

To consider the report of the Director of Strategy, Performance and Governance, (copy enclosed).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

 

The Committee considered the report of the Director of Strategy, Performance and Governance that, as part of the Corporate Performance framework, required this Committee to undertake a quarterly review of the Thematic Strategies performance, as assurance that performance was being managed effectively to achieve the corporate outcomes as set out in the Council’s Corporate Plan 2019 – 2023.  In addition, that recommended changes and improvements be reported to the Strategy and Resources Committee in October 2020. Appendix 1 of this report provided an overview of performance as of the end of Quarter 1 (April -June 2020).

 

The Chairman introduced the report and deferred to the Programmes, Performance and Governance Manager to present the detail.

 

The Manager reported that the Quarter 1 report covered April-June 2020 and work was largely on track with outcomes being delivered.  However, the way the Council had planned to deliver had changed and activity had been diverted in some instances due to the impact of COVID-19.

 

She drew Members’ attention to section 3.3 of the covering report that provided a summary table for each of the three themes that highlighted the number of measures either on track or otherwise.  This followed feedback at previous committee meetings to give a high-level view. Section 3.4 specifically drew out the areas at risk by theme, in large part impacted by COVID-19, they were:-

 

Community - Customer Evaluation Survey for the private sector housing grants; Maldon District Council (MDC) digital service assistance and community weight management sessions.

 

Place - Volunteering activity facilitated/organised by MDC; Keeping Britain Tidy Green Flag Award for well managed parks and open spaces and the agreed 2019 Maldon District Strategic Flood Projects and Maintenance Plan.

 

Prosperity – The % of Strategic sites promoted through partners and the occupancy at the Enterprise hub.

 

Some of the new activity taking place not originally in the Corporate plan included:- Virtual Fitness campaigns; Grow your own vegetables; direct engagement with those in ‘isolation’ risk groups for COVID-19– which far surpassed the original target number of people expected to reach; an increase in channel shift as a result of online services; volunteering activity being used for open spaces had been redeployed to the COVID-19 response and conversations with 80 businesses in the high street as part of the COVID response.

 

In light of this new activity there was an additional recommendation this time round for a review report of the Corporate Plan and targets to go to Strategy and Resources committee to reflect this changed landscape and the impact on outcome measures.

 

In response to questions raised Officers responded as follows:-

 

·       That the timeline for the report to Strategy and Resources Committee would be December 2020 as opposed to October as reported at the time of writing this Performance report.  This revised timeline would allow for the planned in-depth review of the Corporate Plan in October-November 2020 to encompass the full impact of COVID-19 on the Corporate Plan, followed by a Workshop with all Members to review the significant additional  ...  view the full minutes text for item 1215.

1216.

Any other items of business that the Chairman of the Committee decides are urgent

Minutes:

There were none