Venue: Meeting to be held pursuant to Statutory Instrument 2020/392. Link to live stream will be available via https://www.tendringdc.gov.uk/livemeetings
Contact: Ian Ford email: email@example.com or telephone 01255 686584
Apologies for Absence and Substitutions
The Committee is asked to note any apologies for absence and substitutions received from Members.
There were no apologies for absence submitted or substitutions on this occasion.
Minutes of the Last Meeting PDF 76 KB
To confirm and sign as a correct record, the minutes of the last meeting of the Committee, held on Monday 30 November 2020.
The Minutes of the last meeting of the Committee held on 30 November 2020 were approved as a correct record.
Declarations of Interest
Councillors are invited to declare any Disclosable Pecuniary Interests or Personal Interest, and the nature of it, in relation to any item on the agenda.
There were no declarations of interest made on this occasion.
Questions on Notice pursuant to Council Procedure Rule 38
Subject to providing two working days’ notice, a Member of the Committee may ask the Chairman of the Committee a question on any matter in relation to which the Council has powers or duties which affect the Tendring District and which falls within the terms of reference of the Committee.
There were no Questions on Notice on this occasion.
Report of the Internal Audit Manager - A.1 - Report on Internal Audit: October 2020 - January 2021 PDF 233 KB
To provide the Committee with a periodic report on the Internal Audit function for the period October 2020 – January 2021 as required by the professional standards.
The Committee had before it a report submitted by the Council’s Internal Audit Manager (A.1) which provided a periodic update on the Internal Audit function for the period October 2020 to January 2021. That report was split into two sections as follows:-
(1) Internal Audit Plan Progress 2020/21; and
(2) Quality Assurance Improvement Programme (QAIP).
(1) INTERNAL AUDIT PLAN PROGRESS 2020/21
It was reported that a total of nine audits had been completed since the previous update to the Audit Committee in October 2020. Eight of the nine audits completed had received a satisfactory level of assurance. One audit (Princes Theatre) had received an overall opinion of ‘Improvement Required’.
Fieldwork had been completed on a further three audits with the draft report yet to be negotiated, namely:-
· GDPR – Data Sharing Agreements;
· Fleet Management; and
· Impact on Governance – COVID-19.
Fieldwork was ongoing on another eight audits with a final four audits allocated and started during February 2021. Three of those four related to the revenues and benefits service unit and had purposely been left as late in the financial year as possible due to the impact that issuing Covid-19 business grants had made on that service.
Members were informed that consultancy and advice continued to be provided on the corporate Digital Transformation, Office Transformation and Project Management projects where required. There were no significant issues to report at this time.
Members were aware that the Internal Audit function issued satisfaction surveys for each audit completed. In the period under review 100% of the responses received had indicated that the auditee had been satisfied with the audit work undertaken.
It was reported that the Internal Audit section was currently working with an establishment of 3 ‘Full Time Equivalents’ with access to a third party provider of internal audit services for specialist audit days as and when required.
The Committee was informed that the Internal Audit Team had recruited an apprentice in October 2020. However, due to the on-going impact of COVID-19, that apprenticeship subsequently had been put on hold and would be reassessed later in the year. The Internal Audit Team continued to support the Emergency Planning function as required.
Members recalled that at their meeting held in October 2020 it had been expected that the Internal Audit Plan would be on track to be complete earlier than anticipated. However, since the end of the third quarter and the start of the latest Covid-19 lockdown, it had been a challenge for some services to provide enough resource to support the audit. As a result Officers had been risk assessing each audit in order to determine the level of work needed and negotiating with the relevant service unit managers on resource requirements in order to ensure that Internal Audit could complete enough work to still be able to provide an overall opinion. Limitations to the scope of that audit were then reported in both the Draft and Final Audit Reports.
Outcomes of Internal Audit Work
The Public ... view the full minutes text for item 17.
Report of the Assistant Director (Governance) - A.2 - NEGC Ltd Joint Scrutiny Panel: Scrutiny of NEGC Ltd and the Governance of future Council controlled companies. PDF 219 KB
To enable the Committee to consider its formal response to a recommendation made by the Resources and Services Overview & Scrutiny Committee following that Committee’s consideration of the report submitted by the NEGC Ltd Joint Scrutiny Panel on completion of the Panel’s scrutiny of NEGC Ltd and the governance of future Council controlled companies.
There was a report submitted by the Council’s Assistant Director (Governance) & Monitoring Officer (report A.2) which sought to enable the Committee to consider its formal response to a recommendation made by the Resources and Services Overview & Scrutiny Committee following that Committee’s consideration of the report submitted by the NEGC Ltd Joint Scrutiny Panel on completion of the Panel’s scrutiny of NEGC Ltd and the governance of future Council controlled companies.
Members were informed that, following respective meetings held on 29 July and 5 August 2019, the Resources and Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee and the Community Leadership Overview and Scrutiny Committee, had both approved that a joint scrutiny panel be established in order to scrutinise the work of the North Essex Garden Communities Limited (NEGC) and, in particular, its interim business plan and future business plans. That Joint Scrutiny Panel (JSP) had met three times as follows:
16 October 2019;
12 February 2020; and
17 September 2020.
The final report of the JSP had been submitted to the Resources and Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 16 November 2020. At that meeting the Resources and Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee had been informed that the JSP had:-
· examined the various responsibilities of the Council as community leader, shareholder of NEGC Ltd and having a Director of the Board of that Company, including the inherent conflicts and the management of those conflict points;
· been made aware of the absolute importance of Part 1 of the Local Plan in the critical path for Garden Communities and NEGC Ltd (and any future delivery vehicle for the Communities). NEGC Ltd had been commissioned by the partner Councils (Braintree, Colchester, Essex and Tendring) to undertake work for those partner Councils to secure approval of Part 1 of their Local Plans;
· scrutinised the Interim Business Plans for NEGC Ltd for 2018/19 and 2019/20;
· reflected upon the governance arrangements surrounding the work of this Council’s Monitoring Officer and Section 151 Officer with their colleagues in the other partner Councils in respect of protecting the interests of this Council in relation to NEGC Ltd;
· looked briefly at possible future delivery vehicles for the Garden Communities together with best practice models for the future development of governance arrangements for Council controlled companies such as NEGC Ltd;
· noted at its last meeting the decision of the North Essex Garden Communities Ltd Board on 6th July 2020 to take all the necessary steps to wind up its three Local Delivery Vehicles and that the three Councils concerned had also all approved that NEGC Ltd itself cease trading on 31 August 2020 and that the necessary winding up procedures for it be undertaken, subject to, in the case of this Council, the Leader of the Council, in consultation with the Section 151 Officer and the Monitoring Officer, being satisfied around the final accounting processes;
· been advised that NEGC Ltd had been solvent and that, after settling any outstanding liabilities, the remaining assets of the company would be apportioned to the shareholders entirely ... view the full minutes text for item 18.
Report of Assistant Director (Finance & IT) - A.3 - External Auditor's Annual Audit Letter for the year ended 31 March 2020 PDF 100 KB
To present to the Committee the External Auditor’s Annual Audit Letter for the year ended 31 March 2020.
There was submitted a report by the Council’s Assistant Director (Finance & IT) (report A.3) which presented for the Committee’s consideration the External Auditor’s Annual Audit Letter for the year ended 31 March 2020.
The Committee was reminded that the Accounts and Audit Regulations required that:
(1) A committee must meet to consider the letter as soon as reasonably practicable; and
(2) following consideration of the letter in accordance with paragraph (1) the authority must -
(a) publish (which must include publication on the authority’s website) the audit letter; and
(b) make copies available for purchase by any person on payment of such sum as the authority may reasonably require.
Members were informed that there were a number of different strands of external audit work undertaken during the year but primarily they related to the financial statements and value for money opinion. The outcomes from those activities were reported to the Council separately as they were completed during the year. The Annual Audit Letter was effectively therefore an end of year report for the Council which captured and summarised those outcomes in one document. It was primarily directed to Members but it must also be made publicly available.
It was reported that the Annual Audit Letter relating to 2019/20 (as appended to the Assistant Director’s report) had raised no significant concerns. Page 7 of the Auditor’s letter included some observations in respect of a number of the Council’s financial reserves and its approach to managing its finances. The associated recommendations that were referred to had been set out in the External Auditor’s Audit Completion Report that had been previously considered by the Committee at its meeting held on 30 November 2020. Those recommendations had now been included within the Table of Outstanding Issues report in order to ensure their progress could be effectively monitored by the Committee and that report would be considered later in the meeting.
Having considered and discussed the contents of the Annual Audit Letter:-
It was moved by Councillor Fairley, seconded by Councillor Alexander and:-
RESOLVED that the contents of the Annual Audit Letter, for the year ended 31 March 2020 be noted.
Report of Assistant Director (Finance & IT) - A.4 - Audit Committee: Table of Outstanding Issues PDF 184 KB
To present to the Committee the progress on outstanding actions identified by the Committee along with general updates on other issues that fall within the responsibilities of the Committee.
The Committee had before it a report submitted by the Assistant Director (Finance & IT) (A.2) which presented to the Committee the progress on outstanding actions identified by the Committee, together with updates on other general issues that fell within the responsibilities of the Committee.
The Committee was informed that there were four appendices to this report which contained:
1) updates against general issues previously identified by the Committee;
2) updates against recommendations made by the External Auditor;
3) the latest position against the Annual Governance Statement Action Plan for 2020/21; and
4) a summary of the Government’s initial response to the recommendations made by the Redmond Review.
It was reported that, to date, there were no significant issues arising in respect of the items identified in Appendices A and B, with work remaining in progress or updates provided elsewhere on the agenda, where appropriate. However, there had been a significant impact from COVID 19 in terms of progressing the actions reported in Appendix C as quickly as originally anticipated. However, activity remained in progress against all actions and work would continue into 2021/22 as required.
The Committee was aware that Sir Tony Redmond, a former council treasurer and local government ombudsman, had been asked by the Government to look at the effectiveness of external audit, as a summary of recommendations emerging from Sir Tony’s review had been presented to it at its meeting held in October 2020. At that time, the response from the Government was still awaited. The Government had now published its initial response.
Members were reminded that Sir Tony had made 23 recommendations relating to the quality, timeliness and sustainability of local audit, and the transparency of local authority accounts. The Government had therefore grouped its response into the following five themes, which were summarised in Appendix Dto the Assistant Director’s report.
· Action to support immediate market stability;
· Consideration of system leadership options;
· Enhancing the functioning of local audit, and the governance for responding to its findings;
· Improving transparency of local authorities’ accounts to the public; and
· Action to further consider the functioning of local audit for smaller bodies.
It was reported that many of the responses indicated that the Government would either be liaising with the relevant stakeholders or would be further considering some of the recommendations, with the Government’s full response expected during the spring of 2021.
Having considered the above and having discussed the contents of the report and its appendices:-
It was moved by Councillor Placey, seconded by Councillor Alexander and:-
RESOLVED that –
(a) the progress made against the actions set out in Appendices A to C to item A.4 of the report of the Assistant Director (Finance & IT) be noted; and
(b) the contents of the Government’s initial response to the Redmond Review’s recommendations, as set out in Appendix D to the aforementioned report, be noted.