Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Remote meeting via Zoom

Contact: Kirsty Brown - Democratic Services  Email: dem.services@torridge.gov.uk

Media

Items
No. Item

129.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

Apologies for absence was received from Councillor Rossi however Councillor Laws substituted.

 

Rob Hutchins from Devon Audit Partnership also gave apologies however Dominic Measures substituted.

 

Councillor Hepple had advised he could be late arriving to the meeting.

130.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 154 KB

Confirmation of Minutes of the Meeting held on 21 January 2020.

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on the 21 January 2020 were presented.

 

It was proposed by Councillor Hackett, seconded by Councillor Hodson and –

 

Resolved:

 

That the minutes be confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chair.

 

A recorded vote was taken

 

Councillor

For

Against

Abstain

 

Cllr Craigie

 

X

 

 

Cllr Hackett – Chair

 

X

 

 

Cllr Hepple

 

 

 

 

Cllr Hodson – Vice Chair

 

X

 

 

Cllr Jones

 

 

 

X

Cllr Laws

 

 

 

X

 

(Vote: For  - 3, Abs - 2)

 

 

Councillor Hepple was yet to arrive so did not take part in the vote.

 

 

 

 

131.

Action List pdf icon PDF 107 KB

Minutes:

Minute 112 – The Service Improvement Officer confirmed that Mark Gayler will be attending the 22nd September Audit & Governance meeting (via Zoom).

 

Minute 112 – Safeguarding training was completed in March 2020 with 8 Members taking part.

 

Minute 117 – The Service Improvement Officer confirmed this item was on todays agenda.

 

Minute 120 – This has been documented in a previous Members Bulletin.

 

Minute 121 – The Chief Executive confirmed he will follow this up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

132.

Declaration of Interests

Members with interests should refer to the agenda item and describe the nature of their interest when the item is considered.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

 

133.

Agreement of Agenda Items Part I and II

Minutes:

It was proposed by Councillor Hackett and seconded by Councillor Hodson and –

 

Resolved:

 

That the Agenda as circulated be agreed.

 

A recorded vote was taken.

 

Councillor

For

Against

Abstain

 

Cllr Craigie

 

X

 

 

Cllr Hackett – Chair

 

X

 

 

Cllr Hepple

 

 

 

 

Cllr Hodson – Vice Chair

 

X

 

 

Cllr Jones

 

X

 

Cllr Laws

 

X

 

 

 

 

Councillor Hepple had yet to arrive to the meeting so did not take part in the vote.

 

 

134.

Urgent Matters Brought Forward with the Permission of the Chair

Minutes:

There were no urgent matters brought forward.

135.

Grant Thornton Update Report (MARCH 2020) pdf icon PDF 432 KB

To receive the report from Grant Thornton LLP, External Auditors.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Engagement Manager from Grant Thornton delivered the report however did not go into detail as the report had previously been circulated back in March 2020. Some questions had already been responded to, but he felt it a good opportunity to put on the agenda again for any further questions to be answered in more detail.

 

The Engagement Manager from Grant Thornton advised that subsequent to the March meeting a plan addendum had been issued to management in response to COVID-19 which set out potential impact with respect to remote working, increased uncertainty around valuation, on the Finance Team at Torridge to get the finance statement prepared and delivery of the Audit.

 

The report was noted.

 

136.

External Audit Plan pdf icon PDF 488 KB

To receive the report from Grant Thornton LLP, External Auditors.

 

Minutes:

The Engagement Manager delivered the report and advised it had also been circulated previously.

 

The report highlights risks, fees and their independence.

 

The report was noted.

137.

Audit Reports Issued to Date pdf icon PDF 1 MB

To receive a report from the Devon Audit Partnership Manager.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Dominic Measures from Devon Audit Partnership delivered the report.

 

The report was due to be considered at the March committee and at that point there were 5 Audit Reports that had been issued however that has now been extended to 11 since the January committee.

 

Of these 9 are reported at high or good standard which only left 2 with an Audit opinion of improvements required.

 

Following a query from Councillor Craigie on the Treasury management Audit regarding the interest rate on our borrowing from the Public Sector Loan Board the Chief Executive confirmed that the interest rates are historic and that exercises had been carried out on possible early redemption. However these exercises confirmed that it would be more cost effective to continue as we are rather than pay the debt back early.

 

The report was duly noted.

 

 

138.

Audit Manager's Opinion pdf icon PDF 210 KB

To receive the report from the DAP Partnership Manager

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Dominic Measures from Devon Audit Partnership delivered the report.

 

The purpose of the report is to report on the overall adequacy and effectiveness of the Authority’s internal control prior to the approval of the Annual Governance Statement.

 

This report is issued under the Public Sector Internal Audit. It is to presented to Members as a summary of all the work Internal Audit conducted last year so that an opinion can also be presented and included in the Annual Governance Statement.

 

The Authority has been awarded Substantial Assurance with the work that has been undertaken (this is the second highest assurance level available)

 

The impact of COVID-19 is not shown in this report however will be included in the report for 2020/21.

 

The report shows that the majority of their work shows Audit Opinions of High and Good standards.

 

The Authority takes part in a Fraud Prevention, Detection and the National Fraud Initiative which has saved the Authority £35,000.

 

Following a query from Councillor Craigie with regards to criticism we receive about the Harbour in respect to what we are/are not doing and if there are any improvements the Chief Executive confirmed there is a Harbour Board that reports to the Community and Resources Committee about these matters.

 

Dominic Measures also confirmed that a few issues were noticed with the Harbour Audit and this is mentioned in the previous item, Audit Report. Issues included: Repair and maintenance, overdue inspections, missing certificate for lifting regulations. It was noted that no proactive maintenance plan was in place at the time of the Audit.

 

The Chief Executive said a maintenance plan is to be added to the Action List and to reported back to the next committee meeting.

 

Also, in response to Councillor Craigie, Councillor Hodson advised she had received an email from Richard Haste, the Waste & Recycling Manager, who is responsible for the Harbour answering similar queries she had previously raised with regards to the Harbour. She will circulate the email to Committee Members.

 

Councillor Hepple joined the meeting at 2:19pm

 

It was proposed by Councillor Hackett and seconded by Councillor Craigie and –

 

Resolved:

 

That the Audit & Governance Committee are required to consider the assurance provided alongside that of Senior Management, Corporate Risk Management and external assurance including that of the External Auditor as part of the Governance Framework and satisfy themselves from this assurance for signing the Annual Governance Statement in September 2020.

 

A recorded vote was taken.

 

Councillor

For

Against

Abstain

 

Cllr Craigie

 

X

 

 

Cllr Hackett – Chair

 

X

 

 

Cllr Hepple

 

X

 

 

Cllr Hodson – Vice Chair

 

X

 

 

Cllr Jones

 

X

 

Cllr Laws

 

X

 

 

(Vote: For  - unanimous)

 

139.

Draft Annual Governance Statement pdf icon PDF 372 KB

To receive the report of the Service Improvement Officer.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report was delivered by the Service Improvement Officer and the purpose of which was to provide an opportunity for the Members to comment on the draft 2019/20 Annual Governance Statement.

 

Each year the Authority is required to report on the effectiveness of our Governance arrangement. The Annual Governance Statement will be signed and published with accounts in September 2020.

 

The aim of the Statement is to keep it as concise and accessible as possible. This year the Service Improvement Officer reviewed Statements from other similar Councils but found them more difficult to read so Torridge have retained their existing report format.

 

Following a query from Councillor Jones as to why Governance Principle E.1 is a lower percentage score, the Service Improvement Officer confirmed our Asset Management Plan is out of date but is on the action plan and due to be updated by then end of this year. Councillor Jones also asked why it had not been updated and was advised this was due to past resource issues in the Property Team.

 

Following a query from Councillor Craigie on Governance Principle C, the Service Improvement Officer confirmed we do have carbon emissions reports for our main buildings and CIPFA give advice on particular items we should have in place. There is a list we adhere to and is happy will go through in more detail at the next meeting. A review of Principle C3 will be included on the September Agenda.

 

The aim of the Statement is to keep it as concise and accessible as possible. This year the Service Improvement Officer reviewed Statements from other similar Councils but found them more difficult to read so Torridge have retained their existing report format.

 

The report was duly noted by Members.

140.

AGS - Review of Governance Supporting Evidence (Principle D3) pdf icon PDF 76 KB

To receive the report of the Service Improvement Officer.

 

Minutes:

The report was delivered by the Service Improvement Officer.

 

Following a query from Councillor Hodson asking if a policy is now to be constructed showing how the Authority meets Social Values the Service Improvement Officer advised he will speak to the Property Manager.

 

 

141.

Presentation of the draft financial statements for publication as at 30 June 2020 pdf icon PDF 2 MB

To receive a verbal update and Financial Statement 2019/20 from the Interim Section 151 Officer.

 

Minutes:

A presentation was received from the Interim Section 151 Officer., confirming the Council do comply with the requirements of Principle D3.

 

Following a query from Councillor Jones with regards to the budget for legal expenses and fees the Interim Section 151 Officer confirmed there was an unbudgeted expense for legal assessment and £50,000 budget for legal fees.

 

Following a query from Councillor Laws regards to staff underspend the Interim Section 151 Officer confirmed that this is due to movement in Universal Credit from TDC to the DWP, no longer having two reception buildings and less overtime expenditure in the Waste department due to the new service now being well established and more efficient. Some long-term vacancies are still outstanding and waiting to be filled.

 

The report was duly noted by members.

142.

Draft Audit Findings

To receive a verbal update from Grant Thornton LLP, External Auditors.

Minutes:

A verbal update was given by was received by the Engagement Officer from Grant Thornton LLP, External Auditors.

 

Good process is being made with the Audit since started in June and it is almost complete. Two conclusions are made, one on value for money and the second on financial statement and currently no issues have been highlighted. However, work still ongoing with value for money and queries are outstanding from the valuer on property, plant equipment and the pension fund.

 

The Audit Findings Report will hopefully be issued in August.

 

A plan addendum was issued with regards to COVID-19 being a significant risk however it is looking like this has not had the logistical effect first thought. It has presented challenges working remotely and validate data. TDC Finance Team have worked well through COVID-19 and as yet no issues have been found through the audit testing.

 

The Audit was completed remotely due to COVID-19 and remote work will continue on other Audits going forward.

 

No significant issues have been identified however concern has been raised to the effect COVID-19 will have on property valuation which will be referred to in the Audit Opinion.

 

Going concern is a major part of the work carried out and will continue through to September 2021. It was concluded that Torridge District Council remains a going concern.

 

When the Audit Findings Report is presented in September it will show more detail around the significant risks.

 

Following a query from Councillor Hackett asking if there were any issues with regards to going concern the Engagement Officer from Grant Thornton advised the Authority has strong level of reserves, there are plans in place to manage cash flow and are no concerns.

 

The findings in the report were noted by members.

 

 

 

143.

Update of the Financial & Contract Procedure Rules pdf icon PDF 473 KB

To receive the report of the Interim Section 151 Officer.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report was presented by the Interim Section 151 Officer and the purpose of which is to report on the proposed changes to the Councils Financial and Contract Procedure Rules.

 

The Financial and Contract Procedure Rules had to be revised to tie in with the Authority’s new Constitution and some of the report had previously been presented to the Constitutional Working Group.

 

Councillor Hodson raised concern with regards to the disposal of land under the value of £10,000 and suggested ward members be consulted first. It was requested by Councillor Hodson that an additional amendment be recorded that ward members are consulted first before any disposal of land under the value of £10,000. The Chief Executive responded advising it was normal practice to consult ward members first and agreed this could be written in the report.

 

It was proposed by Councillor Hackett and seconded by Councillor Craigie and –

Resolved:

 

a)    Members recommended the proposed revisions to the Finance and Contract Procedures rules be approved by Full Council.

b)    That Torridge formally sign up to the Devon Districts Procurement Strategy, and task the Council’s Climate working group with determining the following:

a.    The weighting assigned to sustainability and social value

b.    The scope of procurements to be covered

c.    Whether there should be a minimum value of contract below which sustainability and social value will be excluded so as to not deter small and medium enterprises from tendering.

c)    That Ward Members are consulted before the disposal of any land under the value of £10,000.

 

A recorded vote was taken.

 

Councillor

For

Against

Abstain

 

Cllr Craigie

 

X

 

 

Cllr Hackett – Chair

 

X

 

 

Cllr Hepple

 

X

 

 

Cllr Hodson – Vice Chair

X

 

 

Cllr Jones

 

X

 

Cllr Laws

X

 

 

(Vote: For  - unanimous)

 

 

 

144.

Waivers and Non-Compliance with Procedure Rules pdf icon PDF 671 KB

To receive a report from the Service Improvement Officer

 

Minutes:

The Service Improvement Officer delivered the report, the purpose of which was to provide an update on any matters of non-compliance with the Contracts and Financial Procedure Rules and on the Waivers approved by the Chief Executive and Interim Section 151 Officer.

 

This year only 7 Waivers have been needed which is a decrease on last year and shows that the Authority are minimizing the use of waivers. Two of the Waivers were for the High Street Fund and the others were due to not getting the number of quotes required.

 

The report was duly noted by Members.

145.

Housing Benefits Subsidy Appointment of Independent Reporting Accountant

To receive a verbal update from the Interim HOPS

 

Minutes:

The Chief Executive confirmed there was no update however Grant Thornton are still our independent reporting accountants for Housing Benefit Subsidy

146.

External Audit Fees

2018/19 and 2019/20

 

To receive a verbal update from the Interim Head Of Paid Service.

 

Minutes:

A verbal update was delivered by the Chief Executive.

 

Each year the Authority’s External Auditors set a scale for the audit work to be carried out however occasionally additional work may be required to meet any changes. In the last two years there have been request from External Auditors for additional fees to complete the work to sign off the Statement of Accounts.

 

In 2018/19 Members of the Audit & Governance Committee raised concerns with respect to the audit fee increase and asked that the Chief Executive challenge the increase with the Key Audit Partner of Grant Thornton who is the Audit lead. When there is a disagreement with Audit fees set by the External Auditors then a specific process must be followed. Public sector audit appointments with the National body responsible for External Audit contracts must have discussions to reach a resolution. If a resolution cannot be made, then a decision must be made as to whether the additional fees are justifiable. In relation to the 2018/19 additional audit fees the PSAA determined that the increase was justified, and the fee was paid.

 

The Chief Executive referred to page 42 of the Grant Thornton Update Report which showed additional fees for 2019/20. The report also highlighted the additional work that had taken place to meet the auditing standards. The Chief Executive and the Interim Section 151 Officer have already had a discussion with the Key Audit Partner of Grant Thornton regarding the additional fees and work conducted due to COVID-19. There is no conclusion yet on the 2019/20 Audit Fees and discussions are ongoing.

 

Following a query from Councillor Hodson with regards to potential additional fees being incurred due to extra work the Authority has had to undertake due to the grant administration in response to COVID-19 the Chief Executive advised that COVID-19 is a National issue and audit standards have changed. There is a new National Audit Office Code that has changed and been updated. Lots of changes have been made with regards to Audit in general, not just external auditors.

 

Following a query and acknowledgement to Torridge’s Finance Team for all their hard work during COVID-19 from Councillor Hackett as to whether any efficiency savings had been made the Engagement Manager from Grant Thornton confirmed it is too early to tell. However, they have discovered that audits are taking longer due to remote working, obtaining the information required and then validating the information. 

 

 

 

147.

Forward Plan 2020-21 pdf icon PDF 207 KB

Minutes:

The Forward Plan was considered.

 

The Service Improvement Officer advised of the items which are due at the next meeting and confirmed it will be a full agenda again.

 

No vote was taken.

 

148.

Exclusion of the Public

The Chair to move:

 

That the public be excluded from the remainder of the meeting because of the likely disclosure of exempt information by virtue of paragraph 3 of Part I and paragraph 10 of Part 2 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972.

Minutes:

It was proposed by Councillor Hackett, seconded by Councillor Jones and –

 

Resolved:

 

That under Section 100(a)(4) of the Local Government Act (as amended) the public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business because of the likely disclosure of exempt information by virtue of Paragraph 3 of Part 1 and Paragraph 10 of Part 2 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972.

 

A recorded vote was taken.

 

Councillor

For

Against

Abstain

 

Cllr Craigie

 

X

 

 

Cllr Hackett – Chair

 

X

 

 

Cllr Hepple

 

X

 

 

Cllr Hodson – Vice Chair

 

X

 

 

Cllr Jones

 

X

 

Cllr Laws

 

X

 

 

(Vote: For  - unanimous)

 

 

149.

PART II (CLOSED SESSION) Corporate Assurance Risk Register - July 2020

To receive a verbal update on key risks from the Interim Head Of Paid Service.

 

Minutes:

To receive a verbal update on key risks from the Chief Executive who advised there is normally a large format spreadsheet that is presented for the risks however it was not able to fit into the presentation slide, therefore the Interim Sector 151 Officer delivered a presentation.

 

The Interim Sector 151 Officer ran through the Corporate Risks.

 

Councillor Hodson raised concern to the number of Members that took up the Safeguarding training offered by the Authority and will be following it up.

 

Following a query from Councillor Hodson regarding Cyber Security the Chief Executive confirmed the Authority does have a backup system if the Authority’s IT system was hacked.

 

Councillor Hodson also asked if the Authority had factored into the risk register a second spike in COVID-19. The Chief Executive confirmed that even though TDC had not dealt with a pandemic to the scale of COVID-19 that TDC had previously dealt with significant flu cases and in 2001 the foot and mouth outbreak. Preparations are in place regionally to deal with a second outbreak.

 

Following a query from Councillor Craigie with regards to lesser income received during COVID-19 the Interim Section 151 Officer confirmed income has reduced.

 

Councillor Hackett asked if the figures the Authority is down with regards to Council Tax and Car Parks are in the public domain, it was confirmed by the Interim Section 151 Officer that the figures are available for view by the public.

 

It was proposed by Councillor Hackett, seconded by Councillor Hodson and –

 

Resolved:

 

That the meeting leave Part II

 

A recorded vote was taken.

 

Councillor

For

Against

Abstain

 

Cllr Craigie

 

X

 

 

Cllr Hackett – Chair

 

X

 

 

Cllr Hepple

 

X

 

 

Cllr Hodson – Vice Chair

 

X

 

 

Cllr Jones

 

X

 

Cllr Laws

 

X

 

 

(Vote: For  - unanimous)