Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Town Hall - Bridge Street, Bideford, EX39 2HS. View directions

Contact: Karen Hewlett - Democratic Services  Email: karen.hewlett@torridge.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

94.

Apologies For Absence

To receive apologies for absence for the meeting.

Minutes:

Apologies were received from Councillor Hutchings, Councillor Clarke was present as his substitute.

 

95.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 207 KB

Confirmation of Minutes of the Meeting held on 17 September 2019.

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on Tuesday 17 September 2019 were presented.

 

There was a discussion regarding the ethical requirements of the Devon County Council pension fund - mentioned on page 2 of the minutes.  It was felt that rather than ‘making representations’ a letter from Torridge District Council was more appropriate. Chair confirmed that this was discussed in the meeting, but it was not a put forward as a recommendation. 

 

There was discussion regarding adding this to the agenda of a future meeting, via  a Notice of Motion, and the deadlines associated with the process.  The Strategic Manager (Resources) highlighted a Meeting in November of Devon County Council  Pension Fund where this feedback could be raised and it was agreed this was appropriate given the discussed timescales.

 

It was suggested a letter could be sent at a later date if the committee remain unhappy with the outcome.

 

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

 

Resolved:

 

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

 

(Vote: for 4, 1 abstention)

 

96.

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.

 

97.

Agreement of Agenda Items Part I and II

Minutes:

The agenda as circulated was agreed.

 

98.

Urgent Matters Brought Forward with the Permission of the Chair

Minutes:

Chair confirmed that an advert for the vacant non elected Member role on Audit and Governance would be published and Jon Walter was currently drawing up the advert.

 

Chair raised that currently only 50% Members have received training on GDPR and this needs to be completed by 100% of Members.

99.

INDEPENDENT REPORT - External Audit / Financial Reporting pdf icon PDF 140 KB

To receive an update from the Strategic Manager (Resources).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Strategic Manager (Resources) explained the background to this report and explained there is an open consultation which committee Members could respond to if they felt it appropriate. 

 

The Strategic Manager (Resources) has responded from a practitioner perspective via events where the author of the report has spoken and the feedback from these events has been collated.

 

It was advised there remain some questions which Members may have a view on and provide feedback on. Following a discussion it was agreed a separate meeting would be arranged.  The Strategic Manager (Resources) confirmed that officers would be available to help with any queries that come from the meeting and to collate the final response.

 

It was proposed by CouncillorHodson, seconded Councillor Craigie and -

 

Resolved:

A smaller meeting of interested Members will meet before the consultation deadline of 22 November to discuss any potential feedback from a Member perspective. Paper copies of the reports to be supplied for the meeting. 

 

(Vote: for Unanimous).

 

100.

ANNUAL AUDIT LETTER pdf icon PDF 232 KB

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

Minutes:

The Engagement Lead, Alex Walling, presented the Annual Audit Letter and explained this is the summary of the work completed in financial year 2018-19. 

 

The key summary was highlighted and explained to Members, along with the work completed. It was confirmed that the certificate was granted following the meeting on 17th September. 

 

Members duly noted the report.

 

101.

EFFECTIVENESS OF THE AUDIT COMMITTEE pdf icon PDF 339 KB

To receive the report of the Devon Audit Partnership Manager. 

Minutes:

The Devon Audit Partnership Manager presented this report to Members and explained the self assessment process included. He confirmed that the self assessment area is positive overall and highlighted some of the questions that are outstanding. 

 

·         Question 13 regarding Independent Member recruitment to Audit and Governance Committees. This is currently in progress

·         Question 23 regarding how the committee is adding value to organisation. This was last completed in 2016.

·         Question 25 regarding publishing of annual report.  An annual report is due to be published this autumn.

 

Members discussed how information from Audit and Governance Committee is shared with all Councillors.  Members felt there should be an agreed process for reporting back to Full Council regarding the key messages and decisions coming from Audit and Governance; there was some discussion regarding how often this should take place. 

 

The Service Improvement Officer confirmed the annual report is ready and could be added to the agenda of next Full Council if agreed. It was suggested the Audit and Governance Chair speak with the Chair of Council to discuss a possible agenda item for Full Council on 9th December.

 

The Devon Audit Partnership Manager reminded Members of the recent training survey, which was sent to Committee Members in order to identify their individual skills, strengths and any training needs.  Currently there have not been enough responses; therefore it was agreed the survey will be re-circulated to all Audit & Governance Members and an additional 2 weeks  provided to respond. 

 

Members duly noted the report. 

 

102.

ANTI FRAUD, CORRUPTION AND BRIBERY POLICY & STRATEGY pdf icon PDF 294 KB

To receive the report of the Service Improvement Officer.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Service Improvement Officer presented the Anti Fraud, Corruption and Bribery Policy & Strategy to Members and explained it was last updated in 2017.  He talked through the key points and detail in the document for Members.

 

Members discussed the registering of interests and queried how robust the Torridge District Council policy is regarding gaining Member interests from new Councillors and then updating and reviewing these interests.

 

The Service Improvement Officer confirmed that Member interests were collected when a Councillor was first appointed and the Solicitor for Torridge monitored this information in her role as Monitoring Officer.  The Strategic Manager (Resources) arranged to confirm the process with the Solicitor for the Council and confirm this with Councillor Hodson.

 

There was a query in relation to fraud and the checks Torridge District Council complete regarding investigations  (a data matching exercise was completed recently on Council Tax single person discount, resulting in recoveries totaling over £23,000) A questions was asked in relation to  benefit fraud – in terms of housing benefit - does this include council tax benefit, or are they all merged together in the statistics - and is there a breakdown and where are these reports presented and to whom.  Questions were raised about the levels of fraud occurring and what kind of risks this presents / measures we are taking to mitigate them.

 

The Service Improvement Officer confirmed there are a  full range of measures in place and there has not been any major fraud identified within Torridge for a long time.

 

It was asked if it could be reported back on how many people were removed from this discount and was it a useful use of resources to do that work. 

 

The Strategic Manager (Resources) confirmed  information on the outcomes of these investigations was reported through QBR process. The information could also be reported separately to Audit & Governance.

 

There was further discussion regarding the level of fraud identified and Devon Audit Partnership Manager highlighted the ongoing need for Member and Officer reminders to raise awareness.  He confirmed that Housing Benefit fraud was now managed nationally and not the direct responsibility of Torridge. 

 

It was proposed by Councillor Hackett, seconded by Councillor Hepple and

 

Resolved:

To approve the updated Anti Fraud, Corruption and Bribery Policy & Strategy.

 

(Vote for:  Unanimous)

 

103.

AUDIT REPORTS ISSUED TO DATE pdf icon PDF 836 KB

To receive a report from the Devon Audit Partnership Manager.

Minutes:

The Devon Audit Partnership Manager provided a summary of audit reports issued to date and how the recommendations are then tracked.

 

The opinion of the audit on Northam Burrows was ‘good standard’ (no significant matters arising).  The opinion of the audit on Housing Options was ‘improvement required’ (existing procedures need to be improved).

 

The Devon Audit Partnership Manager highlighted the main findings of the summary report to Members and explained the improvements required.  He reassured Members that the team was following up these actions.

 

Members voiced concern regarding the findings of the report on housing services.  The Devon Audit Manager explained he was satisfied that the team remained focused on helping service users and were following the processes in place.  The Strategic Manager (Resources) confirmed that an internal review of the team and their processes and procedures is taking place and the homelessness strategy is also being updated – this will be presented at Full Council on 9th December. 

 

Councillor Clarke explained that he is the Lead Member for Homelessness and Housing Need and has been involved in the work taking place following the findings of the Housing Options audit.  Councillor Clarke confirmed a homeless reduction act workshop and a the policy is now being written for next 5 years with the opportunity for relevant updates in this time. He stated he had no concerns regarding the team.

 

Members duly noted the reports.

 

104.

PROGRESS WITH AGREED ACTIONS pdf icon PDF 327 KB

To receive the report of the Service Improvement Officer. 

Minutes:

The Service Improvement Officer presented the Progress with Agreed Actions report provided an update on agreed actions.  He explained how the information was collated, tracked and summarised.

 

The Service Improvement Officer confirmed that as at 11th October there had been 2 internal audit reports issued containing 16 new audit actions.  In the same period there were 15 actions completed by management.  There were 6 internal audit actions not completed in time as of 11th October, officers were contacted and extensions granted for 3.  The Service Improvement Officer ran through the 3 remaining outstanding actions for Members and provided Members with the history of these outstanding actions.

 

Members queried the action regarding safeguarding.  The Strategic Manager (Resources) provided the background to this action and the struggle to gain representation of both Board Members at meetings with the Devon-wide safeguarding group.. 

 

Members raised concern at the situation and the impact on information sharing protocols.  It was felt there was a need for very strong representation to Devon County Council regarding this. 

 

CouncillorHodson requested feedback from the meeting of the District representatives of the Board next Wednesday before the next meeting. 

 

Members duly noted the report.

 

105.

REVIEW OF GOVERNANCE SUPPORTING EVIDENCE pdf icon PDF 199 KB

To receive the report of the Service Improvement Officer.

Minutes:

The  Service Improvement Officer presented the evidence  to support the Annual Governance Statement. The following table of evidence was explained to Members along with the outcomes arrived for each of the areas in sections B3 and F2.

 

Whilst discussing section B3 a query was raised regarding online reporting was available on Torridge District Council’s website.  It was confirmed that reporting is available on the website.

 

The report was duly noted.

 

106.

GRANT THORNTON UPDATE REPORT pdf icon PDF 313 KB

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

Minutes:

The Engagement Manager provided an update for Members on work carried out up till 8 October 2019. He also highlighted the Audit Deliverables for 2018/19 and 2019/20 and shared the planned dates and action status with Members.

 

Members queried the proposed deadlines for the 2019/20 audit and asked Grant Thornton representatives if these were reasonable and could be met.  The Engagement Lead confirmed that there were wider conversations taking place with partners within the sector regarding delivery and deadlines, Grant Thornton were currently looking at the resourcing of these and would endeavor to meet them.  Members stated the need for officers and Members to remain will informed of any potential delay. 

 

Members duly noted the report.

107.

Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 210 KB

Minutes:

It was agreed that the forward plan would be taken as read as it was missing from the agenda pack.  A copy of the plan would be provided for Members outside of the meeting.

 

108.

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 Hodson and -

 

Resolved:

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 10of Part 2 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972.

 

(Vote for: Unanimous)

 

109.

PART II (CLOSED SESSION)

110.

CORPORATE ASSURANCE RISK REGISTER - SEPTEMBER 2019

To receive a verbal update from the Strategic Manager (Resources).

Minutes:

The Strategic Manager (Resources) provided an update on the Corporate Risk Register with Members and highlighted the updates since the last meeting. 

 

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

 

Resolved:

To come out of Part II and close the meeting.

 

(Vote for:  Unanimous)