Agenda and minutes

Corporate Governance and Audit Committee - Monday, 23rd November, 2020 10.00 am

Venue: Remote Meeting

Contact: John Grieve, Governance Services 0113 37 88662 

Link: to View Meeting Recording

No. Item


Appeals Against Refusal of Inspection of Documents

To consider any appeals in accordance with Procedure Rule 15.2 of the Access to Information Procedure Rules (in the event of an Appeal the press and public will be excluded).


(*In accordance with Procedure Rule 15.2, written notice of an appeal must be received by the Head of Governance Services at least 24 hours before the meeting)


There were no appeals against the refusal of inspection of documents.




Exempt Information - Possible Exclusion of the Press and Public

1  To highlight reports or appendices which officers have identified as containing exempt information, and where officers consider that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information, for the reasons outlined in the report.


2  To consider whether or not to accept the officers recommendation in respect of the above information.


3  If so, to formally pass the following resolution:-


  RESOLVED – That the press and public be excluded from the meeting during consideration of the following parts of the agenda designated as containing exempt information on the grounds that it is likely, in view of the nature of the business to be transacted or the nature of the proceedings, that if members of the press and public were present there would be disclosure to them of exempt information, as follows:-




There were no items identified where it was considered necessary to exclude the press or public from the meeting due to the confidential nature of the business to be considered.



Late Items

To identify items which have been admitted to the agenda by the Chair for consideration


(The special circumstances shall be specified in the minutes)


There were no late items of business identified.



Declaration of Disclosable Pecuniary and Other Interests’

To disclose or draw attention to any disclosable pecuniary interests for the purposes of Section 31 of the Localism Act 2011 and paragraphs 13-16 of the Members’ Code of Conduct.



There were no declarations of disclosable pecuniary interest made at the meeting.



Apologies for Absence

To receive apologies for absence (If any)


There were no apologies for absence.


Minutes of the Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 304 KB

To consider and approve the minutes of the previous meeting held on 21st September 2020.



(Copy attached)


RESOLVED – That the minutes of the previous meeting held on 21st September 2020 were accepted as a true and correct record.



Matters Arising from the Minutes

To consider any Matters Arising from the minutes


Annual Assurance Report on Planning Decision Making and Enforcement Arrangements (Minute No.35 referred) – In providing an update; it was reported that the Chair had since written to the Chief Planning Officer inviting him to draft a protocol for enforcement of breaches of planning control on Council land. It was anticipated that the draft protocol would be prepared in draft by end December 2020. It was also reported that a review of the Protocol on Public Speaking at Plans Panel was ongoing and would be considered by the Plans Panel Chairs. The Head of Audit confirmed that a formal review of the planning decision making processes together with the enforcement arrangements was currently ongoing.


Annual Assurance Report on Employment Policies and Procedures and Employee Conduct (Minute No.36 referred) – In respect of the request for further information in respect of pulse staff surveys, it was reported that the Scrutiny Board (Strategy and Resources) would be considering detailed feedback at the November meeting of that Board and that this information had been circulated to Members on 16th November 2020. In providing an update on gifts and hospitality and register of interest returns, it was reported that only two returns remained outstanding: in one case the officer was currently on maternity leave and in the other case the officer was currently on sickness absence.


Applications Portfolio Programme - Update on Access Project (Minute No.37 referred) – It was reported that therequested correspondence from the Cabinet Office confirming the agreed arrangements had been circulated to Members on 28th September 2020. 



Internal Audit Annual Report and Opinion 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 673 KB

To consider a report by the Chief Officer Financial Services which presents the annual Internal Audit opinion and basis of the Internal Audit assurance for 2019/20.




(Report attached)


The Chief Officer Financial Services submitted a report which presented the Annual Internal Audit Opinion and review of the adequacy of the internal control environment for 2019/20


The report provided a summary the work undertaken by Internal Audit during the year and delivered an overall conclusion; that on the basis of the audit work undertaken during the 2019/20 financial year, the internal control environment (including the key financial systems, risk and governance) was well established and operating effectively in practice. A satisfactory overall opinion was provided for 2019/20, based on the audit work detailed within the submitted report.


The audit work undertaken to support this opinion had been conducted in accordance with an established methodology that promotes quality and conformance with the International Standards for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing.


The Head of Audit confirmed that the Internal Audit team had recently undergone inspection against ISO 9001 and that no non-conformance had been identified.  Established working practice ensures that the team remains ‘inspection ready’ at all times.


Referring to the issue of Procurement and Commercial Services, Members noted the number of waivers processed across the authority had fallen over each of the last 3 years, with 79 waivers processed in 2019/20 as opposed to 153 in the previous year. Members queried the reasons for waiver of contracts and asked for a breakdown of the number of waivers both by proportion and value.


The Head of Audit noted that review work had been undertaken to look at the use of waivers and noted that there were a number of reasons for the waivers processed; audit reviews look to ensure that there is a satisfactory reason for the waiver, In some instances there is genuinely no competition, but it is noted that occasionally there was insufficient time to complete the procurement exercise. The Head of Audit undertook to provide further information in relation to themes for use of waivers to all Committee members after the meeting.


Members sought further details about assurance checks on grants paid to businesses as part of the Covid-19 measures and queried if there was any evidence of fraud.


The Head of Audit informed Members that assurance checks were undertaken on risk basis, using data analytics and matching exercises.  There was a need to ensure payments were made to businesses in an equitable and controlled way.  Checking revealed that occasionally there were mistakes in the information presented, but this was not characterised as fraud.


On the issue of fraud and corruption, Members sought further details on the prevention of three right to buy sales.


The Head of Audit said in such cases there were often questions about the eligibility of the people living in the property, an assurance was provided that specific details about the case(s) would be obtained and circulated to Members.


Referring to the Completed Audit Reviews, Members noted there were 5 reviews with limited assurance and requested if further narrative could be supplied.


The Head of Audit said the requested information had been included  ...  view the full minutes text for item 48.


Approval of Annual Governance Statement pdf icon PDF 158 KB

To consider a report by the Chief Officer Financial Services which presents the Annual Governance Statement (AGS), prepared in accordance with the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015.




(Report attached)

Additional documents:


The Chief Officer Financial Services submitted a report which presented the Annual Governance Statement (AGS) prepared in accordance with the

Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015.


Members noted the document had been prepared in accordance with proper practices specified by the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015. Following a review of the arrangements which together comprise our system of internal control, the AGS supports the opinion that, overall, key systems are operating soundly, and that there are no fundamental control weaknesses.


It was reported that the interim AGS was published in draft on 6th July 2020 to accompany the Statement of Accounts when put on deposit. The AGS had since been updated and is returned to this Committee for approval prior to publication.


In offering comment Members made reference to the delivery of the climate emergency suggesting that key performance indicators (KPI) required establishing to measure progress in achieving the Council’s climate change ambitions.


In responding the Chair suggested that engagement was required with the Chief Officer Sustainable Energy & Air Quality, with a view to the establishment of a Climate Change Plan up to 2030, which could be monitored by this Committee in future.


Commenting on the section “Our Workforce” reference was made to staff wellbeing, with one Member suggesting that in recent months a significant number of employees had left the employ of the City Council, was there sufficient business continuity via HR processes in place to support the changes.


Members were informed that the Annual Business Continuity report would be considered by this Committee at its next meeting on 14th December 2020, where Members would have the opportunity to raise such issues with the Chief Officer Human Resources.


Referring to Covid-19 Pandemic, Members queried if assurance could be provided that the necessary internal systems had been adapted to respond to the pandemic


The Principle Audit Manager (Corporate Governance) said that all assurance reports coming to this Committee would address Covid-19 implications for that service, which would also feed into the Annual Governance Statement for 2021.


Referring to the customer contact and satisfaction experience and the actions identified to deliver improvements, a number of Members expressed disappointment at the Service’s response. Members were of the view that first contact with a customer via telephone, face to face or online need to be exemplar and the necessary processes; training, ownership and management need to be in place to achieve this.


Members asked that the key action set out in the Annual Governance Statement be amended to provide that “We will continue to set and monitor robust targets for customer contact and satisfaction and will make improvements where necessary to deliver a consistent experience for our customers.”


The Chair suggested the annual customer contact and satisfaction report was due to come to Committee in February 2021 and asked that the Chief Officer Customer Access and Welfare be asked to identify what ‘good’ arrangements look like, and provide an action plan to achieve this.


RESOLVED – That, subject to the amendment to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 49.


Approval of the Audited Statement of Accounts and Grant Thornton Draft Audit Report pdf icon PDF 170 KB

To consider a report by the Chief Officer Financial Services which seeks approval of the Council’s final audited Statement of Accounts following consideration of any material amendments identified by the Council or recommended by the auditors.



(Report attached)


Additional documents:


The Chief Officer Financial Services submitted a report which presented progress towards approval of the Council’s final audited Statement of Accounts following consideration of any material amendments identified by the Council or recommended by the auditors.


Members were informed that the External Auditors (Grant Thornton) were nearing completion, and their findings to date were contained within the submitted draft of their ISA260 report. A further report covering the findings of their IT audit was also attached as an appendix.


The main points arising from the audit were that:


·  Grant Thornton anticipate being able to issue an unqualified opinion on the  2019/20 Statement of Accounts, with an Emphasis of Matter paragraph relating to the material uncertainty surrounding property asset valuations at 31st March 2020, arising from the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic on property markets;

·  There are expected to be no unadjusted audit differences affecting the financial statements;

·  The review of the Annual Governance Statement had concluded that it was not misleading or inconsistent with information they are aware of from their audit of the financial statements, and that it complied with CIPFA/SOLACE guidance;

·  Subject to completion of their audit work, Grant Thornton anticipate issuing an ‘except for’ opinion in relation to the use of resources - that the Council had made proper arrangements for securing economy, efficiency and effectiveness in its use of resources except for a weakness in the level of its General Fund Reserves to deal with significant unforeseen circumstances.


An updated copy of the accounts as at 13th November was included with this report.


Members were informed that the audit work had not sufficiently progressed in order for the Committee to approve the accounts. A final ISA260 report would be presented by Grant Thornton to the Committee at its meeting on 14th December 2020.


The accounts would be certified by the Chief Finance Officer as a true and fair view of the Council’s financial position as at 31st March 2020 prior to the Committee being asked to approve them.


It was reported that during the 2019/20 public inspection period, no objections were received from local electors.


The Chief Officer Financial Services reported that the Council had identified a number of amendments since the draft accounts were published, and these were outlined to Members. The most significant was an amendment to the accounting treatment of a capital distribution which the Council had received from its investment in the Merrion House LLP. The capital distribution arose from the Council’s prepayment of rent for the remainder of its lease of Merrion House from the LLP. The Council were proposing that the balance of £25.65m shown as deferred income in its draft accounts would be recognised as revenue income and transferred to an earmarked reserve, to be applied during the remaining life of the Council’s lease It was noted that Grant Thornton wished to consider whether this should be an adjustment to 2018/19 figures.


Addressing the External Auditors report, Gareth Mills (Grant Thornton) spoke on the main issues which  ...  view the full minutes text for item 50.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 146 KB

To receive a report City Solicitor which notifies Members of the Committee’s Work Programme for 2020/21



(Report attached)

Additional documents:


The City Solicitor submitted a report which set out the ongoing Work Programme for 2020/21.


RESOLVED – To note the draft work programme and approve the suggested meeting dates as set out in Appendix 1 of the submitted report


Date and Time of Next Meeting

To note the next meeting will take place on Monday, 14th December 2020 at 10.00am (Remote Meeting)


RESOLVED - That the next meeting be rescheduled to take place on Monday, 14th December 2020 at 10.00am (Remote Meeting)