Meeting documents

Audit Committee
Tuesday, 26th February, 2019 9.30 am

Date: Tuesday 26th February 2019 Time: 9.30 a.m. Place: Council Chamber, Civic Centre Ebbw Vale

Please note: all Minutes are subject to approval at the next Meeting

PresentAndWithReport toReport of

Councillor J. Collins (Vice-Chair in the Chair)

Councillors:

G. Collier
M. Cross
G.L. Davies
P. Edwards
L. Elias
S. Healy
B. Summers
G. Paulsen
S.C. Thomas

Managing Director
Chief Officer Resources
Head of Internal Audit
Head of Governance & Partnerships
Audit Manager
Information & Data Protection Officer
Wales Audit Office:-
Non Jenkins
Neil Hollis
Dave Wilson
THE CHAIR AND MEMBERS OF THE COUNCILDEMOCRATIC SERVICES OFFICER
Item
No
Item/Resolution Status Action
PUBLIC
1. TUDALEN GLAWR AGENDA GYMRAEG/WELSH VERSION OF AGENDA COVERSHEET
Tudalen Glawr Agenda Gymraeg/Welsh Version of Agenda Coversheet (171K/bytes)
Noted
2. SIMULTANEOUS TRANSLATION

It was noted that no requests had been received for the simultaneous translation service.

Noted
3. APOLOGIES

Apologies for absence were received from Mr. Peter Williams (Chair), Councillors H. Trollope and L. Winnett.

Noted
4. DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST AND DISPENSATIONS

Councillor L. Elias declared an interest in the following item:-

Item No. 6 Wales Audit Office Review on Supporting Financial Resilience
�

Noted
5. AUDIT COMMITTEE
Minutes (288K/bytes)
Cofnodion (231K/bytes)

The minutes of the Audit Committee held on 4th December, 2018 were submitted for accuracy points.

�

RESOLVED that the minutes be accepted as a true record of proceedings.
�

Agreed
6. ACTION SHEET
Report (77K/bytes)

The action sheet arising from the meeting of the Audit Committee held on 4th December, 2018 was submitted.

�

RESOLVED, subject to the foregoing, that the action sheet be noted.
�

Agreed
7. WALES AUDIT OFFICE REVIEW ON SUPPORTING FINANCIAL RESILIENCE
Report (331K/bytes)
Appendix 1 (2M/bytes)
Appendix 2 (107K/bytes)

Councillor L. Elias declared an interest in this item.

�

At the invitation of the Chair, the Audit Committee received a presentation from the Wales Audit Office on their local review on �Supporting Financial Resilience�.

�

The review was undertaken in response to the Council wanting to gain a better understanding, and also opportunity to improve financial resilience and planning moving forward. The WAO Officer reported that during the year workshops were held with Officers and Members, and today was an opportunity to go through the key messages within the review, in order to take things forward at pace and provide a solid foundation to move forward with financial planning.

�

The review looked at a number of areas, detailed at section 2.2 of the report, and the overall conclusion was that �the Council has an agreed MTFS and reserves of 5% but will need to develop a stronger financial culture if it is to remain financially resilient.�

�

The WAO Officer then went through the review document and highlighted points contained therein.

�

The Managing Director said it was important to point out that the Council agreed and requested the WAO to undertake the review as part of the Audit Plan 2017/18, and confirmed that work was underway to address many of the issues raised, and this was evidence of the Council�s self-awareness of our challenges.

�

The headline message was that the Council has an agreed MTFS and reserves of 5%, but need to development a strong financial culture if it is to remain resilient. The Managing Director said it was a challenge for us, but reiterated the need to continue to develop our financial management moving forward.


Most important was to protect reserves moving forward, and this was referred to more detail in the following item on the agenda. She confirmed that CLT were committed to working with the Executive and Members to develop the actions, as set out in Management Response. The Managing Director then went through the Management Response and provided an update on progress against the WAO recommendations.

�

The Managing Director said Members would be aware that the Council had undertaken a review of SMT over last 12 months, and this was partly about efficiencies, but also about having capacity and capability to manage the organisation effectively. She confirmed that all posts had now been filled and the new posts of Chief Officer Resources and Chief Officer Commercial would be key in strengthening financial resilience moving forward.


A review of Council Tax was already underway, and the Chief Officer Resources would be using benchmarking data to identify how we perform and improve our collection rates. The Chief Officer Resources was also leading on strategic management of grants coming in and out of the organisation.

�

In relation to Fees and Charges, the Managing Director said this needed review, and the Chief Officer Commercial would be leading on this and was currently scoping out that piece of work.


However, she pointed out that the budget presented to Council included all income, and confirmed some of the income targets had been adjusted in line with what could be achieved, to help with management of the 2019/20 budget moving forward. The Managing Director also confirmed that a restructure of the Financial Team would be completed shortly.

�

In terms of improving accountability, work has been done to ensure we understand our budget, and we recognise the importance of being able to sustain and grow our reserves moving forward. The Council should also use data more effectively in managing its finances, and work on this was underway.

�

Consideration was then given to the report of the Head of Governance & Partnerships.

�

A Member commended the review undertaken by WAO and also the Management Response to the recommendations. However, he said the key point was the strategic vision moving forward and decisions taken by Members, particularly in terms of any costs pressures and replenishment of Council reserves.

�

Another Member also welcomed the review, but expressed concern that Council Tax was based on the % of Band D equivalent properties, however, Blaenau Gwent had the lowest % of these properties in Wales, and that deprivation within the area impacted on people�s ability to pay.

�

The WAO Officer thanked Members for their comments, and recognition of the importance of the review for the Council and the people of Blaenau Gwent. She understood it was a very challenging time, but urged Members to focus on thinking differently in order to find solutions and actions to progress at pace.

�

RESOLVED that the report be accepted and the Audit Committee note the Wales Audit Office review and findings on Supporting Financial Resilience and endorse the management response as it provided assurance that the proposals for improve will be fully implemented.
�

Agreed
8. ANNUAL AUDIT LETTER � BLAENAU GWENT COUNTY BOROUGH COUNCIL 2017-2018
Covering Report (67K/bytes)
WAO Report (236K/bytes)

Consideration was given to report of the Wales Audit Office.

�

At the invitation of the Chair the WAO Officer presented the Annual Audit Letter for Blaenau Gwent 2017/18. He said the Council�s level of reserves and budget pressures were cause for concern, and the trend towards short term borrowing. It also concluded that austerity funding remained more challenging for Blaenau Gwent than others, and the Council would need to develop stronger financial reserves if it is to remain financially viable. Also noted in the Annual Audit Letter was that the financial statements for 2016/17 and 2017/18 accounts remained outstanding.

�

The Chief Officer Resources confirmed that the WAO conclusions were being taken very seriously, and the Managing Director had already provided an overview of work being undertaken in setting the 2019/20 budget to hopefully mitigate any potential overspend for next year. She said the review was undertaken at a point in time when the Council was still predicting an adverse variance for 2019/20 but this had reduced significantly, and was expected to reduce even further by the 31st March, 2019.

�

In relation to WAO�s conclusions around short term borrowing, whilst the conclusions are acknowledged, they have been risk assessed and currently given the Council�s financial situation, short term borrowing was specifically chosen in order to benefit from the significantly lower interest rates available for short term borrowing. She confirmed that advice was sought and the situation was under constant review.

RESOLVED that the report be accepted and the Annual Audit Letter � Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council 2017-2018 be noted.
�

Agreed
9. RESPONSE TO WAO ENQUIRY TO THOSE CHARGED WITH GOVERNANCE AND MANAGEMENT
Report (85K/bytes)
Appex (91K/bytes)

Consideration was given to report of the Chief Officer Resources.

�

The Chief Officer Resources presented the report which informed the Audit Committee of the management response to the Wales Audit Office enquiries, attached at Appendix A.

�

RESOLVED that the report be accepted and the Audit Committee endorse the management response.
�

Agreed
10. AUDIT PLAN PROGRESS REPORT OCTOBER - DECEMBER 2018
Report Audit progress (316K/bytes)
Appendix A - E (242K/bytes)

Consideration was given to report of the Chief Officer Resources.

�

The Audit Manager presented the report which provided an update on the progress against the Internal Audit Plan for the period 1st October to 31st December, 2018. The Audit activities during the period were set out in Appendix At, and an overview of the weaknesses classified as High Risk for all Final Reports issued during the period April to December 2018 was attached at Appendix B. Performance Data was attached at Appendix C and the gradings issued and percentage coverage for each Department was shown in Appendix D and E.

�

The Officer reported that the Internal Audit Service had completed 49.13% of the audit plan against a target of 60.00%, and this was the result of long term absence of one member of the Team, however, they were expected to return to work in March 2019.

�

A brief discussion ensued when the Officer clarified points raised.

�

RESOLVED that the report be accepted and the Audit Committee note the findings within the attached appendices, and progress on activities for the period October to December 2018.
�

Agreed
11. RIPA POLICY & PROCEDURES
Report (367K/bytes)
Appendix A (135K/bytes)
Appendix B (2M/bytes)
Appendix C (9M/bytes)

Consideration was given to report of the Head of Legal & Corporate Compliance.

�

The Information & Data Protection Officer presented the revised RIPA Policy and supplementary procedure document. He said the new Policy would strengthen existing arrangements and ensure compliance with statutory obligations and regulatory codes of practice.

�

The said the Council was subject to a routine inspection by the Office of Surveillance Commissioners in May 2017, and a report was later provided which outlined several recommendations for improvement. As a result, an internal review was conducted by the RIPA Monitoring Officer (Head of Legal & Corporate Compliance) and an action plan was developed to discharge the recommendations.

�

The Officer confirmed that training was completed by most members of staff affected by the recommendations in March 2018 with the remainder attending a joint training exercise with Torfaen in November 2018 with an external specialist in RIPA.

�

In response to a question raised by a Member regarding the Authority�s CCTV contract, the Officer explained that the Policy did not address the operational issues of CCTV, but how it was managed in compliance with RIPA legislation.

�

The Head of Legal & Corporate Compliance confirmed that the Policy would be amended to reflect any potential changes to the Authority�s CCTV contract arrangements, and reported back to Council accordingly.

�

RESOLVED that the report be accepted and the Audit Committee recommend approval of the RIPA Policy & Procedures document.
�

Agreed
DECISIONS UNDER DELEGATED POWERS