Meeting documents

Audit Committee
Tuesday, 9th April, 2019 9.30 am

Date: Tuesday 9th April 2019 Time: 09.30 a.m. Place: Council Chamber, Civic Centre, Ebbw Vale

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

PresentAndWithReport toReport of

Mr. Peter Williams (CHAIR)

Councillors G. Collier
M. Cross
L. Elias
D. Hancock
S. Healy
B. Summers
G. Paulsen
S.C. Thomas

Head of Internal Audit
Head of Governance & Partnerships
Chief Accountant Corporate Services
Principal Accountant Corporate Services
Solicitor � Commercial Services
Mike Jones � Wales Audit OfficeTHE 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 (225K/bytes)
Noted
2. SIMULTANEOUS TRANSLATION

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

Noted
3. APOLOGIES

The following apologies for absence were reported:

Councillors J. Collins, P. Edwards, J. Hill, H. Trollope and L. Winnett.
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Noted
4. DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST AND DISPENSATIONS

Councillor M. Cross declared and interest in the following items as he was a member of the former Bedwellty House Management Board and the Aneurin Leisure Trust.

Item No. 8 - Bedwellty House and Park Charitable Trust Accounts 2014/15, 2015/16, 2016/17, 2017/18

Item No. 9 - Bedwellty House & Park Audit of Financial Statements Report
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Noted
5. MINUTES
Minutes (239K/bytes)
Cofnodion (122K/bytes)

The minutes of the Audit Committee held on 26th February, 2019 were submitted for accuracy points.

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RESOLVED that the minutes be accepted as a true record of proceedings.
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Agreed
6. ACTION SHEET

The action sheet arising from the meeting of the Audit Committee held on 26th February, 2019 was submitted.

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RESOLVED that the action sheet be noted.
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Agreed
7. CODE OF GOVERNANCE
Report (87K/bytes)
Appex 1 (164K/bytes)

Consideration was given to report of the Chief Officer Resources.

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The Head of Internal Audit presented the revised Code of Governance which set out the governance framework for the Authority. The Code was produced in line with the CIPFA/SOLACE document �Delivering Good Governance in Local Government�, and was reviewed on an annual basis to ensure it reflected the current governance arrangements of the Authority, and formed the basis against which the Annual Governance Statement was produced. A draft of the Annual Governance Statement would be submitted to the Audit Committee later in the year.

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The Officer confirmed that the changes to the Code this year were minimal and related mainly to updates on regulatory activity, and reflected the changes to the governance framework of the Authority over the last year. Input was received from Officers of all Directorates to amend the Code.

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In response to a question raised by a Member regarding section 2.2 of the Code (Core Principle B), i.e. ensuring staff are clearly accessible to the public; the Officer explained that this would be done through the Authority�s website and ensuring all Officers have access to a telephone and email facility. However, depending on the individual Officer role home visits were sometimes undertaken if necessary.

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A Member referred to section 2.3 (Core Principle C) and expressed concern regarding progress of the Public Service Board and frequency of the meetings.

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In response the Head of Governance & Partnerships explained that the PSB Scrutiny Committee was established as required under the legislation of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act. The PSB Scrutiny Committee had agreed a forward work programme, and agreed to hold meetings in line with business required under the Act. Moving forward she confirmed that the Scrutiny Committee had suggested that meetings be aligned to the annual cycle of meetings and held on a quarterly basis.

A discussion ensued when the Officer said the remit of the PSB Scrutiny Committee was to hold the Public Service Board to account in relation to the Wellbeing Plan for Blaenau Gwent. She said Members had been involved in development of the draft Wellbeing Plan for the area and was updated on progress. The Officer assured that the PSB Scrutiny Committee was established and operating within its remit, but she was happy to speak with Members in terms of inviting partners to have discussions on specific issues moving forward. In terms of outcomes of the PSB Scrutiny, she said initially the main focus was to ensure that proper governance arrangements were in place, however, it was now moving into the area of looking at projects that are being delivered.

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Members expressed concern regarding the financial implications of the Welsh Language Promotion Strategy, and felt that the money could be better spent on service provision.

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In response the Officer explained that the Welsh Language Promotion Strategy was a requirement of the Welsh Language Standards, and confirmed that the Strategy had gone through the Council�s democratic process. In relation to the financial implications, the Officer explained that previously there was a designated Welsh Language Officer but this post was no longer in place. She said there were costs involved, mainly in relation to translation, but the Welsh Language Standards was a corporate responsibility, albeit the Corporate Policy Team provided advice and guidance to ensure that Directorates complied with the requirements.

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A Member said he was pleased to see progress on arrangements for reports from Members sitting on outside bodies, and the Officer confirmed that this procedure was introduced following requests by Members, and she was pleased to work with Members on this moving forward. Our approach had also been recognised as best practice by the WLGA.

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RESOLVED that the report be accepted and the revised Code of Conduct be approved and adopted (Option 1).
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Agreed
8. 2019 AUDIT PLAN � BLAENAU GWENT COUNTY BOROUGH COUNCIL
WAO Covering Report (65K/bytes)
WAO Report (439K/bytes)

Consideration was given to Wales Audit Office report.

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The WAO Officer presented the 2019 Audit Plan for Blaenau Gwent which set out the proposed work to be undertaken by the Wales Audit Office along with the responsible officer and costs to be incurred by the Local Authority. He went through the report and highlighted points contained therein and referred Members to Exhibit 2 on page 41 which outlined the financial audit risks which had been identified during the planning stage.

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In addition to the audit of the accounts, he said WAO had a statutory responsibility to receive questions and objections to the accounts from local electors as set out in the Public Audit (Wales) Act 2004. As a result it was not possible to estimate an audit fee for this work.

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A Member expressed concern that the Council�s 2016/17 and 2017/18 Statement of Accounts had yet to be signed off, and the costs associated with the additional work that was required.

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In response the WAO Officer said this was an unusual situation, however he understood that the investigation was progressing at pace, and hopefully an indication of the conclusions would be received in due course.

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A discussion ensued when a Member expressed concern regarding the impact of Universal Credit on the financial stability of the Council, and also the Leisure Services Review that was currently being undertaken and audit of SRS.

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In response the WAO Officer said all Councils were experiencing difficult times, particularly Blaenau Gwent, and part of WAO�s work following on from last year was to look at governance and financial management, and also the financial sustainability of all Councils. In terms of SRS he was unable to provide any detail but was happy to discuss if the Member wished to contact him.

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In relation to the issues raised by the Member, the Head of Governance & Partnerships explained that some of the work had yet to be scoped out. In terms of financial resilience, she said Members would be aware of the findings of the WAO Review undertaken last year and the management response to the areas identified.

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RESOLVED that the report be accepted and the information contained therein be acknowledged.
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Agreed
9. BEDWELLTY HOUSE AND PARK CHARITABLE TRUST ACCOUNTS 2014/2015, 2015/2016,2016/2017, 2017/2018
Cover Report (111K/bytes)
Accounts (2M/bytes)

Councillor M. Cross declared an interest in this item.

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Consideration was given to report of the Chief Officer Resources.

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The Principal Accountant Corporate Services the report which provided the 2014/2015 Accounts of the Bedwellty House & Park Charitable Trust, and an update position of the 2015/2016, 2016/2017 and 2017/2018 Accounts of the Bedwellty House & Park Charitable Trust.

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She said having significantly completed the audit of the financial statements for 2014/2015, the Authority now anticipated receiving an unqualified signed audit opinion, together with a certificate of completion of audit. For the financial years ending 31st March, 2016, 31st March, 2017 and 31st March, 2018 the accounts had been prepared on an accruals basis as income in each financial year did not exceed �250k, and these accounts have been subject to internal audit review.

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RESOLVED that the report be accepted and the Audit Committee exercises its statutory responsibility of reviewing the financial statements prepared by the Authority and the audited Bedwellty House and Park Accounts for 2014/2015 be approved.
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Agreed
10. BEDWELLTY HOUSE & PARK AUDIT OF FINANCIAL STATEMENTS REPORT
WAO Cover Report (65K/bytes)
WAO Report (297K/bytes)

Councillor M. Cross declared an interest in this item.

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Consideration was given to Wales Audit Office report.

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The WAO Officer spoke to the report and confirmed that it was intended to issue an unqualified audit report on the Bedwellty House & Park Charitable Accounts for 2014/2015. There were a number of issues arising during the audit and these were highlighted at section 12 of the report. He confirmed that these had been discussed with the Chief Accountant and Chief Officer Resources.

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In response to concerns raised by a Member, the Chief Accountant Corporate Services said Members were aware of the reasons for the delay in signing off the Accounts. The issues had been resolved and work had progressed with preparation of subsequent accounts, and these were ready to be independently examined.

However, as part of the process the 2014/2015 accounts had to be signed off prior to the subsequent year�s accounts being examined. He also confirmed that the 2018/19 accounts would be prepared as part of the Final Accounts cycle and submitted prior to the 10 month deadline.

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RESOLVED that the report be accepted and the information contained therein be noted.
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Agreed
DECISIONS UNDER DELEGATED POWERS