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Apologies for absence
Apologies were received from Councillors Campbell and Henderson.
RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting held on 3rd September 2019 (circulated previously) be approved as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
Declarations of Interests.
(Please complete the form provided at the meeting or telephone Corporate and Community Services to prepare a form for your signature before the meeting. Interests must be re-declared when the item is called, and Councillors must leave the room if necessary.)
There were no declarations of interest announced.
Report by MAZARS Public Sector Internal Audit Limited (attached).
The Committee considered a report by MAZARS Public Sector Internal Audit Limited regarding the Internal Audit Progress Report (circulated previously).
The Committee was advised of the following in relation to the Internal Audit Progress Report:
· The report set out the current position in respect of the audits being undertaken in 2019/20.
· There were 19 audits in the 2019/20 plan. Of these, five were in progress (an increase on the three noted in the report) and four had agreed dates set.
· There were 17 audits in the 2018/2019 plan. Of these, one was currently in draft and five others were still in progress. 11 had been completed.
· Testing of all the 2018/2019 audits had been completed.
· Audit number 16 of annexe 1 (the Crematorium) had now been completed with a Full assurance rating.
· In addition to the programmed Audits for 2019/2020 listed in Annexe 2, a further two audits had been arranged:
o Risk Management and Corporate Governance 18th Nov 2019
o Housing Benefits 2nd Dec 2019.
The Head of Resources advised the Committee that to have two audits with a Full assurance rating was a good result.
RESOLVED that the Internal Audit Progress report for be noted.
Report by Grant Thornton (attached).
The Committee considered a report by Grant Thornton regarding the External Audit Progress Report and Sector Update (circulated previously).
The External Auditor advised the committee of the following points as noted in the External Audit Progress Report and Sector Update:
· The opinion on the 2018/19 accounts was issued on 31st July 2019.
· The planning for the 2019/2020 audits would begin in December / January and a detailed audit plan would be issued.
· The interim audit would start in January 2019.
· The Value for Money work would be included in the audit plan.
· The certification of the Housing Benefit Subsidy claim was currently in progress and would be completed by the 30th November 2019 deadline. This certification work was no longer part of the Public Sector Audit Appointments (PSAA) contract and was subject to a separate engagement letter.
· The report signposted a number of articles which were considered to be of use/interest to the Authority. These included a Sector Update, CIPFA – CFO Confidence Survey, MHCLG – Independent Probe into Local Government Audit, National Audit Office – Code of Audit Practice, and the LGA – Profit with a Purpose report. The latter was recommended by the Chief Executive as a report which provided opinion in line with the Council’s Strategy for income generation.
In response to a question from the Chair, the External Auditor advised that nationally Grant Thornton had struggled to meet the dates for the Audit Deliverables. The dates had been brought forward to allow for the changes imposed by the Government on Local Authorities where they were now to produce final accounts by 31st July, rather than the previous September deadline to enable the Treasury to set their own budgets. This had resulted in Local Authorities and Auditing Firms being put under pressure. Local Authorities had brought their deadlines forward by one month but the Auditors had to bring theirs forward by two months to meet the target deadline. The industry as a whole was having difficulties with this. Issues being faced included the problem in hiring and retaining newly qualified staff and the changing demand for services through the year made it difficult to find enough work for staff during quiet times of the year. The size of the average Financial Statements had doubled over the past few years due to the increased requirements of the regulator.
The Committee discussed the relationship of commercial strategy which would benefit the local people and economy. This had been demonstrated by the recent purchase of property to be used to alleviate the homelessness issue, whilst providing them with more stable accommodation (rather than Bed and Breakfast placements) it had created savings of £150,000 on the 2017-18 costs and provided long term capital assets for the Authority.
RESOLVED that the External Audit Progress Report and Sector Update be noted.
To note the letter from the DVLA (attached)
The Committee considered a letter from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency in respect of the DVLA Audit of North Devon Council (circulated previously).
The Head of Resources advised the Committee that the Audit had achieved a high level of compliance.
The Committee passed on their appreciation of the team involved and congratulated them on their work.
RESOLVED that the DVLA Audit of North Devon Council be noted.
Report by the Head of Resources (attached).
The Committee considered a report by the Head of Resources regarding the Provision of Internal Audit Services (circulated previously).
The Head of Resources advised the Committee that:
(a) North Devon Council join the Devon Audit Partnership (DAP) as a partner from 1st April 2020 onwards, for the provision of internal audit services; and
(b) The Head of Resources work with the Head of Devon Audit Partnership (DAP) and respective Legal, Human Resources and Finance teams to prepare and sign contracts to enable the above partnership to take place.
21:21 Phase 2 Report
Chief Executive to report.
The Chief Executive provided the Committee with an update on the 21:21 project. He advised the Committee:
· The 21:21 project had been based on the Authority’s previous corporate priorities. It had addressed the issues of improving services, customer focus, modernising processes and expanding the online services.
· It had four themes: Leaning and Transformation, One Site, Improvements to Waste and Recycling Services and Income Generation.
· The new priorities were Financial Security, Customer Focus, Environment and North Devon Futures. The new Corporate Plan was more specific around what the Council wanted to do.
· The Civic Centre had now been vacated by the Authority and the majority of staff were now based at Brynsworthy Environment Centre (BEC).
· Security had been improved with the implementation of the ID/entry card system and enhanced CCTV provision.
· The increased availability of online services had not yet resulted in any reduction in the number of phone calls received.
· The advantages of open plan offices and the teams working in closer proximity. Communication had improved and the logistics of working together.
The Committee discussed:
· BEC was now at capacity – with regards to the building/office space and the car parking availability.
· Should any further expansion be required for the BEC site, North Devon Council would be the planning Authority.
· The lack of a green travel scheme could hinder further expansion. There was no public transport route, cycle way, or safe pedestrian route (although walking or cycling to BEC may not be an attractive prospect due to the steep hill).
· Skype for Business would change the way staff worked and in some cases could eliminate the need to travel between work locations and/or enable working from home. This could possibly free-up space at BEC for staff from Lynton House.
· The need to retain a town centre base for the Authority for the public.
The Chief Executive advised that:
· The Income Generation element of the plan had progressed and a number of properties had been purchased which were being used to provide temporary accommodation for the homeless, rather than using Bed and Breakfast placements. This was a good example of how designing service improvements around the needs of the customers could also provide savings. It resulted in families being accommodated in more secure, settled environment and being able to access intervention services if needed. This work had been featured on a recent episode of ‘Inside Out’ and was being treated as an example of good practice for other Local Authorities. The purchase had been made using a mixture of the Council’s budgets and Section 106 allocations. The purchase of our own properties had also provided the Authority with long-term capital assets.
· ‘Recycle More’ had resulted in increased recycling rates, with areas trialling a three week collection of residual waste and weekly, unlimited, recycling collections and food caddy collections. A paid-for green waste service was also introduced across the North Devon Council area. Some issues with the roll-out had been created due to its timing. The heatwave that summer had resulted in ... view the full minutes text for item 41.
Report by the Chief Executive (attached).
The Committee considered the Audit Recommendation Tracker report by the Chief Executive in respect of actions taken to address internal and external audit recommendations (circulated previously).
The Committee noted the following updates:
· Table A detailed the 17 live recommendations.
· Table B detailed the 6 recommendations completed since the last meeting of the Committee.
· Table C detailed 3 recommendations for which time extensions were being requested. It was noted that Recommendation 17 G 07 remained on the tracker as the team wished to review the current procedures at the end of the financial year when a full appraisal of the new system could be carried out. Recommendations 16 SP 01 and 17 PO 01 were delayed due to policy changes.
· Recommendation 17 G 07: the new system had been installed however the current percentage of applications submitted electronically was approximately 30%. Assistance with online applications was available by phone or email with the Corporate and Community Services team.
· Table D detailed 1 outstanding recommendation in relation to risk registers which was being picked up as part of this year’s service planning process.
· 14 AGS 02 (Table E) would be finalised once the final testing of the ICT Disaster Recovery Plan were completed.
(a) the actions completed since the 3rd September 2019 Committee meeting be noted;
(b) time extension be granted for those recommendations as listed in table C;
(c) 17 RM&CG 02 be given a new due date of 31st December 2019; and
(d) the Audit Recommendation Tracker be noted.
To consider the work programme (attached).
The Committee considered the work programme for 2019/20 (circulated previously).
a) the Chief Executive provide a further update on the 21:21 project to the Governance Committee in March 2020; and
b) the Work Programme 2019/20 be noted.