APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
Apologies for absence were submitted on behalf of Councillors Jim McNally and Deepak Sangha.
RESOLVED: That the Minutes of the Meeting of the Finance, Audit and Risk Committee held on 13 June 2016 be confirmed as a true record of the proceedings and be signed by the Chairman.
NOTIFICATION OF OTHER BUSINESS
There was no other item of business tabled.
(1) The Chairman announced that Members of the public and the press may use their devices to film/photograph, or do a sound recording of the meeting, but he asked them to not use flash and to disable any beeps or other sound notifications that emitted from their devices. In addition, the Chairman had arranged for the sound at this particular meeting to be recorded; and
(2) The Chairman advised that, in line with the Code of Conduct, any Declarations of Interest should be declared immediately prior to the item in question.
There was no public participation.
AUDIT RESULTS REPORT FOR NHDC FOR THE YEAR ENDED 31 MARCH 2016
The Manager (Government & Public Sector), Ernst and Young, presented the Audit Results for NHDC for the year ended 31 March 2016
The Manager (Government & Public Sector) advised that the 201/16 audit was now complete, and she was pleased to report that there had been no significant changes since the report was drafted. At that time, there were a number of outstanding audit procedures, which had subsequently been completed. The Manager (Government & Public Sector) reported that Ernst and Young were to issue an unqualified audit opinion on the financial statements and an unqualified value for money conclusion. The audit certificate would be issued following the meeting. The Manager (Government & Public Sector) thanked the NHDC officers who had assisted during the audit. There were a number of small changes to the notes and disclosures within the financial statements, but nothing of a significant nature. She explained that the materiality calculation had been slightly increased, which reflected the fact that the baseline expenditure had increased. The Manager (Government & Public Sector) stated that one significant potential risk had been identified in the audit opinion relating to Management Override. Ernst and Young had completed work on this matter and there were no issues that needed to be brought to the attention of the Committee. The Manager (Government & Public Sector) advised that Ernst and Young had also recognised a potential risk relating to the value for money conclusion, in respect of the amount of savings that NHDC would be required to make over the medium term. The track record of how the Council had delivered against its budget had been investigated, together with the assumptions contained in the Medium Term Financial Strategy and the level of reserves. The level of reserves of £7million was above the minimum recommended level of balances and gave the Council scope to plan over the medium term in order to achieve the necessary savings. The conclusion was that the Council had suitable arrangements in place to achieve value for money. The Committee supported the comment made by the Chairman that the Ernst and Young auditors and NHDC officers who assisted in the process be thanked for their work in completing the annual audit. RESOLVED: (1) That the Audit Results for NHDC for the year ended 31 March 2016 be noted; (2) That the audit results be welcomed and the pleasing and positive comments of the Ernst and Young auditors regarding the audit be conveyed to all staff; and (3) That the Ernst and Young auditors and NHDC officers who assisted in the process be thanked for their work in completing the annual audit. REASON FOR DECISION: To confirm that the findings of the external auditor were reviewed and noted and that the recommendations were acted upon.
SHARED ANTI-FRAUD SERVICE (SAFS) - PROGRESS REPORT
The Shared Anti-Fraud Service (SAFS) Manager presented a report providing progress against the Councils Anti-Fraud Action Plan adopted by the Committee at its meeting held in March 2016.
The SAFS Manager advised that for 2015/16 fraud loss totalled £43,000; cashable savings £33,500 and non-cashable savings £36,000. In 2015/16, the NHDC contribution to SAFS was £60,000 - this investment had delivered £76,500 direct cashable income/savings/revenue; a further £36,000 in notional savings; and £42,000 Council Tax raised through the removal of discounts. The SAFS Manager took the Committee through the 2016/17 statistics set out in Paragraph 4 of the report relating to the types of fraud being reported; who was reporting fraud; the outcome of closed cases; and the status of cases still under investigation. In the first quarter of 2016/17, SAFS recorded fraud losses across the partnership of £605,000 had been identified. For NHDC, fraud losses of £23,000 and savings resulting from prevention totalling £25,000 were identified against a combined target for the year of £100,000. The SAFS Manager drew attention to the various Pilot projects carried out by the Service, as set out in Paragraphs 4.10 to 4.14 of the report. The SAFS Manager drew the Committees attention to the 2016/17 Anti-Fraud Plan attached as Appendix 1 to the report. He also advised Members of performance against the Anti-Fraud Action Plan 2016/17 to date, as attached at Appendix 2 to the report. In response to a Members suggestion regarding the Key Performance Indicators in the Anti-Fraud Action Plan, the SAFS Manager confirmed that he would ensure that performance against these targets was included in future reports. He further confirmed that the pilot project with the Department of Work and Pensions had been extended for a further 6 months to November 2016. RESOLVED: (1) That the progress of the Shared Anti-Fraud Service in delivering the Councils Anti-Fraud Action Plan 2016/2017; and (2) That the anti-fraud activity undertaken to protect the Council be noted. REASON FOR DECISION: To update the Committee on the activities of the Shared Anti-Fraud Service.
SHARED INTERNAL AUDIT SERVICES - ANNUAL REPORT 2015/16
The Audit Manager (SIAS) presented the Shared Internal Audit Services (SIAS) Annual Report 2015/16.
The Audit Manager advised that an independent Peer Review of SIAS had been carried out in January 2016, and SIAS was assessed as being substantially conformant with the requirements of the Public Sector Internal Audit Standards, the highest assurance level available. The Audit Manager stated that SIAS had exceeded its two Key Performance Indicators for the second year running, and responses from auditees indicated that SIAS was providing a high quality service. RESOLVED: That the Shared Internal Audit Services (SIAS) Annual Report 2015/16 be noted. REASON FOR DECISION: To enable the Committee to consider and comment on the SIAS Annual Report 2015/16.
SHARED INTERNAL AUDIT SERVICES - UPDATE ON PROGRESS AGAINST THE 2016/17 AUDIT PLAN
The Audit Manager (SIAS) presented an update report on progress against the 2016/17 Audit Plan.
The Audit Manager advised that, as at 26 August 2016, SIAS had delivered 31% of planned audit days, and had delivered 24% of audits to draft stage, broadly in line with agreed targets. The Audit Manager highlighted that since preparation of the report the Data Retention and Storage audit had been issued as a final report, with substantial assurance. The recommendations made were of a merits attention priority. The Audit Manager reported that SIAS had commenced all the audits in line with the agreed start dates set out at Appendix C to the report. She drew attention to the Office Accommodation and Hitchin Town Hall audits, and explained that SIAS was in discussion with NHDC officers as to the most appropriate time for these audits to commence, and the scope of those audits. Both audits would be re-scheduled for later in the year. The Audit Manager advised that SIAS had made some minor amendments to the budgets of the Treasury Management and Asset Management audits to include a Whistleblowing investigation and a Discretionary Grants investigation. The Whistleblowing report had been accepted by the Monitoring Officer. The recommendations of the Discretionary Grants investigation would be incorporated into the Grants audit to be commenced in January 2017. The Audit Manager stated that SIAS had issued a limited assurance audit for Safer Staffing, and had made 2 high priority recommendations, as set out in the report, relating to arrangements for contractors. The Committee debated the scope of audits, particularly the one relating to Hitchin Town Hall. The Strategic Director of Finance, Policy and Governance advised that the scope of audits had historically been developed in consultation with the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Committee, but that if deemed necessary this could be broadened to include the input of other Members (possibly via electronic means). The Chairman asked for all Committee members to be consulted regarding the scope of the Hitchin Town Hall audit. In response to a further discussion, the Audit Manager suggested that if members had issues regarding risks and controls then they should channel these through the Committee Chairman for discussion with the Strategic Director of Finance, Policy and Governance and colleagues. RESOLVED: (1) That the Internal Audit Progress Report for the period to 26 August 2016 be noted; (2) That the amendments to the Audit Plan, as at 26 August 2016, be approved; and (3) That the implementation status of high priority recommendations be noted. REASON FOR DECISION: To allow the Committee to review, comment and challenge the current status of the Internal Audit Plan.
RISK MANAGEMENT UPDATE
The Shared Risk Manager presented a report which provided an update on Risk Management.
The Shared Risk Manager advised that the Top Risks were summarised in the risk matrices in Tables 1 and 2 of the report. Details of all of the proposed changed risks were set out in Appendix A to the report. These risk descriptions included sections on completed and proposed risk mitigations. The Shared Risk Manager proposed that the Asset Management Top Risk be deleted as there were a number of separate risks that covered the key causes highlighted in the risk description (eg. the Office Accommodation and North Hertfordshire Museum and Town Hall project Top Risks). In addition, there were service risks covering the risks arising from the disposal of land. The Shared Risk Manager stated that the Increased Homelessness and use of Bed and Breakfast risk had a reduced impact score following ongoing work within the Housing Team to reduce the numbers in temporary accommodation, although there did need to be an increase in the overall provision of housing within the District to manage the risk in the longer term. The Shared Risk Manager explained that the recent Cabinet report on the Outline Business Case for the renewal of the waste management contract included a new sub-risk relating to potential capital expenditure at the Buntingford Depot site. In view of this, a new sub-risk was proposed - Depot/Transfer Station. This brings the total number of sub-risks to eight, as follows (matrix score in brackets): Trade Waste (3) Waste & Recycling Service for Flats (3) Northern Transfer Station & Ancillary Facilities (6) Commingled Waste (5) Street Cleansing (5) Shared Procurement Opportunity (6) Sale of Materials (9) Depot/ Transfer Station (8) The Shared Risk Manager advised that a new Top Risk had been proposed - Income Generation Projects. This risk described the risks arriving from the failure to deliver projects that should generate income for the Council. RECOMMENDED TO CABINET: (1) That Asset Management be removed as a Top Cabinet Risk; (2) That the impact be reduced for the Increased Homelessness and use of B & B Top Cabinet Risk; (3) That the addition of a new sub-risk to the Waste & Street Cleansing Renewal Cabinet Top Risk of Depot/Transfer Station be agreed; and (4) That the addition of a new Top Risk entitled Income Generation Projects be agreed. REASON FOR DECISION: To comply with the requirements of the Risk and Opportunities Management Strategy.
ANNUAL GOVERNANCE STATEMENT 2015/16
The Senior Lawyer presented a report in respect of the Annual Governance Statement (AGS) 2015/16.
The Senior Lawyer reminded Members that a draft version of the AGS had been considered by the Committee in June 2016. The final version, attached to the report at Appendix A, covered a review of the governance arrangements in place at NHDC, summarised the various processes and SIAS audits, and included on-going actions for the next year, which would be reported back to the Committee in March 2017. The Senior Lawyer drew attention to the Chairmans Assurance Statement on Governance Arrangements for 2015/16, set out at Appendix B to the report. The Senior Lawyer advised that the AGS needed to be approved in advance of the Annual Statement of Accounts (the next agenda item), and by no later 30 September 2016. Planned AGS actions were set out in Section 9 of the report, and these were summarised by the Senior Lawyer. The Senior Lawyer referred to the Cumulative Equality Impact Assessment 2015/16 prepared by the Policy Officer, attached at Appendix C to the report, as requested at the last meeting of the Committee. She commented that this was quite detailed at 22 pages and therefore was not appropriate for incorporation into the current AGS, as this summarised governance arrangements and should comply with the CIPFA recommended good practice format. She reminded Members that an Equalities Implications section was included in every committee report, and where appropriate full Equality Impact Assessments were completed. A Committee Member asked if a summary of the Cumulative Impact Assessment could be incorporated into the Annual Governance Statement. The Senior Lawyer, supported by the Strategic Director of Finance, Policy and Governance, commented that it was too late for the 2015/16 AGS, but that the position would be reviewed for next year, having regard to the revised guidelines that were to be produced in relation to the content of the document. The Committee noted the Members concern regarding this response. RESOLVED: (1) That the Final Annual Governance Statement for 2015/16 (Appendix A to the report) and Chairmans Assurance Statement (Appendix B to the report) be approved; (2) That the actions that the authority planned to take in Section 3, table 2 and Section 4 of the Annual Governance Statement and progress against the actions be noted; and (3) That the cumulative Equality Impact Assessment (EIA), as attached at Appendix C to the report, be noted. REASON FOR DECISION: To meet the Councils statutory requirements to review and approve the Annual Governance Statement under regulation 6(4)(a) of the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015/234; and to review proposed actions, which will improve the Councils governance arrangements.
STATEMENT OF ACCOUNTS 2015/16
The Accountancy Manager presented the report of the Strategic Director of Finance, Policy and Governance in respect of the Statement of Accounts 2015/16.
The Accountancy Manager advised that the Statement of Accounts 2015/16 was required to be approved and published by 30 September 2016. The Accounts, attached as Appendix A to the report, had also been submitted to the Councils external auditors, Ernst and Young, for comment. The Accountancy Manager drew attention to the addendum report tabled at the meeting, which set out in table 1 at Paragraph 8.2 a series of subsequent amendments made to the Statement of Accounts. He summarised these amendments and concluded that none of them had any impact on the Key Financial Statements contained in the Accounts. The amendments had been incorporated into the final document, which the Strategic Director of Finance, Policy and Governance had authorised for issue/publication. RESOLVED: That the 2015/16 Annual Statement of Accounts, as set out in Appendix A to the report and including the agreed changes itemised in Table 1 of the addendum report, be approved and signed by the Chairman. REASON FOR DECISION: To ensure that the Council abides by the Audit and Account Regulations 2015 which require the approval and publication of the Statement of Accounts by no later than 30 September 2016.
FIRST QUARTER REVENUE BUDGET MONITORING 2016/17
The Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management presented the report of the Strategic Director of Finance, Policy and Governance in respect of the First Quarter Revenue Budget Monitoring 2016/17, and advised that the report was before this Committee for consideration prior to presentation to Cabinet on 27 September 2016.
The Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management advised that the report summarised the significant variances on the 2016/17 Revenue Budget up to 30 June 2016, of which there were six, the three most significant being: North Herts Leisure Centre - the delay in completion of the capital works meant that the increased revenue income from the learner pool would also be delayed - £78,000; An increase in the levy that the Council was required to pay in relation to Municipal Mutual Insurance - £52,000; and Increased interest income from investments that was mainly due to investing for longer periods and the corresponding higher interest rate that was received - (£55,000). The Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management stated that efficiencies from previous years were built into the budget. Carry forwards were also incorporated into the working budget. There were five key corporate financial health indicators for 2016/17 and current forecasts indicated that they would all match or exceed the budgeted level of income. The Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management referred to Section 8 of the report, which provided details of the overall funding for the Council and its impact on the General Fund balance. RESOLVED: That the First Quarter Revenue Budget Monitoring report 2016/17 be noted. REASON FOR DECISION: To provide an opportunity for the Committee to comment as appropriate on the First Quarter Revenue Monitoring report 2016/17.
FIRST QUARTER CAPITAL PROGRAMME MONITORING 2016/17
The Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management presented the report of the Strategic Director of Finance, Policy and Governance in respect of the First Quarter Capital Programme Monitoring 2016/17, and advised that the report was for consideration prior to presentation to Cabinet on 27 September 2016.
The Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management advised that, as at 30 June 2016, the forecast was that total capital expenditure would decrease by £1.415million in 2016/17, which had led to £1.699million of spend being re-programmed to 2017/18 and 2018/19. The significant scheme changes related to the regeneration of John Barker Place and Walsworth Common. The Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management explained that the report also sought Cabinet approval to the changes to the Capital programme that had been agreed by the Council, relating to the Capitalisation of Pension Contributions (£2.5 million), North Herts Museum (£154,000) and District Council Office refurbishment (£2.43million). This would give a total spend in 2016/17 of £19.709million. The Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management drew attention to Section 8 of the report, which provided details of the funding sources available for capital expenditure and a projection of the availability of those resources going forward up to 2019/20. In respect of a query concerning Section 106 Capital contributions, the Strategic Director of Finance, Policy and Governance advised that the Development and Conservation Manager would shortly be submitting an annual report to Area Committees on this matter. RESOLVED: That the First Quarter Capital Programme Monitoring report 2016/17 be noted. REASON FOR DECISION: To provide an opportunity for the Committee to comment as appropriate on the First Quarter Capital Monitoring report 2016/17.
TREASURY MANAGEMENT FIRST QUARTER 2016/17
The Corporate Support Accountant presented the report of the Strategic Director of Finance, Policy and Governance in respect of the First Quarter Treasury Management Monitoring 2016/17, and advised that the report was for consideration prior to presentation to Cabinet on 27 September 2016.
The Corporate Support Accountant advised that the Council had operated within its approved Treasury Management Strategy for the first three months of 2016/17. The interest generated during that period was £118,000. The average interest rate agreed on new deals during the first quarter by Tradition was 1.26% and in house was 0.67%. The average interest rate on all outstanding investments as at 30 June 2016 was 1.16%. The Corporate Support Accountant reported that, as at 30 June 2016, the Council had 43% of its investments with banks, 52% with building societies and 5% with a Money Market Fund. The Corporate Support Accountant commented that, at the end of the first quarter, the Council had 22% (£11.75M) invested for longer than 364 days. During the first quarter Tradition placed three investments for longer than a year. Two were two year deals with interest rates of 1.2% and the third was a three year deal at 1.6%. The Corporate Support Accountant explained that the amount of investment interest expected to be generated during the year is £0.427Million. This was an increase of £0.056Million on the working budget of £0.371Million. RESOLVED: That the First Quarter Treasury Management report 2016/17 be noted. REASON FOR DECISION: To provide an opportunity for the Committee to comment as appropriate on the First Quarter Treasury Management Monitoring report 2016/17.
UPDATED CONTRACT PROCUREMENT RULES
The Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management presented a report seeking to revise the Contract Procurement Rules to incorporate the following process, legislative and policy changes:
Ensuring that concession contracts complied with legislation; Requirement to consider social value in line with legislation; Inclusion of requirements in relation to the Go Local policy; Increased use of the Intend electronic tendering system; and That provisions around contract extensions more closely reflected the requirements of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015. The Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management advised that the major changes to the Rules were summarised in Section 7 of the report. He highlighted the changes relating to Concession contracts, the Social Value Act, Go Local Policy and enhanced use of the Councils electronic tendering system (InTend). The Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management stated that the updated Rules were set out in Appendix A to the report. He commented that the submitted version would need some minor amendments to the glossary section, but that this would not affect the overall content of the Rules. The complete changes made since the last published version were set out in tabular form in Appendix B to the report. In response to a Members question, the Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management confirmed that the Rules would be thoroughly reviewed to reflect any Government legislation on procurement put in place following withdrawal from the European Union. RECOMMENDED TO CABINET: That the proposed changes to the Contract Procurement Rules, as described in Section 7 of the report and as set out in Appendix A to the report, be recommended to Council for approval. REASON FOR DECISION: To contribute towards effective organisational control, as part of the Councils Financial Management and Procurement review processes.
ONGOING FINANCIAL AND OPERATIONAL VIABILITY OF CONTRACTORS
The Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management presented a report in respect of the ongoing financial and operational viability of contractors.
The Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management advised that the report had been drafted with the input of SIAS. The matter which had led to the SIAS audit on this matter concerned the company previously contracted to collect, process and bank cash from the Councils car parks (Coin Co) going into administration in November 2014. The Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management reported that the Council had experienced two further contractor failures since 2014, namely LightBrigade (the fit out contractor for the North Hertfordshire Museum project) and SSP (the main contractor for the Hitchin Splash Park scheme). The Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management pointed out a few key points from the report as to the management action proposed to be taken by the Council to improve control. Contract (service) managers were the ones that were best placed to monitor contractors, and this was reflected in guidance. The Council was currently developing a contract management guide that would provide guidance and instruction in relation to this area. Contract managers were responsible for having regular contact meetings. They should use this alongside local intelligence as a risk indicator of provider viability. The Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management explained that there was further work to be done should a contractor fail, as highlighted in Paragraphs 8.1 to 8.4 of the report, and particularly with regard to service contracts. This matter was to be addressed by the Senior Management Team over the autumn of 2016 by looking at each of the significant contracts in turn and thinking about appropriate action should there be future contractor failures. The Committee commended the report, and asked that it be abridged and circulated to all Members of the Council via the Members Information Service. RESOLVED: (1) That the report be noted; and (2) That the content of the report be abridged and circulated to all Members via the Members Information Service. REASON FOR DECISION: To monitor the actions taken in relation to the Shared Internal Audit Service (SIAS) audit report on the Ongoing Financial and Operational Viability of Contractors.
The Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management presented a report in respect of parking income with regard to on-street parking, off-street parking and residents permits.
The Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management advised that the Council operated 24 car parks across the District. They were located in Baldock (1), Hitchin (11), Knebworth (1), Letchworth (5) and Royston (6). There were a number of residents parking zones around the District, where all on-street parking was controlled and residents could purchase a permit to park. On-street parking in other areas would also be limited, either by who could park there or duration of stay. There was no chargeable on-street parking, so all income related to Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs). The Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management explained that the costs of parking fell into the following categories: Direct costs - these were costs that directly related to the provision of a particular type of parking and in some cases could be broken down to an individual location. This included rates and utility costs for car parks, and maintenance of signage for off-street parking; Allocated costs - these were costs that related to parking, but were allocated to a particular type of parking. For example, ensuring compliance with parking regulations was carried out by the same staff for on-street and car parks, so was allocated between the two; Apportioned overheads - these costs reflected that the parking service did not operate in isolation and was supported by Senior Management and Support Services (e.g. legal, finance, property, HR and IT); and Capital costs - these would currently only apply to car parks. They included the value of the car park itself, as well as the cost of capital works to improve the car park or extend its life. Depreciation tried to reflect the value of the asset that was used up each year. The Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management commented that the report focussed on the direct and allocated costs of parking, as these could be reliably reported and were not subjective. This gave the operational cost or surplus from delivering a service. The Head of Finance, Performance and Asset Management drew attention to the tables in Section 8 of the report in respect of off-street parking (car parks), which included car park income by year; by source; by car park; and overall. Section 9 of the report contained a table which provided a breakdown of operating expenditure and income for on-street and resident parking from 2013/14 to 2015/16. As with the previous item, the Committee commended the report, and asked that it be abridged and circulated to all Members of the Council via the Members Information Service. RESOLVED: (1) That the report be noted; and (2) That the content of the report be abridged and circulated to all Members via the Members Information Service. REASON FOR DECISION: To respond to a request made at the previous meeting that a report be brought to Committee detailing income in relation to on-street parking, off-street parking and residents permits.
FUTURE MEETINGS - POSSIBLE AGENDA ITEMS
The Chairman requested that should any Members have any suggestions for agenda items at future meetings would they please advise himself, officers or the Committee Clerk.