Agenda and draft minutes

Audit and Governance Committee
Thursday, 11th March, 2021 6.00 pm

Venue: Virtual Meeting

Contact: Bob Hanton  Email: democratic.services@bcpcouncil.gov.uk

Media

Items
No. Item

64.

Apologies

To receive any apologies for absence from Councillors.

Minutes:

There were no apologies for absence.

65.

Substitute Members

To receive information on any changes in the membership of the Committee.

 

Note – When a member of a Committee is unable to attend a meeting of a Committee or Sub-Committee, the relevant Political Group Leader (or their nominated representative) may, by notice to the Monitoring Officer (or their nominated representative) prior to the meeting, appoint a substitute member from within the same Political Group. The contact details on the front of this agenda should be used for notifications.

 

Minutes:

There were no substitute members appointed.

66.

Declarations of Interests

Councillors are requested to declare any interests on items included in this agenda. Please refer to the workflow on the preceding page for guidance.

Declarations received will be reported at the meeting.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

67.

Confirmation of Minutes pdf icon PDF 296 KB

To confirm and sign as a correct record the minutes of the Meeting held on 21 January 2021.

Minutes:

The Minutes of the meeting on 21 January 2021 were confirmed as a correct record.

68.

Public Issues

To receive any public questions, statements or petitions submitted in accordance with the Constitution. Further information on the requirements for submitting these is available to view at the following link:-

https://democracy.bcpcouncil.gov.uk/documents/s2305/Public%20Items%20-%20Meeting%20Procedure%20Rules.pdf 

The deadline for the submission of public questions is Thursday 4 March 2021.

The deadline for the submission of a statement is 12.00 noon, Wednesday 10 March 2021.

The deadline for the submission of a petition was 12.00 noon, Wednesday 24 February 2021.

Minutes:

There were no public issues.

69.

Council Referral of Motion - Gender-Neutral Language pdf icon PDF 260 KB

The report references the Notice of Motion referred by Council to the Audit and Governance Committee for consideration. The Motion relates to the adoption of gender-neutral language.

The committee is asked to consider the Motion and to consider making representations to Council. The proposer and seconder of the Motion have been invited to attend the meeting.

Minutes:

The Head of Democratic Services presented a report, a copy of which had been circulated to each Member and a copy of which appears as Appendix 'A' to these Minutes in the Minute Book.

The Committee was reminded that following initial debate at Council on 5 January 2021 a formal Motion relating to use of gender-neutral language had been referred to the Audit and Government Committee to be considered by the Constitution Review Working Group. The terms of the Motion were “That Council resolves to use gender-neutral language in all reports and formal communications, both verbal and written, in accordance with its commitment to uphold the nine protected characteristics of the Equality Act 2010 and in combating prejudice and discrimination”.

Discussion at the Working Group was described although no specific recommendations had been made. The scope and effect and potential cost implications of changes were set out and there was also reference to previous recent Council decisions relating to the mode of address for persons presiding at meetings. There was some evidence of the approach being taken by other Councils across the country but this was limited and it was evident that practice varied considerably. The BCP Council’s Equalities Officer provided advice generally on the issue and confirmed that the way forward was a matter of choice for the Council and was not legally prescribed.

The proposer and seconder of the original Motion at Council, Councillors L-J Evans and Lisa Lewis both addressed the meeting. The lead member for Equalities, Councillor Bobbie Dove and the Leader of Council also both addressed the meeting and there was broad support for the aims and ambitions encompassed within the Motion.

After a full and comprehensive discussion within the Committee it was

RESOLVED that in considering the Motion, Council should have due regard to the following issues, namely to:-

(a) Note that there is inconsistent use of gender terms in BCP Council’s constitution, policies and communications;

(b) Eliminate discrimination and advance equality of opportunity(c) Remove gender specific determination when describing roles within BCP, unless there is a genuine occupational requirement for them to remain. This to include the review of the Council Constitution, Policies and communications and replace written references with gender neutral terms, such as the role of the Chair;

(d) Communicate these changes to all departments and members of staff within BCP Council;

(e) Continue to use pronouns when the sex of an individual is known, or when an expressed request has been made from an individual to be referred to by a specific gender;

(f) Note the adoption of the Audit and Governance recommendations at Council on 5 January 2021 which stated that no change be made to current practice relating to the form of address for the person presiding at meetings and that this be left as a matter of choice for each individual person presiding. Democratic Services should ascertain, in each case, the preference of individual Councillors as they are appointed.

Voting: For 6; Against 3; Abstain 0

70.

Report of the Constitution Review Working Group - Changes to the Constitution pdf icon PDF 238 KB

The report summarises the issues considered by the Constitution Review Working Group and sets out a series of recommendations arising from the Working Group for consideration by the Committee.

Any recommendations arising from the Committee shall be referred to full Council for adoption.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Head of Democratic Services presented a report, a copy of which had been circulated to each Member and a copy of which appears as Appendix 'B' to these Minutes in the Minute Book.

The report summarised the issues considered by the Constitution Review Working Group which met over recent months and it was explained that recommendations arising from the Audit and Governance Committee would be referred to full Council for adoption. The Committee received an update of progress generally on the ongoing Constitutional review.

RECOMMENDED TO COUNCIL

Code of Conduct for Councillors – Process for consideration of complaints

(a) That the revised arrangements for the consideration of complaints submitted in accordance with the Council Code of Conduct, including a process of filtering complaints by the Monitoring Officer, as set out in Appendix 1 to the report of the Audit and Governance Committee, be approved and that the whole process be set out within the Constitution.

Procedural – Public Statements to Committees

(b) That the current 100 word limit on public Statements be retained.

Welfare payments for Councillors

(c) That the current Member Allowances be retained, confirming no provision for sick pay or maternity pay for Councillors, but that availability of the BCP Council Employment Assistance Programme be advertised more actively to entitled Councillors.

Covid-19 Response Period – Constitution Article 15

(d)  That the revised Article 15 (Covid-19 Response Period Decision Making Arrangements), as set out at Appendix 2 to the report of the Audit and Governance Committee and the protocol set out at Appendix 3 to the report of the Audit and Governance Committee, be approved and that a new Procedure Rule 40 and associated appendix be established which reads “40. Protocol for the establishment and running of virtual meetings during the Covid-19 Response Period. The protocol is set out in Appendix 7”

RESOLVED

Councillor involvement through the Appeals Committee in hearing appeals by staff against dismissal.

That consideration of the issue of Councillor involvement in Staff Appeal hearings be deferred whilst the separate process of harmonisation of terms and conditions of staff is underway.

Voting: Unanimous

71.

Annual evolution of the 'Anti-Fraud & Corruption Policy, the 'Whistleblowing Policy' and the 'Declaration of Interests, Gifts & Hospitality Policy' pdf icon PDF 250 KB

An annual review of the Council’s Whistleblowing Policy and Anti-Fraud & Corruption Policy has taken place to ensure they are updated in line with best practice and legislation.

Best practice suggests these policies should be approved by Audit & Governance Committee.

Some minor amendments have been made to both policies including reference to the Council acting as a ‘prescribed person’ in the Whistleblowing Policy and reference to the new BCP Declaration of Interests, Gifts & Hospitality Policy in the Anti-Fraud & Corruption Policy. Both policies have updated contact details and some minor best practice wording changes.

An annual review of the Council’s Declaration of Interests, Gifts & Hospitality Policy has also taken place for consideration by Audit & Governance Committee prior to approval by the Corporate Management Board.

A suggested additional requirement has been introduced for employees, below Tier4 and who use their own discretion to make eligibility decisions, award decisions or grant permissions, to make a declaration even if the declaration required is a ‘Nil Declaration’.

 

There are also some minor wording amendments.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Head of Audit and Management Assurance presented a report, a copy of which had been circulated to each Member and a copy of which appears as Appendix 'C' to these Minutes in the Minute Book.

The report presented the annual review of the Council’s Whistleblowing Policy and Anti-Fraud & Corruption Policy to ensure they were updated in line with best practice and legislation and the Committee was reminded that best practice suggested the policies should be approved by Audit and Governance Committee.

Minor amendments made to both policies were highlighted including reference to the Council acting as a ‘prescribed person’ in the Whistleblowing Policy and reference to the new BCP Declaration of Interests, Gifts & Hospitality Policy in the Anti-Fraud & Corruption Policy. Both policies also included updated contact details and some minor best practice wording changes.

An annual review of the Council’s Declaration of Interests, Gifts & Hospitality Policy had also taken place for consideration by the Committee prior to approval by the Corporate Management Board.

It was reported that a suggested additional requirement had been introduced for employees below Tier4 and who used their own discretion to make eligibility decisions, award decisions or grant permissions. Such employees would be required to make a declaration even if the declaration required was a ‘Nil Declaration’.

There are also a number of minor wording amendments and, in the course of review by the Committee, some additional typographical changes and clarifications were identified and would be incorporated into the text.

RESOLVED that the Audit and Governance Committee

(a)  Approve the Council’s Whistleblowing Policy, Anti-Fraud and Corruption Policy;

(b)  Endorse the Declaration of Interests, Gifts & Hospitality Policy before formal approval by the Corporate Management Board.

Voting: Unanimous

72.

Financial Regulations - Annual Evolution for the financial year 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 234 KB

Evolutionary changes to the Council’s Financial Regulations are summarised in this report and shown in red text throughout the document at Appendix A. 

Several minor editing changes have been made to take account of the EU transition period ending. Any mention of specific EU legislation has been replaced by UK legislation. In practice this is just a legislative terminology change; there are currently no changes to requirements.

Part G Procurement and contract procedures is shown in red text throughout. Whilst much of the wording of each specific regulation has remained the same or similar, the numbering and ordering has been significantly changed to more intuitively follow a procurement cycle. This ordering change has been based on feedback from officers.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Head of Audit and Management Assurance presented a report, a copy of which had been circulated to each Member and a copy of which appears as Appendix 'D' to these Minutes in the Minute Book.

Evolutionary changes to the Council’s Financial Regulations were summarised in the report and shown in red text throughout the document accompanying the report at Appendix A. 

It was reported that several minor editing changes have been made to take account of the ending of the EU transition period and that any mention of specific EU legislation has been replaced by reference to UK legislation. In practice this was a legislative terminology change and there were currently no changes to requirements.

Changes in Part G relating to Procurement and contract procedures were shown in red text throughout and, whilst much of the wording of each specific regulation had remained the same or similar, the numbering and ordering had been significantly changed to more intuitively follow a procurement cycle. It was explained that these ordering changes had been in response to feedback from Officers involved in the process.

RECOMMENDED TO COUNCIL

That the Financial Regulations as shown in Appendix A to the report of the Audit and Governance Committee be approved and referred to Council for adoption.

Voting: Unanimous

73.

Amended 2019/20 Financial Statements and Updated Audit Findings Report pdf icon PDF 341 KB

To consider the attached Report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Assistant Chief Financial Officer presented a report, a copy of which had been circulated to each Member and a copy of which appears as Appendix 'E' to these Minutes in the Minute Book.

The Committee was reminded that the draft financial statements for 2019/20 were approved at their meeting on 26 November 2020. Subsequently, at the meeting on 21 January 2021, the Committee noted the updated Audit Findings Report from Grant Thornton and agreed to delegate the signing of the Statement of Responsibilities and Letter of Representation to the Chair of the Committee and the S151 Officer once the audit work was complete.

It was reported that, since that date, the audit of the financial statements has been completed but, as further material adjustments have been made since their approval in November, they were being brought back for formal approval by the Committee.

The report therefore set out the findings of the Council’s external auditor following their audit of the Council’s statement of accounts for 2019/2020 and the key points to note were that Grant Thornton anticipated providing an unqualified opinion on the financial statements for the Council and anticipated issuing a qualified “except for” value for money conclusion due to the findings of the Ofsted targeted review of children’s services. The External Auditor referred to accounting process issues around valuation of land and buildings but expressed confidence in systems put in place to address these.

Reassurance was provided that, although there were some material adjustments being presented, they did not affect the overall financial position of the Council.

The Chairman of the Committee recorded his appreciation of the work of Officers in producing and completing the statements of accounts.

RESOLVED that the Audit and Governance Committee

(a)  Notes the anticipated audit opinions and audit findings of the council’s external auditor, included at Appendix A to this report to the Committee;

(b)  Approves the 2019/20 financial statements included at Appendix B;

(c)  Authorises the Chair of this Committee and the S151 Officer to sign the Letter of Representation included at Appendix C and the Statement of Responsibilities at Appendix D;

(d)  Approves the treatment of the unadjusted misstatement at Appendix E.

Voting: Unanimous

74.

External Auditor - Certificate of Claims and Returns 2019/20

To receive a verbal report at the meeting.

Minutes:

The External Auditor briefly listed the grants and claims accounts which had been separately audited and the Committee noted that all the required audits had been completed successfully.

75.

Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 215 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Head of Audit and Management Assurance presented a report, a copy of which had been circulated to each Member and a copy of which appears as Appendix 'F' to these Minutes in the Minute Book. The report set out the reports to be received by the Audit & Governance Committee for the remainder of the 2020/21 municipal year.

The Committee noted and agreed that although the report on ‘BH Live Contractual and Governance Arrangements’ was shown as an item for the agenda of the meeting on 22 April 2021, this report would be presented on that date only if it had been the subject of prior consideration by the Overview and Scrutiny Board.

The Committee noted and agreed that a report on revisions to the BCP Council Regulation of Investigatory Powers (‘RIPA’) policy would be brought forward onto the agenda of the meeting on 22 April 2021.

It was also noted that at the next meeting of the Committee the forward plan for the 2021/22 municipal year would be brought to the Committee for its consideration.

RESOLVED that, subject to the above comments, the Audit and Governance Committee approves the forward plan set out.

Voting: Unanimous