Agenda and minutes

Audit and Governance Committee - Tuesday, 12th September, 2017 6.30 pm

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Venue: Council Chamber, Town Hall, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN1 1RS

Contact: Mike McGeary  Democratic Services Officer

No. Item


Apologies for Absence

Apologies for absence as reported at the meeting.


Apologies for absence were reported from independent member Mr Shiels.


Declarations of Interest

To receive any declarations of interest by members in items on the agenda.


For any advice on declarations of interest, please contact the Monitoring Officer.


There were no declarations of interest made, within the provisions of the Code of Conduct for Members.


Notification of Visiting Members wishing to speak (in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 18)

Members should indicate which item(s) they wish to speak on and the nature of their concern/question/request for clarification.


The Democratic Services Officer advised that Councillor Chapelard had registered to speak on item AG35/17 below, in accordance with the provisions of Council Meetings Procedure Rule 18.


Minutes of the Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 192 KB

The Chairman will move that the minutes of the previous meeting, dated 25 July 2017, be signed as a correct record. The only issue relating to the minutes which can be discussed is their accuracy.


In accordance with Council Meetings Procedure 16.1, the Chairman will sign the minutes of today’s proceedings at the next scheduled meeting.


The minutes of the meeting of the Audit and Governance Committee dated 25 July 2017 were submitted.


RESOLVED – That the minutes of the Audit and Governance Committee dated 25 July 2017 be approved as a correct record.


Update on Complaints Received Under the Members' Code of Conduct

Since the June meeting, there have been no further complaints received and there are no outstanding complaints under consideration.


Keith Trowell, the Senior Lawyer and Deputy Monitoring Officer, advised that, since the June meeting of the Committee, there had been no further complaints received under the Members’ Code of Conduct and there had been no outstanding complaints under consideration. On that basis, Mr Trowell said that it had been felt unnecessary to submit a written report, adding that the situation would continue to be reviewed and reported upon at each subsequent meeting, where this was relevant.


RESOLVED – That the verbal update report be noted.


Strategic Risk Review pdf icon PDF 105 KB

Additional documents:


Lee Colyer, the Director of Finance, Policy and Development, presented a risk management report, which described the authority’s arrangements for managing strategic risk. The report provided an update on the evaluated threat level, as well as the controls in place, for each of the 10 risks identified.


David Candlin, the Head of Economic Development and Property, was introduced to the Committee. Mr Candlin was the ‘officer risk owner’ for scenarios 2 (‘Being unable to maximise economic opportunities and resolve infrastructure issues’) and 10 (‘Development Programme’).


Under risk scenario 2, Mr Candlin advised that, while there had been no changes to the ‘current controls/mitigations in place’ as set out, there were a significant number of actions taking place under those summary headings. He highlighted the following as examples of the mitigation work being undertaken.


On the ‘delivery by the Highways Agency of A21 Tonbridge to Pembury dualling’, Mr Candlin said that the scheme was due for completion this summer, adding that an announcement was still awaited as to the final date. This scheme, Mr Candlin said, linked to the next one on the list, namely the ‘delivery of North Farm infrastructure improvements’, where he advised that the work had been completed during 2016/17 but that the extent of the benefit it had brought could not be judged until after the completion of the A21 dualling; this, he said, would be assessed during the course of the next 18 months.


Mr Candlin emphasised how the delivery of some other key infrastructure improvements was reliant upon successful applications for funding via the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) and the Kent & Medway Economic Partnership (KMEP); he added that bids had to meet the Government’s strong focus on growth. Mr Candlin added that growth had to be viewed within the context of the constraints of the Borough’s Green Belt land and its significant Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty status.


Mr Candlin drew attention to a number of proposed highway improvement schemes along the A264 which had not yet received any government funding – despite strong lobbying – due to very competitive funding bids elsewhere within the SELEP area. Mr Candlin said that expectations were higher for the provision of a cycle route on the A26, which had strong support from KCC.


Mr Candlin advised that the Borough Council was working with the Royal Tunbridge Wells Together Partnership, led by the business community. He added that the authority was assisting with the introduction of a business improvement scheme.


In terms of setting out its strategic direction, Mr Candlin said that the Borough Council was currently consulting on an update of its Economic Development Strategy and would be reviewing its Transport Strategy (in conjunction with KCC) alongside the Local Plan.


Members of the Advisory Board were asked for their views on the mitigation actions being followed.


Councillor Podbury referred to the work being carried out in support of town centre businesses. She asked whether that included the High Street and the Pantiles. Mr Candlin advised  ...  view the full minutes text for item AG34/17


Independent Review of the Civic Development Project pdf icon PDF 111 KB


Lee Colyer, the Director of Finance, Policy and Development, advised that the Council had decided to seek two independent studies into the authority’s approach, to date, on the proposed civic development. He said that the independent assurance work would be carried out as follows: (i) a review of the approach to project management of the proposed development, to be carried out by Mid Kent Audit; and (ii) an independent assessment of the civic development business case, to be undertaken by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA).


Mr Colyer added that the outcome from these two reviews would form part of the Stage 3 decision-making report which would be taken through the Council’s governance process, leading to a final decision at the Full Council on 6 December.


Mr Colyer invited the Committee to comment on the approach being followed, within its terms of reference, i.e. the monitoring of corporate governance and risk management, rather than the policy or decision-making of the Council.


Mr Quigley welcomed the initiative. However, he felt that, based upon his professional experience, there were other elements of the Council’s approach to the project which he would expect to see, such as: (i) a process for managing risks and issues; (ii) the need for the business case to set out the options considered, along with an analysis of ‘value for money’; and (iii) a cost/benefit analysis to show that the preferred option provides the best value for money. Mr Colyer thanked Mr Quigley for these observations, adding that these would be taken into account within the briefs provided for both Mid Kent Audit and CIPFA.


Mr Candlin, the Head of Economic Development and Property, advised that the project risk register formed part of the documentation in the Members’ Room and would also be included in the end-of-Stage 3 report to the Full Council in December.


Councillor Chapelard had registered to speak on this item. He said that his principal concern had always been over the choice of the site for the proposals, adding that he very much hoped that the independent review would incorporate this element of the decision-making to date. Councillor Chapelard recalled that a critical aspect of the choice of site had been the seven guiding principles which had been set out, including, for instance, the need to keep the existing theatre open until its replacement was ready for occupation. He added that, unless the proposed project review was sufficiently detailed and covered such past decisions, it might be criticised.


Mr Colyer, in response, said that the site choice had been taken by the Full Council, in December 2015, based on a detailed options analysis report. He added that it was not intended therefore that the independent review would include an examination of that particular decision but would focus more on: (i) the authority’s approach to project management process and (ii) the robustness of the business case.


Councillor Neve asked what the cost was of the proposed  ...  view the full minutes text for item AG35/17


External Auditor Appointment - Update pdf icon PDF 120 KB


Further to minute AG23/17, Rich Clarke, the Head of Audit Partnership, reported on the outcome of the external auditor procurement process, which had been undertaken at a national level by Public Sector Audit Appointments Limited (PSAA).  He advised that, under this procurement process, PSAA had announced that Grant Thornton would be the Council’s external auditor from the beginning of the 2018/19 financial year, on a five year contract, with a possible two year extension.


Mr Clarke reminded the Committee that Grant Thornton were the Council’s current external auditors, a role they had held since the Audit Commission shed its audit function in 2012.


Mr Clarke advised that, under the terms of the national procurement process, local authorities had the opportunity to object to the nominated external auditors. He considered that, as the Council had established a strong and professional working relationship with Grant Thornton – and that there was no conflict of interest which might impact adversely on either party – the appointment should be welcomed.


Mr Clarke drew attention to two aspects of the process of particular interest: (i) first, he said that the overall value of the awarding of the national contracts suggested an average decrease in audit fees of 18% compared to 2016/17; (ii) secondly, Mr Clarke advised that the appointment only covered work directed by the National Audit Offices’ Code of Audit Practice. He added that, while this covered most of external audit’s current work, the most notable omission was the certification of the Council’s Housing Benefit claim form, which it had to provide to the Department of Work (DWP) and Pensions by 30 November each year. Mr Clarke added that the Council would consider arrangements for that appointment shortly and advise the DWP of its decision by 28 February next year.




(1)   That the proposal of Public Sector Audit Appointments Limited (PSAA) for Grant Thornton to continue as the Council’s external auditor be noted; and


(2)   That the Director of Finance, Policy and Development (Section 151 Officer) be directed to respond to PSAA’s consultation, confirming the authority’s acceptance of the proposal.


Future Work Programme pdf icon PDF 29 KB


The Committee’s work programme was presented for members’ information.


Lee Colyer, the Director of Finance, Policy and Development, said that, as a result of the discussion under minute AG35/17 above – the independent review of the civic development project – he would add an item to the agenda for the 21 November meeting.


RESOLVED – That, with the above addition, the work programme be noted.




The Democratic Services Officer advised that there were no additional items for the Committee’s consideration which had arisen since the publication of the agenda.


Date of Next Meeting


It was noted that the next meeting of the Committee would take place on Tuesday 21 November 2017 at 6.30pm.