Agenda and minutes

Audit and Governance Committee - Tuesday, 11th September, 2018 6.30 pm

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Venue: Committee Room A, Town Hall, Royal Tunbridge Wells, TN1 1RS. View directions

Contact: Mike McGeary  Democratic Services Officer

Items
No. Item

AG19/18

Chairman's Announcements

Announcements on procedural matters

Minutes:

The Chairman opened the meeting and outlined a number of procedural matters.

AG20/18

Apologies for Absence

Apologies for absence as reported at the meeting.

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Barrington-King and from Town Councillor Henshaw. Councillors Bulman and Lewis-Grey were not present.

AG21/18

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.

Minutes:

There were no disclosable pecuniary or other significant interests declared at the meeting.

AG22/18

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.

Minutes:

There were no Visiting Members who had registered as wishing to speak.

AG23/18

Minutes of the Meeting of the Audit and Governance Committee dated 17 July 2018 pdf icon PDF 216 KB

The Chairman will move that the minutes of the meeting of the Committee dated 17 July 2018 be signed as a correct record. The only issue relating to the minutes which can be discussed is their accuracy.

Minutes:

Members reviewed the minutes. No amendments were proposed.

 

RESOLVED – That the minutes of the Audit and Governance Committee dated 17 July 2018 be approved as a correct record.

AG24/18

Update on Complaints Received Under the Members' Code of Conduct pdf icon PDF 242 KB

Minutes:

Keith Trowell, Team Leader (Corporate Governance), introduced the report which included the following comments:

·         The report covered the period 5 July to 28 August 2018.

·         At the last meeting, members were advised that four complaints had been made in respect of the same behaviour of a single Parish Councillor which would be treated as one case. Subsequently, following consultation with the Council’s Independent Person, Mr Michael O’Higgins, the Monitoring Officer determined that no breach of the Code had occurred and that no further action would be taken.

·         Since the last meeting, two new complaints had been received.

·         The first in respect of four Borough Councillors, the Monitoring Officer, following consultation with the Council’s Independent Person, determined that no breach of the Code had occurred and that no further action would be taken.

·         The second in respect of a Parish Councillor was at an earlier stage and was under consideration prior to being passed to the Council’s Independent Person.

·         Additional background information in relation to the complaints was available in confidence to members.

 

RESOLVED – That the update on complaints received under the Members’ Code of Conduct be noted.

AG25/18

Annual Review of Complaints 2017/18 pdf icon PDF 321 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Jane Clarke, Head of Policy and Governance, introduced the report which included the following comments:

·         The report set out a summary of complaints received during 2017/18 and the key learnings.

·         Complaint handing processes had reduced from three to two stages and managers were trained to address complaints informally resulting in a quicker response for both the complainant and the Council. Informal resolutions to complaints where not recorded with formal complaints.

·         Overall there was a reduction in the total number of complaints but an increase in the number of complaints going to the Ombudsman.

·         Performance in relation to responding to complaints in a timely manner was improved but still below target.

·         The vast majority of complaints continued to be received online, however, the Council recognised the importance of maintaining a variety of contact methods.

·         The service areas identified with the highest number of complaints where those which had the highest number of customer interactions.

·         Complaints regarding the Assembly Hall Theatre has significantly dropped as a result of proactive, informal complaint handling and no longer recording complaints about show content as corporate complaints.

·         The total amount of compensation paid to complainants remained low at £140.

·         The increase in complaints going through to the Ombudsman was largely due to the change to a two-stage process making it quicker for complainants to proceed to advanced stages, this was a trend that was expected to continue to future years.

·         Of the six complaints investigated by the Ombudsman, two were upheld. The Ombudsman’s letter was attached at Appendix A to the report.

·         Learnings included: ensuring service information was kept up to date, particularly on the website and signs; ensuring services were regularly reviewed to keep up with changes in society and the needs of users; and ensuring consistent compliance with published policies.

 

Discussion included consideration of the following additional matters:

·         The nature of each complaint was also categorised and recorded. Approximately 90 per cent of complaints where in respect of ‘service not delivered to expected standard’ which included incidents where the service was delivered but in a way that was not good enough in the opinion of the complainant. Another significant area was ‘staff conduct’.

·         Complaints were also received in relation to dissatisfaction with government policy or statutory processes or where the Council was not responsible for the delivery of the service.

·         Whilst these categorisations were recorded they were not routinely reported as they offered limited information on the precise nature of the complaint.

·         Measures introduced to reduce the time taken to respond to complaints included: additional resources, this had been less effective than hoped due to increased workloads in response to the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation; new recording software; and review meetings were booked immediately on receipt of a stage two complaint and cancelled if not needed rather than waiting for the complaint to be verified.

·         Any future changes to processes would be set out in the report for reference in subsequent years.

·         The service area titled ‘Bereavement’ included the cemetery and  ...  view the full minutes text for item AG25/18

AG26/18

Strategic Risk Review pdf icon PDF 106 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Lee Colyer, Director of Finance, Policy and Development, introduced the report which included the following comments:

·         The report set out the strategic risks identified by the Council and being managed by senior management and provided an update on the evaluated threat level across all the risks.

·         Each risk scenario would be examined in detail at a meeting at least once each year.

 

Stephen Baughen, Head of Planning Services, explained the factors concerning risk scenario 1 (Cinema site remains undeveloped) which included the following comments:

·         Planning permission had been granted on 2 February 2017, the application had followed extensive pre-application advice where consideration had been given to the design, form and use of the site to ensure the development was viable and deliverable.

·         The permission needed to be implemented by February 2021. Failure to deliver would have a number of consequences including loss of reputation and continued curtailing of attractiveness.

·         Officers continued to work with the developer and had been reassured that work was expected to start in early-mid 2019.

·         Any enquiries relating to planning conditions had been responded to promptly and officers adopted a pragmatic approach keeping an eye on the final design quality of the development.

·         The necessary Footpath Diversion Order had been issued, ground surveys were underway and completion of the conditions was expected to be submitted shortly.

·         The developer was expected to commence a competition to design the surrounds of the cinema box which should help reassure the public.

 

In respect of risk scenario 1, discussion included consideration of the following additional matters:

·         Progress on the site was a significant concern to the public and an apparent lack of information was having a detrimental effect.

·         Submission of the conditions was usually published on a weekly list, however in this case more could be done to highlight when this occurs. Officers were also in discussions with the developer to update the information on the hoardings around the site.

·         The Council had no way of forcing the developer to carry through with the development but the Council had worked with the developer to ensure the scheme was viable and deliverable from the start and would remain accessible and quick to respond to any enquiries.

 

Stephen Baughen, explained the factors concerning risk scenario 8 (Inspector decision which challenges housing target versus supply) which included the following comments:

·         For a number of years the Council had been unable to demonstrate a five-year housing land supply, consequently any proposals for development outside the limits to built development were no longer unacceptable in principal and were judged against national policy ahead of any local policies.

·         There had been a significant increase in the number of applications for development outside the limit to built development and a failure to keep pace would create a cycle of planning by appeal which would be expensive, time-consuming and reduce the Council’s ability to maintain the quality of development or secure Section 106 contributions.

·         Officers had swiftly and robustly resisted unacceptable proposals outside the limits to built development,  ...  view the full minutes text for item AG26/18

AG27/18

Annual Audit Letter 2017/18 pdf icon PDF 115 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Lee Colyer, Director of Finance, Policy and Development, introduced the report and noted that it should be encouraging news for tax payers and demonstrated that the Council had good financial controls in place.

 

Mr Ade Oyerinde, Senior Manager for the Council’s auditors Grant Thornton, explained the detail of the audit letter which included the following comments:

·         The report set out the work undertaken by the auditors for 2017/18 and was largely unchanged from the draft previously seen by the committee.

·         Appendix A to the Audit Letter showed the fee for Housing Benefit Grant Certification as ‘To Be Confirmed’ as work was ongoing and due to be completed on time by the end of November 2018.

·         There were no particular issues or concerns that needed to be brought to the committee’s attention.

 

Discussion included consideration of the following additional matters:

·         The additional fee in relation to a local objection to the accounts of 2016/17 resulted in a report being issued to the objector.

·         Raising an objection to a statement of accounts was a very serious matter to which the auditor was required to respond. This resulted in a detailed investigation lasting nine months and the objection was not upheld.

·         The auditor was now able to issue an unqualified audit opinion and value for money statement for 2016/17.

·         The objection was raised in respect of the 2016/17 accounts and the opportunity to object to the 2017/18 accounts was now passed.

·         There appeared to be a difference between the auditors preferred method of valuing property and the Council’s method which involve regular revaluing. The auditor’s intention was to highlight that the Council needed to demonstrate the process as to how it satisfied itself that assets which were not valued during the year were fairly stated in the accounts. There were various methodologies for achieving this outcome.

·         The Council needed to settle on an agreed methodology which avoided the implied difference.

·         A system based on indices should be considered and compared to establish the degree of accuracy as such a system would be cheaper and more efficient to administer.

 

RESOLVED – That the Annual Audit Letter 2017/18 be approved.

AG28/18

Future Work Programme pdf icon PDF 25 KB

Minutes:

The Committee’s work programme was presented for members’ information. It was noted that the programme now included the details of  risk managers due to attend each meeting.

 

RESOLVED – That the work programme be noted.

AG29/18

Urgent Business

The Democratic Services Officer will advise if there have been any urgent items of business which have arisen for the Committee’s consideration, since publication of the agenda.

Minutes:

There was no urgent business.

AG30/18

Date of Next Meeting

Tuesday 27 November 2018 at 6.30pm

Minutes:

The next meeting would be held on Tuesday 27 November 2018 at 6.30pm.