The Chairman began this item by inviting Dr Banks, who had registered to speak on this item under Council Procedure Rule 19, to address the Committee.
Dr Banks referred to three of the strategic risk scenarios listed in the report. Under risk scenario 3 (resident engagement), he felt that the ‘potential impact and consequences’ listed, namely ‘direction and decisions out of line with public opinion’ and ‘directing resources to wrong areas, potentially away from areas of most need’ were well-demonstrated by the Council’s plans for the new civic development. He added that the proposed 84% reduction in the budget for community grants was a further example of that.
With risk scenario 4 (unable to plan financially over the longer term), Dr Banks drew attention to two elements of the ‘potential impact and consequences’: ‘appeals wipe out any growth with no new funding flowing to the Council’; and ‘proceeds of business rate growth may not be fully received’. With the former, Dr Banks said these presumably would include appeals against housing and the civic development; on the latter, he said that the statement ran counter to previous predictions made by the authority.
Finally, under risk scenario 11 (civic development), Dr Banks claimed that all nine elements listed under ‘vulnerability/contributory factors’ had previously been raised by the public but ignored. He added that four of the elements were listed on the Council’s website as being ‘myths’, and queried how, if they were indeed myths, they could be part of the risk register. In conclusion, Dr Banks welcomed the inclusion of some of the major risks associated with the civic development and asked how these would be made known to the Full Council, who he said had not been made aware of these at the time the decision was made to endorse the project.
Lee Colyer, the Director of Finance, Policy and Development, presented the 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 risks identified. It was noted that one additional risk scenario had now been added, which related to the proposed civic development.
Mr Colyer said that he was the ‘officer risk owner’ for scenario 4 – ‘unable to plan financially over the longer term’. He therefore explained the key elements of this risk scenario, expanding on the main contributory factors. In summary, Mr Colyer said that the Council was in a good position, through its past performance and strategies, to benefit from growth, in terms of development, business rates’ retention and infrastructure.
Mr Quigley raised the issue of other officer risk owners – or relevant Cabinet Portfolio-holders – attending meetings and being able to answer questions on the full range of risk scenarios. He also felt that, while ‘risk logs’ were an important element of the Risk Register, the more important aspect was the process of managing risks.
On the first point, Mr Colyer said that it had been this Committee’s past practice to invite officer risk owners to attend, explain the key aspects of the risk scenarios for which they are responsible and answer Committee members’ questions; he added that their attendance was done on a rotational basis. Mr Colyer also said that, if the Committee were able to identify specific questions they wished to have answered outside that pattern of attendance, then he would arrange for suitable officer presence.
On the second point, Mr Colyer agreed with Mr Quigley’s assessment, adding that the authority had a robust risk management process in place, with an officer group maintaining a close watch on progress, including a periodic review by the Management Board.
Councillor Neve developed the point, suggesting that, if any risk scenarios were in the ‘red’ category, i.e. the likelihood of failure was ‘significant’, ‘high’ or ‘very high’, combined with its effect having a ‘major’ impact on the authority, then the officer risk owner and/or the relevant Cabinet Portfolio-holder should attend each meeting automatically.
Mr Quigley said that he understood the reasons why such a policy might be in place, but he felt that, with many of the risk scenarios listed, it was external issues which were the controlling factor. He added that, on that basis, it was unlikely that an officer risk owner or Cabinet Portfolio-holder would be able to add much from one meeting to the next. He said that, from the resultant discussion on this issue, he was content for the existing rotational risk owner attendance to continue unchanged.
RESOLVED – That the risk management report and arrangements for managing strategic risk be noted.