Agenda and minutes

Governance and Audit Committee
Thursday, 20th September, 2018 2.00 pm

Venue: River Room, Jubilee Church Life Centre, 1-5 London Road, Grantham. NG31 6EY

Contact: Anita Eckersley 

Items
No. Item

22.

Apologies

23.

Disclosure of interests

24.

Minutes of the meeting held on 25 July 2018 pdf icon PDF 170 KB

25.

Updates from previous meeting

26.

Update to Members on the issue of frozen condensate pipes over the recent cold period. pdf icon PDF 116 KB

    Report of the Cabinet Member for Housing.

    (Enclosed)

    Minutes:

    Concern was expressed about the content of the report sent out with the agenda and clarification was sought on how faults were reported to the Council, how quickly these were dealt with and what was being done to ensure that residents would not be in the same position this coming winter.  The Service Manager for Responsive Housing Repairs was invited to elaborate on the submitted report on frozen condensate pipes over the colder period during last winter.

     

    He reported that the boilers had been installed in line with the manufacturer’s instructions at the time of install. The manufacturer had subsequently changed the installation instructions which meant that boilers installed 9 years ago would not comply with the current installation instructions but did comply at the time of install. The boilers had been robustly tested for 3 hours at 15 degrees below zero. 

     

    The Projects Officer M&E explained that the size of the condensate pipes had been identified as the issue. These had been changed to a larger size condensate pipe but this may not solve the long term problem. Members were provided with a copy of a photograph showing one of the larger pipes with insulation in place.  The Council had a rolling boiler programme.  Around 250 boilers would be replaced in a year and those who suffered with a frozen condensate could be factored into the boiler programme for the maintenance and replacement of boilers with other issues or had reached their life expectancy limit.

     

    In response to a query about the number of boilers to be replaced, the Committee was informed that 4000 boilers where the current condensing boilers fitted the manufacturer’s installation instructions but around 700 were non condensing types.  It was emphasised that the boilers at the time of installation did fully comply with the instructions as set by the manufacturers.

     

    Concerns were raised on the length of time it would take to complete the programme and a Member queried whether a separate programme had been considered that would run alongside the current boiler programme rather than being included in the programme.

     

    Members discussed the issues with the condensate pipes, how this had been a national issue and whether a conversation had been had with the manufacturers to replace them all as it was surely a manufacturing or design fault that should have been dealt with by the manufacturer and not left to the Council to resolve.  A query was raised on how other local authorities were dealing with this issue and whether any local authorities had been contacted to ascertain how they had dealt with the problem.

     

    Further discussion took place on the life time for a boiler, what the other issues were, access to properties to resolve issues, whether the Local Government Association had been contacted to find out whether this issue had been identified as a national problem for other local authorities, the length of time over which the issue had been known, the placement of pipes in some properties and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 26.

27.

Ombudsman Annual Report 2017/18 pdf icon PDF 92 KB

    Report LDS314 of the Deputy Leader of the Council.

    (Enclosed)

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    The Solicitor to the Council summarised report number LDS314 which informed the Committee about the contents of the Ombudsman Annual Review Letter for 2017/18 and was appended to the report. She explained there had been 15 complaints received by the Ombudsman for the period 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2018. The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) had made 14 decisions relating to the services provided by the Council. One of the decisions related to a complaint made in the period before 1 April 2017.

     

    Out of the 14 decisions made during the period covered, 8 were referred back to the Council for local resolution.  Three of the 6 remaining decisions had been closed after initial enquiries. The last 3 had been subject to investigation by the Ombudsman. One of the 3 complaints investigated was upheld and resolved by the Local Government Ombudsman. The upheld complaint related to the service and evidence of posting notices for a planning application. The LGO recommendation was an apology to the complainant and the retention of evidence that the posting of notices had been carried out.

     

    One complaint that was not upheld related to planning and development; the LGO found that the Council’s processes in response to an alleged breach of planning conditions had been appropriate and carried out correctly. The second complaint that was not upheld related to a determination of intentional homelessness.

     

    Out of the 15 complaints made, 7 related to Planning and Development, 3 related to Corporate Services, 4 related to Housing and 1 related to Benefits and Tax. There had been an overall increase in the number of complaints of 2 from the previous reporting period.

     

    Members commented on some of the terminology contained in the letter but acknowledged that the letter was probably a standardised template. The Solicitor to the Council commented that the LGO was in the process of changing the format of the letter and annual reporting to local authorities.

     

    Recommendation:

     

    Following due consideration of the Local Government Ombudsman Annual Review letter for the period 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2018, the Governance and Audit Committee noted the contents of the Ombudsman Annual Report 2017/18.

28.

Internal Audit Progress Report pdf icon PDF 92 KB

    Report CFM460 of the Cabinet Member for Finance.

    (Enclosed)

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    The Assistant Director for Resources introduced report CFM471 which provided the Committee with a summary of the results of the work undertaken by the Internal Audit Service. The report covered the period from 1 April 2018 to 31 August 2018.  The Committee was reminded that under the Public Sector Internal Audit Standards, the Head of Internal Audit was required to provide an opinion on the overall adequacy and effectiveness of the Council’s risk management, control and governance processes.

     

    Chris Williams the Head of Internal Audit from RSM presented the Internal Audit Progress Report. He informed Members that Internal Audit was on schedule and that the findings were detailed in the report.

     

    The Committee was informed that 33% of the Assignments had been completed, 6% of the Assignments were in draft a further 6% were in progress and the remaining 55% of the assignments were not yet due.  

     

    Details of the positive opinion were contained within the RSM report but overall the Council had an effective framework for risk management, governance and internal control. The opinion was based on the assurances given to audits that had been undertaken during the reporting period together with the implementation of actions agreed with management.

     

    The reports submitted for consideration for today’s Committee were:

     

    ·     Pre-application Fees: (reasonable assurance, impact on the Annual opinion: positive, with 2 medium and 2 low priority actions agreed)

     

    (The medium priority findings related to 9 out of 20 samples tested not meeting the 20 day response deadline, and

    Reconciliations and recording of actual and determined fees)

     

    ·     Non Domestic Rates (NDR): (substantial assurance, impact on the Annual opinion: positive, with 2 low priority actions agreed)

     

    ·     CCTV (substantial assurance, impact on the Annual opinion: positive, with 1 low priority action agreed)

     

    ·     Recruitment and Selection: (reasonable assurance, impact on the Annual opinion: positive, with 3 medium and 5 low priority actions agreed)

     

    (Copies of scoring sheets for 3 out of 8 new starters not on file;

    No references on file for eight new starters, and two instances where only one reference was on file, and

    No evidence of Recruitment training being delivered for staff involved with the recruitment process)

     

    ·     Rent Collection arrears: (reasonable assurance, impact on the Annual opinion: positive, with 3 medium actions agreed)

    (Actions relating to 4 out of 20 arrears cases identified as not being undertaken on a timely basis;

    Letters advising of rent increases did not include a full date and therefore had not provided the required 28 days’ notice period, and

    Signing off of a “write-off” was not authorised by a delegated authority for one out of 15 “write-“off samples)

     

    Discussion took place on the 9 samples that related to pre-application fees and the reasons why an application could be delayed such as seeking information from a third party or further information from the applicant, the need to manage expectations, record and keep the customer informed. Also discussed was how samples were chosen and supplied and the length of time for each audit.

     

    Following consideration of the Recruitment  ...  view the full minutes text for item 28.

29.

Risk Management Framework 2018-2020 pdf icon PDF 106 KB

    Report CFM469 of the Cabinet Member for Finance.

    (Enclosed)

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    The Assistant Director for Resources presented Report CFM469 of the Cabinet Member for Finance. The report outlined the areas of review undertaken to ensure that the Risk Management framework captured and was compliant with the revised ISO Standards.  The Framework was last updated and approved by Committee in 2015.

     

    The Risk Management Framework provided details of the risk environment the Council operated in together with the controls and mechanisms in place to ensure risk was sufficiently managed by Members and officers. 

     

    The 2018 version was very similar to the original version.  The main changes were:

     

    ­  Risk Management Procedural Guidance.  This was updated to reflect revised risk management principles and now included fraud as a type of risk

     

    ­  Risk Management Governance Framework. The categories of risk and associated stages of the management and reporting of each category have been updated to reflect the current procedures

     

    ­  Risk Management Process. The description of how risk categories were evaluated, scored and managed and how risks were escalated depending on their likelihood and impact, had been updated. These were now presented as a set of iterative steps to be undertaken in a coordinated manner, but not necessarily in a strict sequence

     

    ­  Risk Categories: Cyber risk was now included in the detailing of corporate and business categories as one of the most significant risks used for the compilation of the risk register to ensure consistency of terminology

     

    ­  Roles and Responsibilities, outlining the various roles for both Members and officers throughout the Council and the level of responsibility for that role, had been reviewed to reflect any changes within the Authority

     

    ­  Glossary, included to assist the reader of the framework in respect of any wording that may appear unclear in the context of risk management, was unchanged

     

    The Assistant Director for Resources commented that Appendix A would, in future be presented in a format and style that was more engaging to the reader.

     

    Recommendation:

     

    The Governance and Audit Committee acknowledged the comprehensive nature of the report and approved the updated review of the Risk Management Framework attached as Appendix A to the report.

30.

Counter Fraud Annual Report 2018-2020 (including the Counter Fraud Strategy) pdf icon PDF 109 KB

    Report CFM470 of the Cabinet Member for Finance.

    (Enclosed)

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    The Assistant Director for Resources presented Report CFM470 Counter Fraud Annual Report 2017-18 which included the Counter Fraud Strategy 2018-2020.  The report set out the key outcomes from the counter fraud work delivered during the course of the year relating to both welfare/benefit fraud and non-welfare/benefit fraud. Counter fraud was fundamental to the Council being able to achieve its strategic objectives.  The report covered the financial year 2017-18 and detailed various aspects of work delivered during the course of the year.

     

    The key activities looked at were: The Fraud Risk Register, identification of weaknesses in the Right To Buy process, procurement and the work undertaken with the Lincolnshire Counter Fraud Partnership (LCFP). Reference was also made within the report to an increase in whistleblowing which was triaged through the County Council.

     

    The Committee was signposted to the current actions being undertaken:

     

    · The development of a dedicated fraud webpage on the Council’s website.  This informed members of the public of types of fraud, the implications, advice and guidance on how to protect themselves from fraud and who to contact should they be a victim. The webpage also provided up-to-date information on current scams and alerts

    ·The participation stock take being undertaken by Local Government Association on cyber security

    · Raising awareness amongst Council staff, stakeholders and partners about the risk of fraud in all areas of the Council’s business

    ·Ongoing work with the Lincolnshire County Fraud Partnership in respect of the delivery of their action plan

    ·The Council’s commitment to the 2018/19 National Fraud Initiative Data matching exercises

    ·Continued work to support the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) in respect of Housing Benefit investigations

    ·Keeping up-to-date with national developments in counter fraud work so that the Council was able to respond positively to new ideas, initiatives and examples of best practice

     

    Discussion took place on the national cyber security stocktake, the increase in whistleblowing, the implications, reasons and types of whistleblowing, the subletting of Council properties, whether subletting of private rental accommodation was included, the ways in which whistleblowing was dealt with and safeguarding issues.

     

    In response to a Member’s query about whether the Council received details of fraud from other sources, it was noted that a report on a current fraud investigation would be brought to the next meeting of the Committee.

     

    Recommendation:

     

    That the Governance and Audit Committee approve the Counter Fraud Annual Report in respect of the financial year 2017-18 together with the Counter Fraud Strategy 2018-20.

31.

Close of Meeting