Contact: Email: Democracy@southkesteven.gov.uk
Register of attendance, membership and apologies for absence
An apology for absence was received from Councillor Jacky Smith.
(Councillor Jacky Smith joined the meeting at 14:31).
Following a register of attendance, it was noted all other Members of the Committee were present.
Disclosure of interests
Members are asked to disclose any interests in matters for consideration at the meeting.
No interests were disclosed.
The minutes of the meeting held on 4 February 2021 were proposed, seconded and agreed as a correct record.
To note the status of actions raised at the previous meeting.
Members noted the Action Sheet and updates on the previous meeting.
Report of the Council’s Internal Auditors, RSM, presenting the draft Internal Audit Plan 2021/22 for approval.
The Committee were presented with the draft Internal Audit Plan 2021 – 2022.
A representative from Internal Audit provided an overview of the Plan and they key points to note. Members then raised the following points and questions:
· Disabled facilities grant; there would be a requirement to ensure the scope of the audit was sufficient to address any issues.
· Members were keen to ensure that further audits could be added if necessary and that the Annual Plan remained flexible to enable any in-year changes can be made.
The Interim Director for Finance confirmed that this could be added, that the document could continually evolve and further audits be added.
a) That an audit be conducted on how long it took for Planning Applications to be considered.
b) That an audit be conducted on performance aspects of the Land Searches Service.
Report from the Council’s Internal Auditors, RSM, giving a summary update on
progress against the Internal Audit Plan 2020/21.
The Committee was presented with the Internal Audit Progress Report.
A representative from Internal Audit summarised the report updating Members on changes since the last meeting of the Committee.
There had been three further reports since the last meeting:
· Streetscene – Stock Control.
· Consultants & Agency Staff.
· Housing Compliance Update.
An IT Secure remote working and operational resilience review was currently taking place and an Audit’s annual opinion was also included.
Members considered the report commented and raised a number of questions:
· Concerns were raised that (at the time of the audit) there was no central control over the number of agency staff being used. Members felt that there should be a Corporate register holding that information.
The Interim Director of Finance advised that an external provider had been appointed that now allowed for a central point for all agency staff information, but the actual recruitment of the agency staff was the responsibility for each department to undertake. Internal Audit advised that receiving documentation in some instances had proven difficult, due to staff departures etc.
· Members queried how many agency staff were be employed at any point and it was confirmed that this information could be obtained from the centrally held information.
The Interim Director of Finance advised that, typically, there would be less than 20 agency members of staff at any point. Each Directorate would have to put forward a business case to use agency staff, rather than to recruit a permanent member of staff. Only already approved budgets could be used and the Council were not responsible for paying agency staff pensions and holiday pay.
Members noted and accepted the contents of the report.
(14:31 - Councillor Jacky Smith joined the meeting during consideration of the above item).
Members received a report from Internal Audit on Housing Compliance: Gas, Legionella, Asbestos and Fire Safety – Update.
The Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning was in attendance and provided an outline of the report.
Members raised a number of comments and questions:
· The Customer Relationship Management System, (the product name is Propeller), members queried what this was and the costs.
Members were advised that Propeller would be used to assist the monitoring of progress against compliance requirements, it would be linked to handheld devices, providing officers with real time information. The system would provide great transparency and help to ensure 100% compliance. The exact figure was not known at the time, but officers advised the cost would be approximately £35,000.
· When was it anticipated that the system would give ‘live?
Members were advised that some elements of the system were due to be live on 1 April 2021, with an anticipated full roll out on 30 April 2021.
· Members were concerned about the quality of information and data that was used to inform Propeller.
The Team had been working on ensuring the data and information was as accurate as possible. A stock condition survey was currently being undertaken and this information was fed live into the system, it was hoped that the survey would be complete by December 2021.
· How was the Stock Condition Survey being undertaken?
The stock condition survey was being undertaken by external contractor; any information collected was also being audited as part of the process. The Chief Executive advised that an implementation budget of £780,000 had been approved by Council to deliver the survey. The results of which would help form a business plan of what actions were required. It was anticipated that a stock survey would then be completed every 5 years.
· Members queried how many solid fuel properties there were within the Council housing stock.
Members were advised that there were approximately 400 solid fuel properties, alternatives were being considered, to ensure upgrades would help reduce fuel costs but also contribute to a reduction in carbon emissions. The Council had recently accepted a Green Fuel Grant to assist with that process. It was requested that time scales on when it was due to be completed could be advised to Members.
· A query was made if there was an intention to remove all asbestos from properties
The Chief Executive advised that not all asbestos would be removed, as it may be a better course of action to encapsulate it. Each instance of asbestos would be thoroughly assessed before any work was undertaken.
That a timescale be provided on the review of solid fuel properties when it would be undertaken and complete.
Report of the Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning, providing information regarding an action raised at the previous meeting.
The Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning presented Members with a report which provided an update on Property Searches. The report set out the statistical reporting for property searches for April 2020 to February 2021, which showed the Council’s performance for searches and provided information and commentary on that area of service delivery.
It was noted to Members that it was apparent that Covid-19 had impacted the property market and searches remained at a high level. A number of agency staff had been employed to assist with the high volumes of requests during that period.
Members made the following points and questions:
· Concerns around the timescales and that ‘turnaround’ time seemed to be particularly high.
Officers agreed that the current time was much higher than should be expected and it was hoped that this could be reduced to under 15 days. The Chief Executive asked that Members be mindful that the Team were currently carrying 2 vacancies, there was also a plan to move searches to sit within the Legal Team. It was anticipated with a review of staffing levels, this could be reduced to approximately 5 working days. All processes taken were also being reviewed to ensure efficiencies. Members requested that a further update be provided at the next meeting.
That an update report be presented to the next meeting.
1. The Committee noted the property searches performance as referenced in the report and shown in Appendices 1 and 2 for the period April 2020 to February 2021.
2. The Committee supported the quarterly reporting of property searches performance to the Governance and Audit Committee during 2021/2022.
Annual report prior to the preparation of the Statement of Accounts to ensure that the policies are up to date and in line with the CIPFA Code of Practice.
The Head of Finance presented Members with a report on the 2020/21 Accounting Policies and changes to the deadline for the publication of the Statement of Accounts.
As Part of the Statement of Accounts the Council needed to disclose its Accounting Policies it had applied to all material balances and transactions, in line with the CIPFA Code of Practice on Local Authority Accounting.
The Government had consulted, as such it was expected that the publication date for the draft Accounts will be 31 July 2021, with the fully audited accounts being published by 30 September 2021.
During the end year processes changes may be required to policies arising from changes in circumstances or updated guidance. Any changes would be agreed by the Section 151 Officer and reported to the Governance and Audit Committee alongside the Final Statement of Accounts.
That the Committee
1. Approved the Statement of Accounting Policies, as set out at Appendix A to the report, to be used in the production of the 2020/21 financial statements.
2. Noted the proposed dates for the publication of the draft and final audited accounts.
Any other business, which the chairman, by reasons of special circumstances, decides is urgent.
The Chairman noted that the Work Programme for 2021/22 would be developed at the next meeting of the Committee, a date of which was to be agreed as part of the Annual Schedule of Meetings.
Close of meeting
The Chairman closed the meeting at 15:46.