The Senior Policy and Performance Officer presented the report which brought the council’s draft Annual Governance Statement (AGS) 2019/2020 to the committee for review, challenge and an opportunity to input prior to the document being finalised and considered at a future committee meeting alongside the financial accounts.
The committee was reminded that the preparation and publication of the AGS was a statutory requirement and was a self-assessment reviewed by the External Auditors.
The Senior Policy and Performance provided an overview of the impact of Covid-19.
The Committee’s attention was drawn to key issues set out in the report.
Concern was expressed by Councillor Ryves that the Member Major Projects Board had only met twice. It was also important for the Board’s future to declare whether its status was that of a Scrutiny Board or otherwise. Councillor Morley advised that this Governance Statement covered 2019/20 and that Councillors Ryves comment was pertinent to the 2020/21 report. In response, the Senior Policy and Performance Officer explained that due to Covid, work and projects had been reprioritised. It was noted that the next Member Major Projects Board was scheduled for 29 July 2021.
Councillor Rust referred to paragraph 5.1.3 and commented on the membership of the Town Deal Board and that Councillors were not able to get on the Board to ensure there was an open and transparent decision making process and Councillors did not receive any paperwork. The Assistant Director, Resources undertook to take the comments made back to the relevant officers.
With reference to the comments made regarding the Town Deal Board, Councillor Collingham added that she had raised it as Chair of the Regeneration and Development Panel and was informed that the Town Deal Board was part of the decision making process. Councillor Collingham explained that the recommendations from the Town Deal Board were taken through the democratic process and that her understanding was that Councillor Bambridge sat on the Board and it was imperative that the Town Deal Board was A-political. The Portfolio Holder for Finance explained that some of the Town Deal proposals had not been included in the Capital Programme and had not been approved and it was therefore her understanding that the Capital Programme would need to be amended to include those proposals.
The Assistant Director, Resources provided clarification and explained that some of the projects under the Future High Streets Funding were in the Capital Programme and had been transferred to the Town Deal Fund proposals which would be required to go through the appropriate approval process to revise the Capital Programme for the Town Deal Fund proposals.
In relation to the Town Deal Board, Councillor Morley reminded Councillors that this was the AGS for 2019/2020 - the first Town Deal Board was held in January 2020, but the Terms of Reference were not agreed until August 2020 and added that the Annual Governance Statement for the forthcoming year would allow questions to be asked on the governance of the Town Deal Board. Councillor Morley has asked that 5.1.2 be amended to make the position clear.
Following questions on 9.3.9 in relation to wholly owned companies, the Senior Policy and Performance Officer provided an overview of the work which had been de-prioritised due to Covid and the current piece of work being undertaken which would come to fruition in the autumn 2021.
In response to questions and comments on the de-prioritisation of projects and the importance of maintaining open and transparency, the Assistant Director, Resources explained that the AGS is audited by Ernst Young as part of the audit process each year. Audit Committee are also able to feed into the Audit Plan to gain assurance on areas where they feel there are weaknesses which the committee sign off on an annual basis.
With regarding to the Member Major Projects Board, the Portfolio Holder for Finance explained the role of the Board was to scrutinise major projects and advised that following the meeting scheduled for 29 July 2021, an additional meeting would be called. The committee was informed that the major projects were being progressed, but in a different way and further commented that the new Administration had recognised the importance of the Member Major Projects Board.
The Chair thanked the Senior Policy and Performance Officer for presenting the draft Annual Governance Statement for 2019/2020.
RESOLVED: The Committee:
1) Reviewed the draft Annual Governance Statement 2020 (as attached) and determined that the work undertaken to review the governance arrangements was in place during the 2019/20 year was appropriate.
2) Determined that there were no additional actions to be taken to inform the final version of the document which will be brought to a future meeting of the Audit Committee.