Agenda item


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The Corporate Performance Manager presented the Council’s draft Annual Governance Statement (AGS) 2021 to the Committee for approval.


It was explained that the preparation and publication of the AGS was a statutory requirement.  The document was a public statement that described and evaluated the Council’s overall governance arrangements, in particular how it had complied with its Code of Corporate Governance during a particular financial year.  The draft AGS was attached at Appendix A to the report.


The Corporate Performance Manager drew the Committee’s attention to the following points:


·       Financial Year 2020/21 was heavily influenced by the response to Covid-19, reference was made in section 14 AGS to highlight the response of the Borough Council and the impact on services and general functioning set out on page 178.

·       History – document for a  financial year which had passed.  Appendix B of the AGS included a proposed Action Plan for the 2021/22 financial year set out on page 185.  Clearly time had passed and the Council was in a different financial year.  A progress column had been added to set out steps made over time.

·       Length of document – The Corporate Performance Manager highlighted that he had listened to  comments made by the Audit Committee and gave assurance that the version for 2021/2022 financial year was approximately 50% shorter than the draft document for 2020/2021.


Councillor Morley asked why the outcomes of actions in the Action Plan for 2020/21 had not been included in the report.  In response, the Corporate Performance Manager explained that the format in previous years had been used but added that he could update the document if there was sufficient time prior to signatures being added and if the Committee so wished.


In response to a comment from the Chair on the completion of actions taken place within the normal timescale for the production of the statement or were there things that had occurred afterwards, the Corporate Performance Manager explained that there was a combination of both, some may have been dealt with and others could have been pushed through to subsequent years.


Following further comments from Councillor Morley on actions yet to be addressed, for example, item 20 in Appendix A – Service Level Agreements, should have included the two other 100% owned subsidiaries had yet to be agreed.  The Corporate Performance Manager explained that those points would come forward with the recommendations following the review of the governance of companies report which would be presented to the Corporate Performance Panel and Cabinet in the forthcoming weeks/months.


The Assistant Director, Resources confirmed the case set out above and that she had been involved in the Service Level Agreements and that the action was being undertaken at the current time.


Councillor Morley added that if there was sufficient time could a date i.e. 31 March 2021 be included to set out the state of play as at that date and commented that it would be good to see on a performance basis how many were delivered.  The Chair commented that the Corporate Performance Manager had indicated that it was possible to include the results if the Committee so wished. 


Councillor Morley commented that the document highlighted a huge raft of policies that the Council had and referred to the roles and responsibilities of the  Audit Committee which would  be updated was behind time and asked if anyone had gone through the documents to see whether or not they were current/rolled over from an audit perspective.    The Chair asked the Corporate Performance Manager if the statements were valid the time the AGS when it should had been prepared within the required timeframe. The Corporate Performance Manager explained that the method of drafting the AGS was carried out in consultation with the Council’s Management Team as part of the moderation of drafting the document and therefore went through the relevant managers so effectively managers were asked to confirm that the policies, procedures etc stood and was fit for purpose at the point of preparing the document.  Reference was made to the Internal Audit Manager’s report as to whether a formal self- assurance sign off should be implemented and added that this was something the Management Team were considering and there was need to revisit this piece of work on the back of the Internal Audit Manager’s report.


The Internal Audit Manager explained that the Internal Audit had recently undertaken a review of policies across the Council and recommended improvements.  Tier 1 and 2 policies overall grading was reasonable so there were no significant concerns on how up to date the policies were but reflection that they were regularly reviewed on a timetabled basis.  The Internal Audit Manager added the Audit Committee would receive assurances over those policies and through each audit undertaken and explained that one of key controls -  is there a policy and procedure and was it up to date, latest information so the Committee could also receive assurance through this way.


The Chair commented that many of the policies were dated in the text and that there was a qualitative statement of the relevant policies and that there were other actions that could be taken to enhance the definition what applied when and how which was a learning point the Council needed to consider going forward and asked if it was an impediment to agreeing the Draft Annual Governance Statement 2020/21.


The Chair drew attention to recommendation a) which was agreed by the Committee.


The Chair then drew the Committee’s attention to recommendation b) and asked if there was any further information required.  The Chair sought the view of the External Auditor on the AGS 2020/21 and the fact that the Council was looking at it 12 months later did he believe this was an impediment that needed to be addressed.  In response, M Hodgson, Ernst Young explained that AGS reflected the framework and risks in place for the financial year to which it related and that there was also a requirement to update the document if anything significant occurred between 31 March of that financial year and the date it was finally authorised.


The Assistant Director, Resources clarified that the sign off of the AGS 2020/21 took place at the same time that the Statement of Accounts 2020/2021 was signed off and that there was discretion to amend the document up to the date it was signed off.


The Chair commented that there was further research to be undertaken to consider the potential risks or otherwise and asked the Corporate Performance Manager to work with the Assistant Director, Resources and the Financial Services Manager to ensure that there was a robust case to underwrite the governance arrangements in place.


Councillor Morley commented on a a key issue highlighted by the Corporate Performance Manager dependence on the inputs from Executive Directors and Assistant Directors and Service Managers and a note from either the Chief Executive or Assistant Director, Resources should say to those managers how important it was that correct data was delivered to the centre so that the Corporate Performance Manager did not have to collate a large amount of documents and recommended that the Audit Committee highlighted the issue.


In response, the Chair added that personally he would welcome the suggestion set out above by Councillor Morley which required addressing going forward.


The Chair thanked the Corporate Performance Manager for the report.


RESOLVED:  a) The Committee confirmed that the Annual Governance Statement 2021 (as attached) properly reflected the risk environment and that actions required to improve it were in hand.


b)              The Corporate Performance Manager to work with the Assistant Director, Resources and the Financial Services Manager to ensure that there was a robust case to underwrite the governance arrangements in place prior to signing off the AGS 2020/21 at a future meeting.




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