To consider the report of the Chief Executive & Growth Director.
The Audit Manager (HP) presented the report and referred to the coordinating role in drawing the updated Corporate Risk Register together, to advise the Audit and Governance Committee of the Council’s risk management process. Following the quarterly review by the Strategic Management Board, (SMB) a proposed update on each risk was included in the appendix to the report.
The Director Finance advised that following the quarterly review of the Risk Register by the SMB, any action was reported at the subsequent Audit and Governance Committee. He offered further context to the following proposed changes which included:-
· Lack of leadership capacity to effectively deliver additional Council objectives and priorities(Risk ref 3) - for the risk to be removed, following a number of interventions, including early engagement with the challenges of the Medium Term Financial Plan resulting in the risk mitigation set to low.
· Inability to deliver carbon neutral operations for Exeter City Council by 2022(Risk ref 8) for the risk to be removed, as this was unachievable. It was noted that it had been established that there was no Council resolution to this specific commitment in relation to operations ahead of the 2030 Net Zero date. Should the Council pass any further resolution to set a target for the Council’s own operations, then SMB would reassess the risk.
· Increased cost of all capital building projects(Risk ref 9) the risk to be expanded to cover all Council building projects. The global market for materials, and particularly in construction was challenging with prices having increased significantly. Although the impact on St Sidwell’s Point was now less, the £37 million budget for the Condition Survey Capital Programme presented a financial risk for the Council. This would continue to be monitored.
A Member referred to (Risk ref 8) which was also a goal set out in a previous Corporate Plan, and statement from a report by Exeter City Futures relating to a Carbon Plan 2017 to 2022. She suggested a further discussion on this matter would be appropriate as the resolution by the Council in July 2020, which approved the Net Zero 2030 plan, needed to inform all of the work of the Council. She was concerned about the level of consistent information published on the carbon baseline for the city, and the lack of assessment of the ability for that target to be achieved. She would welcome the opportunity for an additional Risk Register specifically on the Council’s ability to meet the Net Zero Target for 2030. The Director Finance gave an assurance that if a resolution on the 2022 date was found, that risk would be reinstated on the Risk Register, but it should be noted that SMB would have to highlight the extraordinary challenges of meeting that target in the next 3 to 15 months.
Councillor Mitchell proposed a separate Risk Register be introduced to monitor the Council’s ability to meet the 2030 target for the delivery of a Net Zero Council. This was seconded by Councillor Jobson, put to the vote and carried.
The Director Finance requested that the Exeter City Futures Delivery Group team be in place to enable the additional Risk Register to be presented to Committee. He anticipated the team would be in place by the March 2022 meeting of the Audit and Governance Committee. He also advised that an update from the Net Zero team on their progress plans for delivery of a Net Zero Council would also be requested to be made to the most appropriate Committee, at the most appropriate time.
A Member referred to (Risk ref 3) concerns in relation to the governance oversight of the Exeter Liveable Programme, how its associated funds are managed, and the lack of published minutes for the decisions made by the Exeter Liveable Place Board. The Director of Finance stated that the Board did not pose a risk as it had no decision making powers and was predominantly funded by grants from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MCLG) as part of the Garden City programme. He did not provide any financial information to the Board, and monitoring of all of the financial expenditure relating to the Exeter Liveable Programme was through the Executive and Council.
The Member considered it was appropriate to ask if the Exeter Liveable Place Board received financial expenditure reports against the programme. There should be some clarity over the lack of transparency and governance and the level of resources in servicing the Board to establish whether value for money was being achieved in delivering against Council objectives. The Director Finance advised that the management of the Exeter Liveable Programme was overseen on a day to day basis by an officer of the Council, and the programme managed and reported as part of the overall budget to Members. Any specific issue relating to the financial position was reported to Members. He would ensure the comments were passed back to SMB colleagues to make them aware of the Member’s concerns.
The Director Finance also responded to the following questions relating to (Risk ref 9):-
· financial risk due to delays as well as the possibility of labour shortages and consideration of this was included in determining the risk. Quarterly capital programme monitoring reports detail the risk to individual projects and any remedial action taken was reported to Members.
· robust contractual arrangements were in place for St Sidwell’s Point. There were a small number of specific risks around the specialist beams for the roof and the associated exchange rate risk, but the opportunity was taken to lock into the procurement arrangement at an agreed price. Covid had presented exceptional circumstances and had resulted in further negotiations with the contractor, as it was not appropriate for them to carry all of the additional costs incurred. The Council’s legal team were continuing to negotiate on this matter. He was not able to confirm the timescale for the completion of negotiations.
· prioritisation of the capital programme would be made for those matters where there was a risk for both the general public and staff, with any budgetary adjustments made accordingly. Officers had the ability in conjunction with the relevant Portfolio Holders to vire sums up to £50k between Council projects, although it was likely any virements would be required in excess of that sum. The Corporate Property team continued to assess all Council buildings regularly to ensure that they meet all health and safety standards.
(1) the Audit and Governance Committee reviewed and noted the Corporate Risk Register; and
(2) a separate Risk Register be introduced as soon as the Net Zero team were in place to monitor the Council’s ability to meet the 2030 target for the delivery of a Net Zero Council.