Venue: Rennes Room, Civic Centre, Paris Street, Exeter
Contact: Sharon Sissons, Democratic Services Officer Telephone 01392 265115 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
To approve and sign the minutes of the meeting held on 27 July 2022.
Subject to the following clarification, in respect of an enquiry in relation to Risk 3, and a correction of the Member’s request which was for further information in respect of the proposed mitigation to the achievement of Net Zero 2030 to improve national communication of Exeter as a leading sustainable city, and whether that had been directly or adequately addressed in the identified risk, the minutes of the meeting held on 27 July 2022 were taken as read, approved and signed by the Chair as correct.
Declaration of Interests
Councillors are reminded of the need to declare any discloseable pecuniary interests that relate to business on the agenda and which have not already been included in the register of interests, before any discussion takes place on the item. Unless the interest is sensitive, you must also disclosure the nature of the interest. In accordance with the Council’s Code of Conduct, you must then leave the room and must not participate in any further discussion on the item. Councillors requiring clarification should seek the advice of the Monitoring Officer prior to the day of the meeting.
No declarations of disclosable pecuniary interests were made.
To consider the report of the External Auditor (Grant Thornton).
The Chair welcomed the Audit Manager, David Johnson from Grant Thornton who presented the report, which detailed their work as the Council’s External Auditor undertaken as at September 2022. He confirmed the audit deliverables for 2020/21 with their work having fallen between the close of the 2020/21 audit and the commencement of the 2021/22 audit for the Council. It was anticipated the audit of the financial statement would commence shortly and be issued by the 30 November 2022 target date. He also referred to the findings of their interim audit work which was summarised in the report, and included a follow up to a recommendation in 2020/21 in relation to journal entry controls in preparation for the completion of the 2021/22 audit.
The Audit Manager responded to a Member’s question in relation to the programme of recommendations from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) and when any further information was available he would provide an update for Members.
The Audit and Governance Committee noted the Progress Report and Sector Update.
To consider the report of the Audit Managers.
The Audit Manager (HK) presented the Internal Audit progress report for the period 1 April to 30 June 2022, which conformed to the Public Sector Internal Audit Standards. She drew Members’ attention to the key points and advised that the majority of agreed actions from previous audit reports were being progressed satisfactorily. There was one instance relating to the Business and Commercial follow up report where remedial action was not agreed by management during that quarter as set out in Section 8.1 of the report. In accordance with the terms of reference of this Committee, it was for Members to consider what action, if any, to take in respect of the recommendation made. Management had indicated in the audit report that due to the current level of activity in commercialisation, reporting twice a year was appropriate. In other matters reported, progress against the annual plan and the work programme were on target.
A summary of the audit reports undertaken throughout the year was included as Appendix A, and the detail of significant governance issues as Appendix B was attached to the report.
The Director Finance responded as follows to Members’ enquires on this matter:-
· in offering some clarity of the matter Members were being asked to determine if they wished management to have a review of the recommendation and reporting timetable of the Commercialisation Update or whether they were satisfied that occasional reporting to Scrutiny was appropriate.
· commercial activity was a critical part of the One Exeter Programme and Members should be more regularly appraised.
· in addressing a comment on staff capacity, regular reporting should be entirely manageable.
· it would be appropriate for this to be raised with the Scrutiny Programme Board.
· Members’ comments and the wish to expedite a report to the Strategic Scrutiny Committee as soon as possible would be passed to the Strategic Management Board.
A Member also suggested that the Director be invited to a future meeting of the Audit and Governance Committee to update Members on the matter.
The Audit Manager would at the request of a Member, circulate the follow up of the Commercialisation audit to Members of the Committee. She also responded to a Member’s enquiry in relation to Section 8.2 and confirmed that the deadline date for comments on the terms of reference would be reported to the meeting of the Greater Exeter Partnership on 30 September, and she would update Members accordingly.
RESOLVED that the
(1) Internal Audit Progress Report for the first quarter of the year 2022/23 be noted; and
(2) the Committee requested that the Strategic Management Board (SMB) review the recommendation made in Section 8.1 of the report.
To consider the report of the Chief Executive & Growth Director.
The Audit Manager (HK)presented the report on the Council’s risk management process and provided an update of the Corporate Risk Register to enable the Committee to monitor and review the Council’s risks. There were changes to two of the risks made during the last quarter, in relation to Risk 2 Failure to meet Exeter’s Housing supply needs and Risk 6 Failure to deliver the Liveable Exeter Programme, both of which have been increased from a medium risk to a high risk. Details of the update on each Risk had also been provided by the Strategic Management Board.
The Chair welcomed the Director Corporate Services who had been invited to the meeting as part of a number of forthcoming invitations to Members of SMB to provide further information on the individual risks under their area of responsibility on the Corporate Risk Register.
The Director Corporate Services provided a snapshot of the Council’s workforce for August 2022, using detail from a metric confirming the workforce’s activity with a high level overview of the gender ratio, median pay, age profile, ethnicity, recruitment matters, retention and training.
A number of key areas were highlighted including a comprehensive training programme offered to staff at appropriate times to ensure that staff were sufficiently skilled. An age profile of 37% staff between the ages of 50 and over 60 years meant that succession planning was also under constant review. At the other end of the age spectrum, there were 11 apprentices employed by the City Council, with the legal department seeing its success with the first apprentice having achieved a first class degree. It was acknowledged that the recruitment market was extremely difficult and research from South West Provincial Employers having indicated that local authorities were experiencing difficulties in recruiting for key areas such as planning and building control, legal, environmental health, leisure, waste and procurement, and attracting HGV drivers and operatives for the waste operation was particularly challenging. They have cited uncompetitive salaries, area demographics, housing costs, and the undesirability of temporary or fixed term contracts as factors. Staff expectations may have changed with some preferring to become self-employed or work as consultants.
It was important for Exeter to be the employer of choice (currently being considered as part of the One Exeter Programme) and all options are being explored including smarter advertising of the excellent working conditions and benefits, speeding up the recruitment process and with every area of the Council being clear about the importance of succession planning of staff.
Following the presentation, the Director Corporate Services responded to Members’ questions:-
· changes in working hours and a flexible working pattern were already available for staff. Further alternatives were being considered by the One Exeter Programme.
· consultation with Unison, who represented staff was standard practice for Exeter City Council.
· there were difficulties in recruiting across the Council and whilst there was no evidence to support this, Brexit may have had an impact.
· every effort was being made to keep up with the challenges of ... view the full minutes text for item 23.