Decision Maker: Governance and Audit Committee
Decision status: For Determination
Is Key decision?: No
Is subject to call in?: No
The Corporate Policy and Public Affairs Manager presented a report drawing the Committee’s attention to issues raised by Audit Wales about monitoring, sharing and use of regulator reports, and recommendations arising from the reports and proposing solutions to improve processes.
The Corporate Policy and Public Affairs Manager explained that a high-level summary of the planned regulatory activity of Audit Wales was
systematically included at Governance and Audit Committee (GAC). It was proposed that this was extended to cover all completed audits, reviews and inspections, and the specific recommendations they made for the Council. This would form a regulatory tracker for Bridgend County Borough Council (BCBC) and could also be extended to cover all regulators (in terms of their broad, corporate or service wide inspections), including Estyn, Care Inspectorate for Wales (CIW) and HM Inspectorates for Probation and Prisons. It was proposed that they focus primarily on the previous two financial years, 2020/21 and 2021/22, add further inspections as they were published and take out inspections only when all the recommendations against them were closed. She added that it was not proposed to include inspections of regulated services e.g. CIW inspections of residential homes, where there were numerous inspections each year, with numerous recommendations against each. For these inspections, responsibility sat more clearly with the appropriate Subject Overview and Scrutiny Committee. It was proposed that this regulatory tracker be considered in detail at GAC twice yearly, in January and July to cover the first, then second half year’s progress.
The Corporate Policy and Public Affairs Manager explained how the regulatory tracker would work to ensure corporate and political oversight.
If done effectively, it would also result in a clearer understanding of where regulator input had led to change and improvement in services.
A Member asked if with regard to the action required, an idea of timescale could be provided to the nearest quarter. The Corporate Policy and Public Affairs Manager replied that when further information was provided in January, these blanks would be filled in.
A Member supported the proposal to focus on the previous 2 financial years and added that the Committee should focus not only on the audit part but also the risk.
A Member explained that he thought this was a good idea however he would like to see a section in the report around communication and transparency. He also asked how this would be communicated appropriately to Members and residents. The Corporate Policy and Public Affairs Manager replied that this was a good idea and she would consider the best way to achieve it.
A Member welcomed the report but raised concerns as to how the GAC would be notified of high priority or critical actions and if a six monthly report was too long. The Corporate Policy and Public Affairs Manager replied that the idea was that the Overview and Scrutiny Committees would be working on the recommendations and audit reports more regularly. The regulatory tracker would be going to CMB more regularly and could come to this Committee quarterly or they could include something on the tracker to highlight risk more effectively. This could be a matter for further discussion at a later date.
A Member (Chairperson of Subject Overview and Scrutiny Committee 1) explained that he believed this would be picked up on the various scrutiny committees forward work programme. He referred to the statement made by the Corporate Policy and Public Affairs Manager that inspections would only be removed when matters were closed. He asked if that meant that the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee would review the Outturn Report for 21/22 or because it was closed, would it not be reviewed again. He congratulated the officer for the open and honest report in assessing where we were as an organisation. The Corporate Policy and Public Affairs Manager replied that the scrutiny committees should be happy with this being closed so she would not propose additional scrutiny unless the position worsened or went backwards.
A Member stated that he fully welcomed the open and transparent report. He was slightly concerned that this had come about from not doing something in the past however moving forward there was positivity surrounding this report. He asked for full assurance that a part of the authority would be scrutinising all aspects so that nothing was dropped or missed. He added that they should look to be better than other authorities, not to be in line with them. He referred to a recent decision that had been called in which resulted in an hour and a half of positive scrutiny on behalf of the residents. The Corporate Policy and Public Affairs Manager replied that the point relating to the scrutiny committees was well made and needed to be done smoothly. With regard to the good practice issue, she agreed that they wanted to be ahead of the curve not slightly behind but they needed to get in line before they were in a position to overtake.
The Chairperson referred to paragraph 3.3 of the report that GACs were expected to consider relevant reports and recommendations from external review bodies, and to receive assurances on the arrangements for their oversight and delivery and this was contained within the Terms of Reference for the Committee. He was concerned that regulatory reports were being considered by scrutiny committees on an ad
hoc basis rather than as a regular item but noted that the scrutiny committees would be looking at this going forward. The Committee needed assurances that they were being dealt with as they had general oversight for the assurance mechanism of the authority.
The Chairperson understood the issues in regard to the last 2 years but had some concerns that issues picked up and dealt with under previous Inspection Reports could get lost. He wanted reassurance that there were no glaring holes that they could be criticised for not having dealt with. He added that when a matter had been referred, adequate time should be given to allow the matter to be dealt with by both officers and the management team. The actions required needed to be smart and timely. The Corporate Policy and Public Affairs Manager agreed with the points raised and said that she would address the two main ones, mechanism/assurance for scrutiny referral and the two year issue. They had looked further back and could add back in the recommendations from the Estyn Inspection in 2019 if required.
The Member (Chairperson of Subject Overview and Scrutiny Committee 1) concurred with all the points made. He explained that as chair of the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee he had oversight of the entire scrutiny committee work programmes. He presented a report to Cabinet on scrutiny activity and could report back to this committee also to give assurances if required. If the 2019 Estyn report came back then his SOSC could consider it.
A Member acknowledged the points raised but this was a resource issue at a time when the authority was already stretched. He believed it should be a gradual process to catch up and broken down into stages. The Chairperson replied that he appreciated that but if there were any recommendations from Statutory Regulators not addressed then they needed to be reported somewhere. He understood the capacity issue and that it would not be getting any easier. He thanked the Corporate Policy and Public Affairs Manager and her team for the report.
RESOLVED: GAC considered and approved the proposed process and arrangements for a regulatory tracker for BCBC and added that Scrutiny Committee report back to GAC in a timely manner.
Publication date: 10/11/2022
Date of decision: 10/11/2022
Decided at meeting: 10/11/2022 - Governance and Audit Committee