Agenda, decisions and minutes

Governance and Audit Committee - Thursday, 10th November, 2022 10:00

Venue: remotely - via Microsoft Teams. View directions

Contact: Democratic Services 


No. Item


Apologies for Absence




Declarations of Interest




Approval of Minutes


A Bagley explained that he had sent apologies but only for the first hour and that he was in attendance for the Porthcawl Harbour Return 2021-22 Annual Audit Letter item onwards.


RESOLVED:               That the minutes of the 13/10/2022 be approved as a true and accurate record subject to the note that A Bagley was absent for the 1st hour of the meeting and in attendance for the latter part of the meeting.  


Governance and Audit Committee Action Record pdf icon PDF 208 KB

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The Chairperson outlined the report which provided Members with an  update on the Governance and Audit Committee Action Record. The action record was attached at Appendix A of the report.


RESOLVED:               The Committee noted the Action Record.


Regulatory Tracker pdf icon PDF 273 KB

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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  ...  view the full minutes text for item 40.


Treasury Management - Half Year Report 2022-23 pdf icon PDF 149 KB

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The Group Manager – Chief Accountant presented a report updating the GAC on the mid-year review and half year position for treasury management activities and treasury management indicators for 2022-23 highlighting compliance with the Council’s policies and practices, which would be reported to Cabinet and Council.


The Group Manager – Chief Accountant provided the background to the report and explained that the Council had complied with its legislative and regulatory requirements during the period 1 April to 30 September 2022. He outlined the treasury management activities for April 2022 – September

2022 and the current situation as detailed in the report. The key activities and indicators were included in the appendices.


A Member referred to transparency, readability and accessibility for all residents and accepted that this was good standard accounting practice in the way it was laid out but residents without a financial background would struggle to understand it. It should be complimented with more plain English statements around the position. This was currently a hot topic and residents could not understand why the authority had so much money in the bank. He asked how it could be made more understandable and accessible for residents. The Group Manager – Chief Accountant replied that he would take this away and consider what could be done in advance of the next report.


A Member referred to LOBO loans and the high-profile case that was currently ongoing with a local authority that BCBC had lent money to. He was seeking a greater understanding of the process of how that situation arose. There were currently 3 loans outstanding to that authority. There was a process we had adopted on how loans were risk assessed. His understanding was that the advisor had issued advice to all local authorities not to lend any further money to this authority because of the financial position they were in. In October an agreement was made to lend further money to the authority after this advice was received. Under the remit of this committee, he was seeking guidance or any changes that needed to be made to agreed practices that when advice was received from the official advisor not to loan an authority money, that no further money went out after that advice was received. The Group Manager – Chief Accountant clarified that the LOBO loans were completely different and were not loans to other local authorities, but the case that the member was referring to was inter authority lending to other local authorities. Lending to other local authorities was a well-established practice providing a high level of security and a low level of risk. The Treasury Management Strategy, which was brought in draft to this committee in January 2022 and was approved by full Council in February 2022, set out lending options and limits. They could lend up to a maximum of £12 million per authority for up to a period of 25 years in total. In practice, the maximum they tended to lend was around £8 million to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 41.


Half Year Review of the Annual Governance Statement pdf icon PDF 283 KB

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The Chief Officer – Finance, Performance and Change presented a report providing an update on the Action Plan that accompanied the Annual Governance Statement (AGS) included in the Draft Statement of Accounts 2021-22 against the significant issues identified and how they were being addressed in 2022-23. The Committee had considered the draft statement back in July and it provided an overall assessment of the corporate governance arrangements which were in place within Bridgend. Progress against any actions was monitored as in the action plan at appendix B. 

Members were asked to consider the action plan and the progress that had been made as at the end of September.


A Member was concerned about the accessibility and readability of the report. This was a public facing document with the primary audience of the report being external and was a long way from where it ought to be. When producing public documents, readability checkers should be used. A lot of work was required around communication and this was a good starting point. It was a PDF without any links and the documents had to be found via a google search. The documents needed to be truly accessible to residents, easily obtainable and embracing the digital age and the digital way of presenting documents, including informatics. The Chief Officer – Finance, Performance and Change replied that some issues were technical and tied up in legislation but it should still be accessible and they would take these comments away and implement them in the next statement.


A Member thanked the officers for a comprehensive document. He referred to page 57 and the work of Audit Wales and the External Auditor and the reports but no information on what was being done about them. There was no information on the critical, high priority, overdue issues or anything to say what they should be looking at. Page 61 included the work of Internal Audit and recommendations being accepted at various stages but this was vague. It would be more helpful if more information was available regarding the current position. The Chief Officer – Finance, Performance and Change agreed that hyperlinks to a tracker within the document would be useful.


A Member was concerned that there was very little mention of Carbon Neutral 2030. He expected that to be first and foremost and key to the document itself and how they would achieve the carbon neutral goal. He hoped that the next report could contain a substantial section around green commitments. The Chief Officer – Finance, Performance and Change explained that this had been raised in July and they had agreed to include it in the next report.


A Member identified an error on the bottom line of the table on page 55 of the report. The total amount claimed was £16,510 not £16,50.


The Chairperson referred to hyperlinks in electronic documents and made the point that not all residents had access to computers and there had to be a way for them to access these documents.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 42.


Corporate Risk Assessment 2022-23 pdf icon PDF 230 KB

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The Chief Officer – Finance, Performance and Change explained that the Corporate Risk Assessment was a document presented to GAC on a regular basis and it outlined the key corporate risks that the Council was currently facing and also the mitigating actions that were taken to try and limit those risks. As in paragraph four of the report, there had been a number of updates through the Corporate Risk Assessment. The reason for that was the climate within which the authority was working with services changing so quickly. When this was previously considered, there was a discussion about how best to present the issues in the risk assessment. Members agreed that a deeper dive into one or two of the risks at each meeting would enable Members to understand them and also to ask questions following that discussion. The two risks for this meeting were the Council being able to make robust medium to long term decisions with regards to the budget and social care, in particular Adult Services.


The Chairperson confirmed that the Committee were looking for assurance that the Directorate were dealing with these matters in the most appropriate manner rather than deep dive into the operational issues or cases. 


A Member referred to the format of the report and that it was difficult to understand if the risks were getting worse or being managed successfully from the last report. It would be helpful to clearly see any changes to the risk. The Chairperson asked the Chief Officer – Finance, Performance and Change to pick this up in future reports.


The Head of Adult Social Care outlined regulatory activity within the area, the pressure areas particularly in the Home Care Services and Social Work Services. She added that they would be presenting a full report to scrutiny in February which would give further reassurance and greater depth into the actions they were taking. She provided a brief outline of the risks and some of the mitigating actions in relation to safety and wellbeing of adults at risk.


The Chairperson asked if it would be possible for Committee to see the Director of Social Services Annual Report because that would be very useful for assurances. The Head of Adult Social Care replied that this report was presented to Council so available on the website for all Committee members to view. With regard to the joint working arrangements bed blocking was an issue, getting care packages for individuals to leave hospital was another issue and he asked what collaborative work was ongoing between BCBC, the local Health Board and others such as the voluntary sector with regards to trying to address this issue.  The Head of Adult Social Care explained that they worked hand in hand with the Health Board in adult services and she outlined how this worked across the service.


The Chairperson asked if there was any contribution from the Health Board with regards to a cost benefit analysis of keeping people in their own home rather than  ...  view the full minutes text for item 43.


Progress against the Internal Audit Risk Based Plan 2022-23 pdf icon PDF 145 KB

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The Deputy Head of the Regional Internal Audit Service presented a report providing a position statement on the progress being made against the audit plan. The information provided was for the first half of the financial year up to the 30th September 2022. Nine audit reviews had been completed, five with an audit opinion whilst one report had been issued as draft and 15 audits were currently ongoing. An audit opinion of substantial assurance had been given to three of those completed audits and an opinion of reasonable assurance to the other two. The finalised audits had made a total of 13 recommendations to date. She added that the regional internal audit service had recently been successful in recruiting 7 new members of staff. It was felt that there would be sufficient coverage by the year end to provide an overall audit opinion.


A Member asked how this committee could be assured that the plan was deliverable with sufficient coverage in the prioritised areas. The Deputy Head of the Regional Internal Audit Service replied that it was difficult to make that judgement but it might help if she provided an indication of where they were to the next meeting.


A Member was concerned about the number of audits ongoing and asked if that was the plan. The Deputy Head of the Regional Internal Audit Service replied that usually Auditors had quarterly allocations but in this instance the Auditors were given six monthly allocations so there could be more flexibility, therefore where indicated audits were ongoing and work had started on them. She was confident they would be completed and it was a realistic indication of where they were.


The Chairperson asked if there could be a target date by which they should be completed in future.


RESOLVED:       GAC noted the content of the report and the progress made against the 2022-23 Internal Audit Risk Based Plan.


Recommendation Monitoring pdf icon PDF 230 KB

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The Deputy Head of the Regional Internal Audit Service presented the Recommendation Monitoring report containing all recommendations made by the Regional Internal Audit service since the implementation of the new software on the 1st of April 2021. She suggested that future reports should contain only outstanding recommendations from the previous financial years together with the recommendations made in the current year. She explained that recommendations made within the limited assurance reports were not individually chased up but reviewed during a planned follow up audit of this area which was due to start. Appendix A illustrated that during 21/22, 109 recommendations were made, 59 had been implemented, 10 had passed their implementation dates and were outstanding and were continuing to be chased whilst 39 had future target dates. One recommendation was not agreed by a relevant service area, but the manager offered an explanation as to why this was the case and the solutions put forward were accepted.


The Deputy Head of the Regional Internal Audit Service reported that of the 13 recommendations made so far in 22/23, seven had been implemented and six had a future target date. This information had been extracted from the audit software system and views were welcomed in respect of the content and format that had been presented. A standard report would be commissioned to streamline the process when feedback had been received within the Regional Service.


A Member asked why the outstanding items were separated from the future target date and what exactly was the difference. The Deputy Head of the Regional Internal Audit Service replied that the outstanding items were those where the recommendations had been agreed by managers and a target implementation date had been given. When asked for an update after the specified date, the relevant Managers had not finished implementing the recommendations and therefore they were outstanding. The ones with future target dates were when a recommendation was made, the manager accepted it, but the date for implementation was yet to be reached. 


A Member asked in terms of the process, when were the relevant officers contacted for progress updates and was it taken at face value that they were complete or did the team ask for evidence or supporting details? The Deputy Head of the Regional Internal Audit Service replied that the Auditors did write out to the relevant officers asking them for their response. The responses were taken at face value as far as the low recommendations were concerned and for the others, depending on the recommendation, Auditors would ask for evidence of implementation, ask more probing questions or they would reperform some tests  if they had access to the system.


A Member asked if there were any updates on the Creditors – Supplier Data Audit which was concluded in April with a limited assurance opinion.

The Deputy Head of the Regional Internal Audit Service replied that at the time the report was compiled, the department were in contact with colleagues and the software supplier and they were  ...  view the full minutes text for item 45.


Forward Work Programme 2022-23 pdf icon PDF 157 KB

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The Deputy Head of Finance presented a report setting out the responsibilities and functions of the GAC and the list of items that were due to come to the next committee and for the committees during the year. In terms of the Statement of Accounts which they had previously said would be brought to the November meeting, there was a national issue around the treatment of infrastructure assets which was still ongoing. It was now likely that the accounts would be brought to the GAC meeting to be held in January 2023 for approval. The Regulatory Tracker report would also be submitted to the January and July meetings. The Deputy Head of Finance asked if there were any additional items that the Committee wanted to include on the forward work programme.


A Member referred to the list of all the documents that comprised the good governance framework and asked for assurance that all of the documents were reviewed by a body? The Deputy Head of Finance replied that she could not say definitely that all of them were annually refreshed but they all were approved by either Cabinet or Council. The Member asked if this could be written down somewhere so that there was a list of the documents and what scrutiny they went through to ensure appropriate governance was in place for everything. The Deputy Head of Finance agreed to include a table to show where the document was approved and the process.


The Chairperson stated that if the Annual Governance Statement and the Statement of Accounts were available sooner then a special meeting could be arranged as the agenda for January was already quite busy. 


RESOLVED:       That the Committee considered and approved the     updated Forward Work Programme for 2022-23.


Urgent Items

To consider any other items(s) of business in respect of which notice has been given in accordance with Rule 4 of the Council Procedure Rules and which the person presiding at the meeting is of the opinion should by reason of special circumstances be transacted at the meeting as a matter of urgency.