The Interim Chief Officer – Finance, Performance and Change, presented a report, the purpose of which, was to present Cabinet with the new Anti -Tax Evasion Policy for approval.
The report outlined some background information, following which it confirmed that the Council was committed to establishing and maintaining effective arrangements to prevent and detect acts of bribery, corruption and tax evasion in relation to its Council services. It requires all Elected Members and employees to demonstrate the highest standards of honesty and integrity and this included compliance with the relevant legislation.
She explained that the Council already had Anti-Fraud and Bribery and Anti-Money Laundering policies in place to support effective arrangements to prevent and detect acts of bribery and corruption, which were monitored and reviewed by the Governance and Audit Committee.
A policy had now been developed she added, specifically to address the prevention of tax evasion and this would provide a coherent and consistent approach for all employees and any person who performs services for and on behalf of Bridgend County Borough Council. The Anti-Tax Evasion Policy was attached at Appendix A to the report.
This policy statement was supplementary to the Council’s wider Anti-Fraud and Bribery Strategy, which set out the key responsibilities with regard to fraud prevention and what to do if fraud or financial irregularity is suspected and the action that will be taken by management, as a result of this.
The Interim Chief Officer – Finance, Performance and Change, thanked the Finance Manager – Governance and Exchequer for her hard work in developing the Policy.
The Deputy Leader commended the report which would protect the Authority and ensure that everyone who should pay tax actually does. He asked if the provisions of the Policy applied also to local members.
The Interim Chief Officer – Finance, Performance and Change advised that it did.
The Cabinet Member – Wellbeing and Future Generations asked if there would be staff training on the Policy, to which the Finance Manager – Governance and Exchequer replied that an e-learning training module could be put in place to facilitate this, as had been done with the previously introduced Anti-Fraud Policy.
The Cabinet Member – Social Services and Early Help wished to make a point regarding Direct Payments and pushing for vulnerable customers within Social Services to accept and switch to this. She stated that she just wanted an assurance, that there would be sufficient levels of information sharing and training available for those recipients of Direct Payments, in order to ensure in particular, that this type of customer doesn’t accidentally fall foul of the law. The Cabinet Member – Social Services and Early Help added that it needed to be made clear to these individuals, of their responsibilities as employees and that they had access to the correct information.
The Interim Chief Officer – Finance, Performance and Change confirmed that the Corporate Director – Social Services and Wellbeing, were currently looking into the management of controls and accounts for Direct Payments, in order to support issues such as that mentioned above.
The Leader concluded debate on the report, by advising that HMRC presently were dealing with 13 live corporate criminal cases of tax fraud presently, with also 18 cases being under review. Therefore, all employees in the organisation needed to recognise the importance of tax evasion even if they fell foul of this accidentally rather than intentionally so. It was incumbent also for the Authority through its Policy and associated procedures and protocols, to endeavour to ensure no employee unwittingly contravenes the new Policy provisions, wherever possible.
RESOLVED: That Cabinet:-
• Approved the Anti-Tax Evasion Policy attached as Appendix A to the report;
• Noted the proposed amendments to the Terms of Reference and Constitution attached as Appendix B to be presented to Council for approval.