Venue: Council Chamber, Council Offices, Knowle Green, Staines-upon-Thames TW18 1XB
Contact: Matthew Williams Email: email@example.com
Apologies and Substitutes
To receive any apologies for absence and notification of substitutions.
Apologies were received from Councillor Arnold and Councillor Boughtflower. Councillor Sexton attended as Councillor Arnold’s substitute.
To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 30 November 2023 and the Extraordinary meeting of 7 December 2023.
The minutes of the meeting held on 30 November 2023 were approved as a correct record.
The Committee requested that the minutes for the meeting held on 7 December 2023 be amended to clarify their request for voting requirements for the deferred item.
Disclosures of Interest
To receive any disclosures of interest from Councillors in accordance with the Council’s Code of Conduct for members.
There were none.
Exclusion of Public and Press (Exempt Business)
To move the exclusion of the Press/Public for the following items, in view of the likely disclosure of exempt information within the meaning of Part 1 of Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972, as amended by the Local Government (Access to Information) Act 1985 and by the Local Government (Access to information) (Variation) Order 2006.
[Paragraph 3 – Information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information) and in all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information because, disclosure to the public would prejudice the financial position of the authority in any lease, contract or other type of negotiation with the tenant or developer, who could then know the position of the Council.]
It was proposed by Councillor Howkins, seconded by Councillor Nichols and resolved that the public and press be excluded during consideration of the following item, in accordance with paragraph 3 of part 1 of schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972 (as amended) because it was likely to disclose information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information) and in all circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information because, disclosure to the public would prejudice the financial position of the authority in being able to undertake even-handed negotiations and finalising acceptable contract terms.
Future Resourcing of the Internal Audit Service
To consider a report from the Group Head Corporate Governance and make a recommendation to Council on the future resourcing of the Internal Audit Service.
The Committee considered a report from the Group Head of Corporate Governance on the future resourcing of the Internal Audit Service.
The Committee resolved to make a recommendation to Council on the future resourcing of the Internal Audit Service.
To note the report on the Procurement Internal Audit Recommendations Progress Review and agree the further planned and ongoing action.
The Committee received a report from the Interim Head of Procurement on the progress of the recommendations following the Procurement Internal Audit.
The Interim Head of Procurement advised that an internal audit of the department had been undertaken in July 2023 and resulted in twelve recommendations of low and medium priority.
The Committee noted the recommendations and expressed concern that some of them had been raised. The Interim Head of Procurement explained that Council operated a devolved procurement process, so many procurement actions were undertaken by individual officers rather than by a team. They confirmed that many of the recommendations had already been addressed and there had already been a noticeable improvement in adherence to procedures. The Committee were reassured that support was being provided for officers who were unfamiliar with procurement.
A member of the Committee requested to meet with officers to review the procurement strategy against the recommendations.
The Committee resolved to:
2. Note the further planned and ongoing actions.
To note the annual review of Internal Audit effectiveness.
The Committee received a report from the Internal Audit Manager on the outcome of the annual review of Internal Audit Effectiveness.
An External Quality Assessment on Spelthorne’s Internal Audit service had been undertaken and concluded that it conformed to the Public Sector Internal Audit Standards to a large degree and excelled in some areas. A draft action plan had been produced to address the recommendations during the assessment.
The Committee commended the Internal Audit Manager for the service’s performance.
The Committee resolved to note the Annual Review of Internal Audit Effectiveness, overall conclusions and actions arising from the External Quality Assessment (EQA).
To note the approved Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) Policy and the use of RIPA powers during the period 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2023.
The Committee received a report from the Monitoring Officer on the use of the RIPA Policy.
The Committee were advised that use of the policy was low, and comparable to use in neighbouring boroughs.
The Committee resolved to note the approved RIPA Policy and use of RIPA powers during the period 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2023.
To consider and approve the work programme for the municipal year
The Committee considered its Work Programme for the remainder of the 2023-2024 Municipal year.
The Chair advised the Committee that the date of the next meeting had been moved from 28 March 2024 to 19 March 2024.
A member of the Committee expressed concern over a report going to another committee and suggested that it be reviewed against the Corporate Risk Register at the next meeting of the Audit Committee.
The Committee also suggested that a member of the Procurement team attended regularly to provide a progress update on their actions.
Resolved that the Committee Work Programme for the remainder of the 2023-2024 Municipal year, be approved subject to the inclusion of the suggestions above.
Urgent Item - External Audit Update
To receive a verbal update on the work of the External Auditors.
The Chair has authorised the addition of this item for the following reason:
“Due to a statutory cut off date of 30th September 2024 being set for the completion of outstanding audits, it was agreed that a verbal update on the work of the External Auditors be provided at this meeting.”
The Chair suggested that due to the presence of the external auditor, the Committee hear this item before item six on the agenda. The Committee agreed.
The Deputy Chief Executive introduced the representative from BDO and explained that Councils had received a letter from the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to advise that proposals had been put forward on how to deal with the national backlog of outstanding audits for Councils. A consultation on those proposals would be undertaken.
The Committee received a verbal update from BDO on the status of external audits. The representative from BDO expanded on the aim of the proposals that would be consulted on and their possible affect on the status of the Council’s outstanding audits. It was indicated that it is likely that no further work would be undertaken by BDO on the Council’s audits, although work would be undertaken to complete the Value for Money opinions, before the incoming auditors would take over. However, the Council would not be billed any significant costs for the work not undertaken.
The Committee presented several ideas as to how to simplify the work that needed to be undertaken, and the representative from BDO agreed that some of the ideas may be put forward during the consultation. The Committee also queried the approach to the Public Interest Report for the 2017/2018 audits that was issued in 2022 and its impact on future audits and Value for Money conclusions. The representative from BDO confirmed that it would be noted but opinions would only cover the individual years of accounts.
The Deputy Chief Executive assured the Committee that the incoming auditors, Grant Thornton, were liaising with BDO over the Council’s audits and were aiming to produce a draft audit plan for presentation at the March Committee meeting, and would be attending the March meeting to present the Audit Plan.
The Committee resolved to note the update.
Meeting ended at 21:53