Agenda and minutes

Governance and Audit Committee - Thursday, 30th March, 2023 5.00 pm

Contact: Pamela Tasker  Governance Officer


No. Item


Declarations of Interest

Additional documents:




Minutes of the Last Meeting pdf icon PDF 190 KB

Additional documents:


The Minutes of the last meeting were accepted subject to the following:


D Reed referred to grammar mistakes on pages 5 6 9 and 11.


Dr Barry referred to the actions table and mentioned that there was no form of tracking the actions from previous meetings.  The Chair concurred and said that all rolling actions should be listed and ticked off as they were closed.


The Strategic Director, Transformation and Corporate advised that, actions were passed on to the relevant officers, although many of the items in the action table was recommendations rather than actions and would not necessarily provide an outcome or conclusion. This would however be looked into.




Update on Compliments, Comments and Complaints Management Report 2022 pdf icon PDF 135 KB

Additional documents:


The Digital Services Manager introduced the report to the committee advising that this was an update on the report that was brought to Committee in September 2022. As this was an interim report a final updated version would be brought back to Committee in September 2023.


The Complaints Resolution Manager gave a summary of the update, advising that the policy had been revised and signed off by Cabinet.


Some of the improvements to the policy included simplification of the layout and reduction in size.


There was also clarification on the different processes followed between Corporate and Social Services.


In relation to corporate complaints, the timescales had been reduced from 12 months to six months, which was in line with other Local Authorities.  The refusal criteria was also detailed as well as including performance monitoring details.


There were four workshops planned for delivery for staff across the Council, which would commence in May 2023.


In relation to ‘My Council Services’, the software used to record and monitor complaints, compliments and comments had seen an increase in comments, with over 4,000 received and upon analysis, this was in relation to requests for service.  In light of this, two forms were created, one for refuse and the other for Wastesavers.  This meant that requests went straight to the service area and not recorded as a comment, this had resulted in the comments being significantly reduced.


My Council Services software would be updated to reflect the new service area structures as well as in the annual report, including service area improvement brought about by compliments and complaints received.


In terms of consistency and standardisation of the complaints process, the policy provided a new uniformed approach in complaints handling and the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales was keen that the Council followed the two-step process, which was now firmly in place.


In relation to supporting and developing other service areas, the team had been working very closely to analyse compliments and complaints, recommendations of which had provided an insight into how services could be improved for residents.


In terms of reviewing the unacceptable actions by customer policy, this would need inclusion of other departments such as health and safety and customer services.


Finally, improving digital accessibility, under the digital strategy the team would be looking to support skills around digital inclusion for staff.


Committee Member Comments:


§  Councillor Cocks considered that the report was thorough and useful and that it was good to see positive comments as well as complaints.  Councillor Cocks found the Newport App useful, however referred to more marginalised people who did not have access to computers.  Since the budget, there was a review in the ability of people contacting the Council by phone and the hours of availability.  Mitigation measures appeared to make computers available for training people. How did this system accommodate those who did not have access to a computer or were unable to attend training sessions.


The Digital Services Manager advised that Digital Strategy made specific inclusion regarding  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.


Corporate Risk Register Quarter 3 pdf icon PDF 221 KB

Additional documents:


The Council’s Corporate Risk Register monitored those risks that may prevent the Council from achieving its Corporate Plan or delivering services to its communities and service users in Newport.  At the end of quarter three, October to December, there were 14 risks recorded in the Corporate Risk Register that were considered to have a significant impact on the achievement of the Council’s objectives and legal obligations. Overall, there were seven severe risks (risk scores 15 to 25); seven Major risks (risk scores seven to 14); that were outlined in the report.


In comparison to the quarter two Corporate Risk Register, there were no new and/or escalated risks, and no risks were closed. One risk had decreased its risk score: with 13 risks remaining the same. No risks were escalated or de-escalated in quarter three. As set out in the Council’s Risk Management Policy, Cabinet reviewed the Corporate Risk Register on a quarterly basis ensuring procedures were in place to monitor the management of significant risks. The Register was likely to change following the approval of the new Corporate Plan and priorities for its service delivery.  The Policy and Partnership Manager highlighted that in quarter three they reassessed the risk plan and way they viewed it was slightly different based on feedback from this committee.  Additionally, service areas were asked to consider the external impacts of the Council’s Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) alongside the increased demand of pressures on the services risk and the cost-of-living increase which impacted on businesses, residents and everyone else. Risk Assessments were reviewed by the senior management team and target risk scores were adjusted to reflect the challenging position.  The Council was tolerating more risks due to the current situation. The senior management team continued to closely monitor and reassess regularly these risks and monitored the actions being taken.


Committee Member Comments:


§  Dr N Barry thanked the Policy and Partnership Manager for the clear introduction and paper.  Dr Barry realised that this was a retrospective report but was aware it was approaching the next financial year and asked if the corporate plan by ready by 1 April. The Performance and Programme Manager advised that the corporate plan was approved in November 2022 and was available online.


§  Councillor Cocks referred to page 46 of the report pack and the budget, where it referred to contract inflation, what level of risk was involved in this, what was fixed and could contractors raise their prices in relation to inflation. The Head of Finance advised that the risk as of Quarter 3 was because of uncertainty of what those cost increases would be and challenges that would create on a balanced budget. 


Councillor Cocks asked was it due to existing contracts.  The Head of Finance advised that it was, energy in particular was highest, the general comments applied to capital projects as well as revenue due to the uncertainty of inflation.  The general risk around setting the budget in an unknown environment and 60% of the costs  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.


Lessons Learned 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 154 KB

Additional documents:


The Head of Finance explained that the above report presented the findings of an initial lessons learned review carried out by finance officers following the 2021/22 accounts closedown. It gave an assessment on the findings of the lessons learned review and the plans in place to implement for 2022/23 and the key risks to the closedown process for 2022/23.  The report showed full conversations with Audit Wales and listed small things and report brought bigger issues.


The Senior Finance Business Partner (Chief Accountant) highlighted that following the closedown of the 2021/22 accounts, a lessons learned review was undertaken to put into place further improvements for the closedown of the accounts process. The lessons learned review was taken as a matter of course, and with the issues that arose from the audit of the 2021/22 accounts, this review was of high importance to ensure improvements for 2022/23 were delivered.


Committee Member Comments:


§  D Reed referred to the Related Party relationships, page 76 of the report pack and that it was the second year that Audit Wales had flagged this as a weakness.  Was this difficult to complete for councillors. The Senior Finance Business Partner (Chief Accountant) considered that the election last year might have been the reason that all were not returned.  D Reed asked that on the basis of the response it would not be as difficult to see a better response in the next year.  


D Reed also referred to the Accruals, on page 73 of the pack, that most schools were not on the council system regarding purchase orders and what action what was being done. The Senior Finance Business Partner (Chief Accountant) advised that there was a new finance system in place which should be going live by end of next year and officers would be working with schools to bring them online; all schools were on board with the new system. 


D Reed asked that with reference to all topics highlighted in the lessons learned report, if there was there an action plan underneath the report where everything was being adopted, in a similar way as risk mitigating action.  The Senior Finance Business Partner (Chief Accountant) mentioned that there was nothing formalised, but this was something that would be reviewed as an ongoing basis.  Part of this would be looked at by Audit and Audit Wales. There was a document that formed the basis of this report which would also be part of the review.  The Head of Finance thanked D Reed for his comments and suggested an action plan would be a simple but effective tool and would take on board these comments.


§  The Chair agreed with D Reed’s comments and suggested that whilst there was a lot of detail in the report, it needed a simpler format, and an action plan was essential. 


The Chair referred to assurance regarding capacity; Information from Third Parties - transport and Leasing and IFRS.  It was pleasing to hear that there was an additional member of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Audit Wales NCC Outline Audit Plan 2023 pdf icon PDF 220 KB

Additional documents:


The above document was prepared as part of the work performed in accordance with statutory functions by Audit Wales. The Outline Audit Plan specified the statutory responsibilities as an external auditor and the obligations fulfilled under the Code of Audit Practice.


Members of the Committee might have noted the slightly different format by comparison to last year, as this was because it was an outline plan and not the final plan, which would be presented in the summer.


The Audit Wales Officer provided the Committee with the headlines of the Outline Plan. A detailed Audit Plan would be shared later in the year following the completion of planning work.  This would set out the estimated audit fee and the work that intended to be undertaken by the Audit Team to address the audit risks identified and other key areas of audit focus during 2023.


The document also outlined the Audit timeline of key dates for delivery of audit work and planned outputs, along with the key changes to ISA 315 and the potential impact on Newport City Council.  Fundamental change in planning the risk assessment process.  This was set out in detail in Appendix 1.


In terms of main headlines of this outline plan, on page 85 of the report pack set out the fact that they could not yet confirm the estimate for the year.  Reference was made to published fee scheme, which was approved by the Senedd earlier this year, which exceeded expectations of fees this year due to the introduction of ISA 315, in the region of 12/18%.  The exact fee estimate would be confirmed later in the year, which only affected the financial work.  There was an element of inflationary increase follow in due course. 


Key team members were also set out in the document.  The only point to flag up with the committee was the new Audit Lead, Katherine Watts was welcomed to the team.


The proposed audit timeline was also set out and for the financial audit, the proposal was to target completion of audit and certification of accounts by the end of November 2023, this was recently communicated to Section 151 officers throughout Wales and AW were in discussion with finance teams to discuss practicalities. 


In terms of performance audit programme, the timelines were to be confirmed at this stage. 


Committee Member Comments:


§  Councillor Cocks considered that most Local Authorities were experiencing a similar state of financial crisis. Councillor Cocks went on to say, all credit was due to officers of the council putting together the budget.  It did however feel like a strange time to increase audit demands under the current circumstances. The Audit Wales Officer appreciated the comments made and understood the financial pressures faced by Local Authorities.  The issue faced by Audit Wales was the introduction of new ISA 315 and was therefore not a choice and had horrendous timing under the circumstances. Audit Wales had to comply with new standards which also brought in additional work but fully  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 103 KB

Additional documents:


The purpose of a forward work programme helped ensure Councillors achieved organisation and focus on the undertaking of enquiries through the Governance and Audit Committee function. This report presented the current work programme to the Committee for information and detailed the items due to be considered at the Committee’s next two meetings.


The Chair referred to 25 May meeting and whether the Director of Social Services could provide a written update for this Committee. 


In relation to the PTU taxi contract, the Chair requested comments from the Director of Social Services and Chief Education Officer for May’s Committee.


The Chief Internal Auditor advised the Chair that the Director of Social Services had provided a letter which would be shared with Committee members, but he was still awaiting comments from the Chief Education officer and would chase this. The Chair suggested that both of the comments be brought to meeting rather than circulated individually.


D Reed mentioned that these issues could be picked up in the action table.



The Governance and Audit Committee endorsed the proposed schedule for future meetings, confirmed the list of people it would invite for each item and indicated whether any additional information or research was required.


Finally, the Chair and the Head of Finance wanted to thank Andrew Wathan, Chief Internal Auditor and Jan Furtek, Audit Manager for their service over the years. 


The Chair thanked Andrew for his quality of work which was outstanding and thanked Jan for his hard work and congratulated both of them and wished them luck on their future endeavours.


Andrew Wathan thanked the committee.