Contact: Pamela Tasker Governance Officer
Declarations of Interest
Minutes of the Last Meeting PDF 146 KB
Item 8, page 15 under resolution 2, the Deputy Chair considered that the Minutes did not reflect the meeting in terms of the wording of the resolution. The Chair clarified that the Minutes only referred to the Head of Service being invited to attend the meeting and did not include that the Strategic Director: Social Services was also invited.
The minutes were accepted subject to the above.
Dr Barry referred importance of keeping the Action Timetable as a rolling item on the Agenda and noted that the request for the Ombudsman’s letter regarding the Complaints, compliments and comments report was omitted and that more information was requested on Equalities data.
The Strategic Director for Transformation and Corporate referred to actions and recommendations. The Committee should be clear on what they related to and that there would be housekeeping in between meetings to tidy up these issues, therefore there should not be a lot of actions but there may be comments that the Committee would like to make to officers presenting reports that would be taken into consideration.
Call In the Director of Social Services and Head of Service re the Internal Audit of Adoption Allowances resulting in a Second Unsatisfactory Opinion PDF 155 KB
The Chief Internal Officer introduced the report to committee members.
Following two consecutive Unsatisfactory Internal Audit opinions, the Strategic Director for Social Services and the Head of Service responsible for Adoption Allowances were invited to the Governance and Audit Committee to provide assurances that appropriate improvements within service provisions and the control environment were in place. Initially improvements had been implemented, however subsequently, Internal Audit were made aware that no service was being provided for a period of time.
The Strategic Director for Social Services advised the committee that they were aware of the challenges faced by social services and therefore called upon the Audit Team to undertake this audit.
The Strategic Director also wanted to assure the Committee that no child or adoptive family suffered during this period and that adoption allowances had been provided for a small number of children.
There was a series of action plans put in place to address the issues and build resilience for the future to ensure that a greater number of staff were able to undertake the tasks.
Finally, the Strategic Director reassured the committee that all applications for this year had been progressed within the timeframe.
The Head of Children Services advised that there was a newly appointed service manager with experience in the area, who was drawing together an all-encompassing policy, should another audit take place and this would determine that they would be satisfied with the process in place.
Comments of Committee:
Chair considered that members should not focus on the past but how to move this agenda forward and receive reassurance from the service area.
Dr Barry referred delayed response due to the absence of a finance officer and principal officer, could a response be provided by another officer. The Strategic Director confirmed that the delay was because of the absence of those specific officers, both of whom were off at the time due to ill health for a substantial time. Going forward there needed to be a spread of staff who would have the confidence to carry out the assessments effectively as well as shared resilience with other finance officers within social services should they face similar issues in the future.
Dr Barry asked was it complicated completing the financial assessments and was there a set of desk instructions in place to help officers step by step. The Strategic Director advised that there were many complex layers to completing the financial assessments that would be too complex for step by step instructions.
Councillor Horton asked the audit team if they had confidence in the Social Services team should there be a re-audit of the service area. The Chief Internal Auditor said yes and that should there be a re-check a follow through would see what had been put in place to demonstrate good practice, hopefully with a more improved opinion.
D Reed asked was there a danger that those people receiving an allowance were overpaid. The Strategic Director advised that some people would have been over however ... view the full minutes text for item 3.
Annual Corporate Well-being Self Assessment Report 2021/22 PDF 116 KB
The Head of People, Policy and Transformation presented the report. The Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act 2021 required local authorities in Wales
to undertake a Self-Assessment of its governance and performance.
Newport City Council had integrated its Annual Report with its annual Well-being Report to
provide an overview on the effectiveness of the Council’s Governance and Performance
arrangements to deliver its Corporate Plan and services. The Council’s Self-Assessment
requirements had also considered the findings and assessments completed in other
statutory annual reports.
The role of the Council’s Governance and Audit Committee was to ensure that the self-assessment had been completed in accordance with the Act; review the draft report with its
considerations and actions; and proposed recommendations
The Strategic Director for Transformation and Corporate reminded the Committee to put forward their recommendations as these would go to Cabinet in November.
Comments from Committee:
The Chair raised the following questions:
Difficulty working out wellbeing objective 1 to improve skills in education and employment opportunities – strategic recovery steps referred to improving school’s attainment, however there was nothing further in the document which referred to attainment.
Item 7 under this objective to improve school attendance, reduce exclusions and improve safeguarding and wellbeing – attendance in school had fallen. There was no action in document on how to address this and responsibility for this action.
Those were the only concerns, there was a lot of narrative but little outcome. If the seven key objectives mattered, they should be addressed. Was the report trying to do too much too quickly and losing focus.
The Head of People, Policy and Transformation advised that the report was trying to do all the things mentioned however the report was being presented to develop this approach. There were and older objectives that were out of time and it was a complex year to be reporting because of the pandemic. Also having different sets of reports had its own problems therefore a blended report was brought forward to satisfy all requirements.
Councillor Horton echoed the Head of Service’s comments and mentioned that was discussed at Scrutiny Committee earlier that week, and it was a juggling act to cover all aspects.
The Head of Service suggested looking at the overview of the report, pulling out the salient parts for the Committee.
Dr Barry mentioned that try to marry the Corporate Plan with the wellbeing objectives and self-assessment may not work as there was a lot of narrative but not enough about qualitative outcomes which was what people wanted to see. It also needed to be easy to read as it was a public document. There needed to be a relationship between the corporate objectives and wellbeing objectives and there was not enough data regarding this.
Dr Barry also mentioned that as Newport was a multi-cultural city, report underplayed the equality issue and how Newport City Council employees actually related in this aspect to the community and this should be highlighted in the report.
The Head of People, Performance and ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
Treasury Management Report 2022/23 PDF 472 KB
The Assistant Head of Finance presented the report to the Committee.
In line with the agreed Treasury Management Strategy, the Council continued to be both a short-term investor of cash and borrower to manage day-to-day cash flows. Current forecasts indicated that, in the future, temporary borrowing may be required to fund normal day-to-day cash flow activities and longer-term borrowing would increase to fund commitments in the current capital programme, as well as the impact of reduced capacity for ‘internal borrowing’. However, symptomatic of the extraordinary funding received in the previous year, the Council was anticipated to remain a net investor of funds in the short term (£50m at end of September), and this continued to cause an unusual variance and noncompliance against the performance indicator that monitors exposure to interest rate
Up to end of September 2022, the Council’s net borrowing was £140.6m, a decrease of £1.5m on 31 March 2022 levels. The liability benchmark graph in the report broadly suggested the Council would need to borrow in the next year.
Comments of committee:
Dr Barry mentioned that it was a good paper, which gave confidence in the treasury management of the authority and it was good to see that the net borrowing had decreased. With regard to loans to developers at £10.6M, bearing in mind that some developers within Newport had folded recently, how secure was money to be received from developers. The Assistant Head of Service advised there £10M was spread across a few developed and all loans were secured and would also ensure security. There was no guarantee that the loan would be repaid but the Council could satisfy itself that the security was in place.
Secondly, borrowing was at £140.6M and the maximum was £141.9M and a borrowing headroom of £2.391M would we exceed the maximum figure and how did it relate to the head room regarding Table 4, page 119 within the report. The Assistant Head of Finance advised that there were two authorisation limits required as standards in terms of indicators. The one was called the authorised limit and was the absolute max borrowing at any single point, then there was the operational boundary which was effectively the cap in terms of borrowing in relation to our capitol programme. We therefore might need to undertake short term borrowing to manage cash flow requirements. In terms of borrowing head room that was in terms for borrowing that the council had allowed for in our capitol programme but had not been allocated to a specific scheme.
Councillor Jordan asked how much of the grant money was the council holding, where would it go to if not used. The Assistant Head of Finance was not able to provide a figure, as it was more of a theme. The repayment grants had terms of conditions and a final timescale in which it the funding would need to be used.
Councillor Mogford referred to the return on investments and what was take on ethical investments. The Assistant Head ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
Internal Audit - Progress against Audit Plan 2022/23 Quarter 2 PDF 183 KB
The Chief Internal Auditor presented the report to the Committee.
The report identified that the Internal Audit Section was making progress against the 2022/23 audit plan and internal performance indicators.
Site visits to establishments have resumed.
The Internal Audit Plan was based on 1073 audit days.
The follow up audit of the Passenger Transport Unit (PTU) Taxi Contracts resulted in
a second consecutive Unsatisfactory audit opinion.
Paragraph 12 within the report highlighted the performance of the staff for Quarter 2, 2022/23. This was also detailed in Appendix A, along with the audit opinions.
Comments of committee:
Dr Barry referred to paragraph eight was there lack of corporation between service managers and staff that prevented completion of the previous year’s audit. In addition, only 80% were reasonable and were there any themes coming from these audit reports that leadership would need to be addressing. The Chief Internal Auditor advised that in relation to the first question, that was a general statement from the audit team to make the committee aware that it was not straightforward and needed to be escalated to the Chief Internal Auditor or the Head of Service. Secondly it would be satisfactory to see ‘all good’ outcomes. The Audit team cycle audits at around eight or nine years from audit to audit. But would take on board comments.
D Reed referred to financial training in paragraph 20, was this mandatory training. The Chief Internal Auditor would like to think it was mandatory and encouraged people to attend. Self Nomination meant that staff would to this to attend training. This was not effectively monitored but could be developed further. Common themes were picked up and feedback to HR. The Audit team also makes sure that staff comply with policy, but most training is monitored at local level
The Corporate Director for Transformation and Corporate referred to mandatory training and HR had invested in meta compliance training. This was new and being rolled out to staff.
The Chair suggested that mandatory training should be monitored as it was important to receive training as mentioned at the previous meeting.
The Chair mentioned that in relation to the PTU, no critical issues were identified, one critical issue was that taxi was operating for the council using unlicensed drivers transporting vulnerable young people. What therefore was the threshold for being critical, considering the background of this report. The Chief Internal Auditor advised that critical, significant and moderate was noted in the report and was subjective, based on evidence at time of the audit, if identified as a strength, the auditor would determine whether it was critical or significant or moderate weakness, it then goes through a management process. There was an understanding of what it meant across the authority and the impact it could have corporately.
The Chair was concerned that if an unlicensed taxi driver picked up a vulnerable person with and if something happened, that made it to the press it would be a critical issue for the council. Therefore the ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
The purpose of a forward work programme was to help ensure Members achieve organisation and focus on the undertaking of enquiries through the Governance and Audit Committee function. The 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.
That the Governance and Audit Committee
To add to the Work Programme the call in the Strategic Director and Head of Service in January to discuss the Unsatisfactory audit opinion in relation to the PTU contract.
That an Interim Report on an update on Social Services be added to the Work Programme for January 2023.