Before the report was discussed, the Head of People, Policy and Transformation reminded those present that training on risk would be provided prior to the next meeting.
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. Risks were identified by Heads of Service and went through a service planning process and this was the result of the escalation of those risks by senior managers. The full risk register was attached.
The responsibility of this Committee was to ensure that the processes in place for identifying risks was robust and operating correctly, rather than the detail of the risks themselves.
At the end of quarter four, there were 16 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. At the end of quarter 4 there were no corporate risks closed and two risks (In-year Financial Management & Safeguarding Risk) de-escalated from the Corporate Risk Register.
Overall, there were nine Severe risks (risk scores 15 to 25) and seven Major risks (risk scores 7 to 14) that were outlined in the report.
The role of the Governance and Audit Committee was to review and monitor the corporate governance and risk management arrangements in place, with comments and recommendations of the Committee on risk process considered by Cabinet.
Comments from the Committee:
Dr Barry, Co-opted Member appreciated the work that had been undertaken, which was clear, however one concern was that in the risk register was the action name and the action description, which were much of the same thing. It did not say what was being done in relation to the action and when. The Co-opted member referred to the first action as an example, the action name was to increase and improve Newport’s urban tree coverage and the action description was to increase and improve Newport’s urban tree coverage. The Head of People, Policy and Transformation thanked the Co-opted Member for her comment and explained that the risk information was gathered from a format system called MI Hub however the comments section showed what was currently happening in relation to the risk. What had been avoided for the Committee was a separate report that did not come out of the automated system, which was the reason for the duplication. To clarify the Co-opted Member asked was the comment the direction of the risk, which was the case, however, the suggestion to approve the layout of the actions would assure members of the Committee about what was being done and when. The Performance Research Business Partner, did advise that the comments would be taken on board to see how they could be improved and that there was a meeting taking place next month to look over the report and as part of the new service planning process would see if they could update the report to include comments against those actions raised by the individual officers. To conclude, every Quarter, the risk owners were asked to provide a commentary update in terms of why a risk has increased or decreased or stayed the same and the risk action owners have to provide an update in terms of the risk and mitigating actions each quarter.
D Reed, Co-opted Member referred to page 22 and the pressure in relation to housing homelessness and the number of Ukrainian evacuees that were coming in to Newport. Had this also been factored into the risk and was there a total figure of evacuees and the pressure as a result of this. The Head of People, Policy and Transformation thanked the Co-opted Member for raising an important point and referred to the commentary that the pressures on accommodation would be exacerbated as a result of this and that the numbers would be difficult to be specific on because people from Ukraine were coming in from the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme and were at the time being, often in temporary accommodation, waiting to go to a nominated house. It was therefore difficult to quantify but was being factored in on a monthly basis.
In response to D Reed’s query about those Ukrainians staying at the Queen’s Hotel, were provided accommodation through the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme on a temporary basis.
Councillor Cocks referred to page 25 and asked why the Equalities Impact was not applicable and looked to Page 20 as an example. The Committee’s role was to ensure and monitor the culture and values were being fulfilled and as part of the process, the legal obligations under the Equalities Act also made sure that certain groups were not discriminated against. What became clear as a result of the pandemic, was that ethnic minorities were greatly impacted upon. In addition, the Out of County Placements, Additional Learning Needs for Children and Social Services provision. Some groups were therefore affected more. Was there any evidence to show this imbalance and was it being monitored and addressed? The Head of People, Policy and Transformation, who was also the Council’s Equalities Lead agreed that this was important and provided an example for Covid where the Council provided a community impact assessment, which could be circulated, on how individual groups and different communities were affected. The Equalities Impact Assessment however was specifically around a Decision. This report was not around a Decision, it was about the risk and the risk processes. There were a number of reports that focussed on equalities issues and there was an Equalities Annual Report which was currently being compiled, every Decision Report would have to have an Equalities Impact Assessment. The Head of People, Policy and Transformation could make the wording clearer to show where equalities Decisions were logged which was against that decision.
The Chair commented on some of the key issues was that training for the Committee would need to be undertaken to show that there would be issues that would come to this Committee that would be decided elsewhere, such as Cabinet or discussions for other Committees such as Scrutiny. Training could therefore tease out these issues and improve the system, where it was needed.
Secondly, the Quarter 4 scenario, are the risks re-evaluated on an annual basis, as there was the cost of living crisis and the energy crisis which were real risks and would these be picked up as part of the exercise moving forward when the risk register came up for review. The Performance Research Business Partner explained that this would be the case and that service areas were asked to review their own plans and risks, under a new Corporate Plan therefore it was a continuous process. As part of the Corporate Risk Register, new and emerging risks would be looked into. It would however take time to get this completed to support the new Corporate Plan which would be in place later this year. Every Quarter we seek assurance from all of the service areas, if there are new or emerging risks throughout the year and reiterated therefore that this was a continuous process carried out by the Council to manage any risks that were captured such as the cost of living and energy crisis. The Head of People, Policy and Transformation also added that this report was one slice of management, every service plan would log and identify each risk in relation to their service delivery and this was the top slice, making sure that we were expecting and managing risks. There were very many layers to this and this was a way of ensuring that the top level were doing things right.
D Reed, Co-opted Member referred to page 47, the education of out of county placements and asked was there a successful bidder already in place as we were close to September and would this have an impact on risk to numbers. The Performance Research Business Partner would look into this with Education Services and report back, following the Quarter 1 review.
Dr Barry, Co-opted Member commented on the housing issues and asked where was the strategic overlook? There were a number of actions which did not all add together. The Performance Research Business Partner took the points on board about having more of a strategic view however, this was only a snapshot of what went on regarding risk management and risk appetite. Processes would be looked into as part of the new Corporate Plan and provided for the Committee. The Corporate Risk Register was presented to the Council Executive Board who would determine whether the risks were accurately reflected. Additionally, the Executive Board would challenge risks and challenge officers consistently to reduce the risk for the organisation and manage any controls in place.
The Governance and Audit Committee considered the contents of this report and assessed the risk management arrangements for the Authority, providing any additional commentary and/or recommendations to Cabinet.