Agenda and minutes

Audit and Scrutiny Committee - Friday, 31st January, 2020 10.00 am

Venue: Conference Room, Plas y Ffynnon, Cambrian Way, Brecon LD3 7HP. View directions

Contact: Julia Gruffydd 

Media

Items
No. Item

1/20

Correspondence

            To receive and consider the attached Schedule of Correspondence and any recommendations thereon (below).

 

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Minutes:

The Chair welcomed members and officers to the meeting and also welcome Helen Cargill from the Authority’s internal auditors TIAA.  She asked that best wishes be sent to Cllr Graham Thomas who was unable to attend today.

2/20

Declarations of Interest

To receive any declarations of interest from members relating to items on the agenda.  Members’ attention is drawn to the sheet attached to the attendance sheet and the need to record their declarations verbally and in writing, specifying the nature of the interest.

 

If Members have declared an interest in an item please ensure that you inform the Chair when you are leaving the room, so that this can be recorded in the minutes

 

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Minutes:

No declarations of interest were made.

3/20

Minutes pdf icon PDF 72 KB

To approve the minutes of the Audit and Scrutiny Committee held on 25 October 2019  and to authorise the Chairman to sign them as a correct record.

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Minutes:

RESOLVED:  That the minutes of the Audit and Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 25 October 2019 be approved and the Chair authorised to sign them as a correct record.

4/20

Action Tracking pdf icon PDF 53 KB

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Minutes:

Members considered the outstanding actions from previous meetings and highlighted the need to draw up an action plan from the final version of the Climate Change Position Statement. Actions should then appear in project plans as well as the Corporate Plan.  The Chief Executive advised that officers had hoped to bring the draft Corporate Plan to the Authority on 11 February but this had been delayed by the need to allocate resources to addressing the unfunded pressures money from the Welsh Government.

5/20

Public Speaking Scheme

To give the public an opportunity to address the committee in line with the notice required under the Authority’s Public Speaking Scheme.

 

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Minutes:

No requests to speak had been made.

6/20

Q3 Budget Performance pdf icon PDF 120 KB

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Minutes:

The Finance Manager presented the Quarter 3 budget report and referred to the additional £611,000 from Welsh Government to be spend or committed before the end of the financial year.  She advised this was a significant burden on staff during the change programme and would need to be managed to avoid any impact on delivery.  Some strategic decisions were needed in order to be able to spend money available for mitigating the impact of climate change.  She also advised that variance might creep in partly due to key posts missing due to the change programme.  Officers were working on new projects, building on existing projects to avoid endangering delivery.  It was suggested that funding might be delegated to external partners to deliver on climate change and the Chief Executive agreed that there was potential to do this. He highlighted the issue that additional funding was capital rather than revenue and any agreement to change this would need to be negotiated with Welsh Government. Members stressed the need for a more strategic method of delivering projects in a short space of time and assessing which were not top priority.  It was noted that the Welsh Park Chief Executives were talking to Welsh Government about the length of budget cycles which needed to be longer term.

 

A member concluded that the organisation was constipated due to its culture, lack of empowerment or will on part of some officers, and chronic lack of forward business planning despite the high level direction agreed on 29 Oct 2019.

 

Members questioned the methodology used on the monitoring report and did not accept that a project with zero expenditure could be classed as on track.  There was a need to plan capital expenditure long term, linked to vision and strategic direction to deliver purposes and duty.  The current delays in preparing the State of the Park Report (SOPR) and National Park Management Plan were not acceptable.  The IT and Systems Manager advised that he had attempted to give an update on this at the Authority meeting in December but there had not been time.  He was acutely aware of the need to progress.  He advised that the Senior Leadership Group was working on project ideas to score, set against funding opportunities to plan longer term and ensure a realistic approach to delivery.  The Chief Executive advised that the Nature Landscapes Partnership had potential for significant sums to deliver on green infrastructure, and this would be the focus of the bid.  He noted the comments on the culture of the organisation and would review this.

 

The Finance Manager explained the methodology for the colour coding in the budget report which was based on quarterly budget profiling and expressed confidence that projects would be delivered.  She acknowledged the piecemeal portfolio of projects and said confidence and certainty was needed that officers would be here in 12 months to deliver.  Members did not accept the explanation, nor the personal assurances that projects would be delivered, and did not accept that  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6/20

7/20

Pension Fund Triennial Valuation pdf icon PDF 29 KB

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Minutes:

Members noted the Pension Fund Triennial Valuation which would result in a £50,000 saving for the next three years.

 

RESOLVED:  That the contents of the enclosed reports be accepted by the Committee

8/20

Wales Audit Annual Audit Letter pdf icon PDF 24 KB

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Minutes:

Members received the Annual Audit Letter for 2018/19.  A member asked about the level of reserves and whether resources could be spent on projects that could ideally bring a return on investment or attract match funding.

 

The Finance Manager advised that the level of reserves should not fall below £500,000 but approximately £300,000 could be redeployed. In response to a question about whether members could instruct officer to reallocate Welsh Government capital funding to revenue the Chief Executive advise that this would need discussion with Welsh Government and a clear audit trail.

 

A member said that it would be difficult for the Authority to approve the budget on 11 February as he felt there was a lack of a detailed action plan and strategic direction.  There needed to be an intense period of action and delivery planning with proposals presented to the Authority on 31 March giving assurance as to how the budget would be spent.  The IT and Systems Manager explained that officers were currently working on this and wasn’t clear what was missing.  The member felt it bizarre that given the directives from the Welsh Government and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that the budget proposed to spend five times the resources on the second purpose than on the first purpose.  A member cautioned against reducing the reserves unless spend was certain to bring a return.  She suggested that the Policy Working Group might discussion this as a strategy.

 

The Chief Executive reiterated the need to have an approved budget in order to issue the levy. The draft budget presented to the Authority on 24 January made assumptions about the original change programme, and he had now set out some alternatives.

 

RESOLVED:  That the committee receives the Annual Audit Letter

9/20

Internal Audit progress report Q3 pdf icon PDF 105 KB

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Minutes:

Ms Cargill presented the third quarter Block 2 internal audit report and went through the outstanding actions.  At the next meeting she would present her annual report which would give an overall opinion of risk controls.  This was the final year of TIAA’s contract with the Authority and she advised that the company was also working for Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority and she would be discussing any opportunities that this might present.

 

A member asked whether the audit of health and safety had elicited any complaints of bullying, and Ms Cargill advised that they did not do a detailed audit of wellbeing but could consider this in future given the priority currently being given to mental health.

 

A question was also asked about the Authority’s lone working policy and received details of some of the procedures in place.  The Chief Executive would advise further.  A member asked about outstanding actions on the recruitment policy and what she preferred to call the reward and benefit policy, which she felt would be better done now than waiting for the change programme to be implemented.  The Chief Executive would raise this with the HR consultant when appointed.

 

RESOLVED:

 

a)  That Members receive the internal auditor’s report;

b) That outstanding actions be noted.

10/20

Performance and Risk review - quarter 3 pdf icon PDF 44 KB

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Minutes:

The IT and Systems Manager presented the Quarter 3 performance and risk report and thanked colleagues for the data they had supplied.  He advised that Ffynnon would cease at the end of June and an alternative reporting mechanism would need to be found that met specifications of members and officers, which would join performance and risk, connected to objectives and using a more engaging way to present information, which would replace the three reports before members today.

 

A member objected to some of the comments in the report which explained performance levels which he did not feel to be appropriate.  He criticised the inconsistent reporting in terms of colour coding and while he liked the format, it was not yet fit for purposed as there was no baseline or smart objectives.  The officer responded that this would be a matter for the Chief Executive and his new Corporate Governance Team to address but he was confident that they could deliver an effective new system.

 

A member felt that if these comments were not the collective view of the Corporate Governance Team then they were not appropriate to be put in the public domain.  She was disappointed that the Chief Executive had not monitored the comments.  The Chief Executive said that while he had reviewed it he had not scrutinised it in detail, although there were some comments that he agreed with.

 

The point was made by one member that he found it disrespectful of officers to bring a report of insufficient quality; he referred to one example of first purpose work where discussions had taken place but no actions or impacts recorded.  Officers acknowledged the need for better wording and noted members’ comments that both the progress and the outcomes needed to be measured, and said that this would be addressed when designing the new system.

 

Members opted to receive the report only.

11/20

Complaints, Freedom of Information and Compliments pdf icon PDF 375 KB

To note the reports.

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Minutes:

Members received reports updated since the last meeting.

12/20

Role of Audit and Scrutiny Committee

To consider the need to review the role of the committee and its effectiveness.

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Minutes:

The Democratic Services Manager advised that both internal and external audit recommended a review of effectiveness of committees as a matter of good governance.  There was general agreement that the remit was appropriate and she had witnessed a significant level of challenge earlier in the meeting, but she asked for members’ views on their role and whether they felt they needed any further development or support.

 

A member felt the role was simple, to provide assurance to the Authority that available resources were being aligned to achieve purposes and duty and the needs of external policy drivers against meaningful, measurable target that were reported transparently with evidence with a clear baseline.  If the committee was doing this then there was no need for additional scrutiny studies.  In line with points he had made earlier in the meeting he felt it was difficult for the committee to do this.

 

Officers said that this could be turned round and the member offered to help. 

 

One member felt that some additional guidance to officers on the RAG (Red, Amber Green) system in terms of percentages would give greater consistency for members to analyse.  The Chair of Governance and Member Development Working Group felt that there had been confusion amongst some members in the governance survey about what the committee did.  She agreed that they did not need to carry out scrutiny but they could improve the quality of performance reporting and urged officers to think about the context of reporting and consider benchmarking with other organisations.

13/20

Election of Interim Deputy Chair of Audit and Scrutiny Committee

To appoint an interim Chair of the Audit and Scrutiny Committee until the next Annual General Meeting.

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Minutes:

The Democratic Services Manager advised that committee member Ian Rowat, who was currently Deputy Chair, would be finishing his term of office on 31 March 2020. This would need an interim appointment of Deputy Chair.  The Chair invited nominations.

 

RESOLVED:  That Cllr A James be appointed interim Deputy Chair of Audit and Scrutiny Committee from 1 April 2020 until the Annual General Meeting of the Authority on 26 June 2020.

 

The Chair thanked Mr Rowat for his hard work over the last eight years. Members would have a further opportunity to recognise his contribution at the Authority meeting on 31 March.

14/20

Other Business

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Minutes:

The Chair advised that there was no further business and closed the meeting.