Agenda and minutes

Audit and Scrutiny Committee - Friday, 24th July, 2020 10.00 am

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

Contact: Julia Gruffydd 

Media

Items
No. Item

15/20

Correspondence pdf icon PDF 2 MB

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

 

To note the report from the Auditor General on his findings on Sustainable Development Principle Examinations (attached)

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chair welcomed all to the first virtual meeting of the Audit and Scrutiny Committee, including Deryck Evans and Nick Selwyn from Audit Wales and Jonathan Maddock from internal auditors TIAA.

 

She also welcomed members appointed to the committee to fill vacancies arising from the reduction in size of the Authority from 24 to 18 members:  Cllr Graham Thomas, Cllr Steve Evans, Cllr Malcolm Colbran and Mr Chris Coppock.

 

She referred to the item of correspondence, a letter from the Auditor General with his report ‘So, What’s Different?’ – Findings from the Auditor General’s Sustainable Development Principle Examination of all public bodies in Wales, which the Chief Executive introduced.  He drew attention to Exhibit 5 which outlined the defining challenges for public services for the next five years.  The holistic approach of the principles was welcomed, although a comment was made that they also created an additional layer of complexity to the delivery of the Authority’s purposes and duty, which was further compounded by the Authority having too many objectives for a small organisation.  In response to a question the Chief Executive said that no progress had yet been made with the Welsh Government on the potential for a five-year budget cycle but that this was an issue he would continue to raise with officials.  Mr Selwyn advised that Audit Wales recognised the challenge of delivering long-term objectives and programmes with short-term funding settlements.  One member felt that the Authority was a leader in the public sector and should consider how to highlight this more effectively.

 

16/20

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

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

No declarations of interest were made.

 

17/20

Minutes pdf icon PDF 81 KB

To receive the minutes of the Audit and Scrutiny Committee held on 31 January 2020 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 held on 31 January 2020 be approved and the Chair authorised to sign them as a true record.

 

18/20

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.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

There were no requests to speak.

 

19/20

Draft Statement of Accounts 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 49 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members received the draft Statement of Accounts for 2019/20 and noted that while the deadline for approval had been extended until the autumn the authorised draft provided an opportunity for members to consider this before publication on the website. 

 

There was some discussion about the balance of core grant against other funding sources and the Chief Executive advised that the core grant had been gradually reducing in recent years while the Authority was increasingly asked to bid for capital funding against Welsh Government priorities.  It was suggested that the Authority needed to do a comparison with other National Parks of its income generation.

 

In response to a question about community assets the officer advised that more detail could be provided on capital projects such as the Gunpowder Works.  She also advised that while she noted the comment about putting a positive narrative in the accounts about the Authority’s achievements, the alignment of publication with the Annual Report in the Autumn would address this.

 

In answer to a question Mr Evans advised that the next pension fund review was due in 2022 at which time the impact of COVID-19 on the markets might result in increased employer contributions.

 

RESOLVED:  That Members note the contents of the report and Draft Statement of Accounts as published.

 

20/20

2019/20 Outturn, Reserves and Project Finances pdf icon PDF 29 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members considered the final outturn for the 2019/20 financial year and noted the small underspend and the reasons for this. Asked whether the Authority had requested additional funding from Welsh Government to implement the Change Programme the Chief Executive advised that he had not but would be bringing a report on the Change Programme to the Authority on 7 August.

 

Asked about lockdown being given as a reason for reduced income in quarter 4 the officer advised that this related to Easter income.  A member commented that this had also followed the period of serious flooding in the Park in February.

 

A member commented that the budget for 2020/21 had been set to address the levy deadline and the Corporate Plan had been six months later, which was the wrong way round.  He also felt the Authority needed a ‘quarter zero’ and a more agile budget and objective setting cycle that started each September.  The Chief Executive confirmed his commitment to a more effective process with an indicative budget even if this needed to be amended if budget settlements changed.  The member welcomed this and suggested that it would be helpful to have a long-term capital programme aligned to evidence from the State of the Park Report and major challenges such as inequality, climate change, biodiversity and COVID-19.  The Authority had tended to do the ‘easy’ things but needed to tackle issues such as peatland and woodlands.

 

RESOLVED:  To note the report and enclosures.

 

21/20

Budget Monitoring Summary and Projects Financial Scorecard Q1 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 78 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members considered the budget monitoring report for Q1 and noted the likelihood that some funding would be secured from Welsh Government during this period to compensate for loss of income and increased expenditure in relation to COVID-19.  There was less clarity over this for the remainder of the year and the Authority might need to use some of its reserves.  They noted the impact of the delay in implementing the Change Programme.

 

A member sought clarification on a number of issues in relation to income generation and the need to have a targeted discussion on this, but also highlighted of high expenditure such as Democratic Representation and IT which might benefit from review.  The Systems and Performance Manager advised that he would welcome a discussion about IT with members.

 

A member highlighted the difficulty for members in receiving three different ways of reporting but commended officers on achieving a higher spend in Q1 than last year.  He queried the report on project spend which was not clear in its use of red and green indicators.  Officers would be working on a replacement for Ffynnon in the next few weeks, which it was hoped would be more interactive for members, and all comments would be taken on board.

 

Asked about dilapidations costs in respect of vacating the current headquarters the Chief Executive advised that this would be built into the 2021/22 budget as the Authority had not received notice to vacate yet, although all options for the future were being addressed.  In response to a question about the need to deploy resources to the countryside given the large numbers now accessing the Park he advised that final checks were taking place to enable volunteers to resume working from 3 August.

 

Members suggested a total spend column for project reporting would be useful in future.  The Finance Manager noted this and in response to a query about the meaning of ‘reporting to Welsh Government Projects Review’ advised that this was a reporting request from Welsh Government where progress, obstacles and any requests to redeploy funding were addressed.

 

RESOLVED: To note the report.

 

22/20

Internal Audit Update Q1 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 73 KB

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Minutes:

Jonathan Maddock from TIAA took members through the Internal Audit Plan which had been amended slightly to take account of COVID-19.

 

A member felt that in light of delays with the budget and the Corporate Plan the Block 1 of audits should already have started.  He asked that the outcomes from these should be reported to the next Audit and Scrutiny Committee in October, and that they should be used to inform the next Corporate Plan cycle.  The Chief Executive advised that officers would discuss this with TIAA.

 

RESOLVED:  That the contents of the report and the audit plan be noted.

 

23/20

Wales Audit Plan 2020 pdf icon PDF 23 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Deryck Evans presented the Audit Wales plan for the year and apologised that this was the draft version; the final version was now available.  He highlighted the key risks, including the McCloud judgement in respect of public sector pension schemes, and hoped the Authority had taken account of that.  He advised that CIPFA had reviewed the complexity of its accounting framework but had felt it not appropriate to make changes.

 

He also advised that the audit fee was unchanged from last year but that there would be additional cost to carrying out work remotely given that accessibility to staff was more challenging at present, but they would be absorbing costs as much as possible.  He outlined how fees were set and made proportionate to the size of the organisation. The audit timetable had been pushed back to late July/early August.

 

Nick Selwyn gave some background to the performance work, including the Resilience Audit (the project brief was included in the agenda pack), which was being done across all public bodies in Wales to show how they were addressing the crisis and recovery work.  The agenda today had highlighted the importance of such an audit.  The Chief Executive confirmed that the Corporate Governance Team had had input into the proposed methodology of the audit.

 

Referring to page 191 of the report a member stressed that the Authority’s reporting and audit system must allow members to assess delivered outcomes against objectives.  Mr Selwyn responded that that page was in reference to the Local Government Measure and that Audit Wales were required to do an audit of the Authority’s compliance with this.  As this did not add value they welcomed the Welsh Government’s intention to repeal this legislation from 1st April 2021.

 

RESOLVED:  That the contents of the report and the audit plan be noted.

 

 

24/20

Audit Wales Resilience Audit 2020 pdf icon PDF 625 KB

To note the project brief for the audit currently being carried out by Audit Wales.  A verbal update will be given at the meeting.

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Minutes:

Members noted the Project Brief for this.

 

25/20

Integrated assurance framework Q4 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 29 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members considered progress on delivery of the Corporate Plan.  The Systems and Performance Manager had added additional columns in response to suggestions from members.

 

There was some discussion about whether information on staffing such as turnover and health would be useful to include, although it was noted that an annual report was brought to members and that this could be a short narrative report rather than data. The Chief Executive advised that a staff survey had been carried out in relation to Covid-19 recovery and another one had been proposed in the near future, the results of which would be reported to the next committee.

 

Comments made earlier in the meeting about different reporting methods were reiterated and would be considered during the development of successor system to Ffynnon.  A comment was also made about the difficulty in reviewing this information on a screen.  The officer advised that he had omitted to resend the report in landscape format as it was missing some columns on screen and committed to sending an update after the meeting.

 

RESOLVED:  That the contents of the report be noted.

 

 

26/20

Risk Register pdf icon PDF 27 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members considered the risk register which now included specific COVID-19 risks.

 

A member queried the risk on built heritage whereas there was no risk included on degradation of biodiversity.  This was noted and would be added.  Another omission was the carbon budget of the Authority and the legal duty to achieve net zero.

 

Asked about the use of dark red as well as red officers advised that this was due to the move to a 5X5 matrix for assessing risk on the advice of the Authority’s health and safety advisors which would give a more nuanced approach in line with good practice for risk assessments.

 

In response to a question the Chief Executive agreed that the risk relating to property assets should be red and that officers were now taking steps to address this area of risk.

 

RESOLVED:  That the contents of the report be noted.

 

 

27/20

Freedom of Information/Complaints/Compliments pdf icon PDF 325 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members received year end and quarter 1 reports, and welcomed the amount of compliments in light of the current situation. The Chief Executive advised that the Senior Leadership were currently reviewing lessons learned about lockdown.

 

Officers advised that the low level of complaints was in no small way due to the efforts of the Corporate Services Officer who worked closely with the public to address concerns without the need to invoke the complaints procedure.

 

A member wondered whether the Authority could do anything to support authorities who were leaving verges uncut to increase biodiversity.

 

RESOLVED:  That the contents of the report be noted.

 

 

28/20

Action Tracking pdf icon PDF 61 KB

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Minutes:

Members queried how the action tracking worked and its relative value to members.  Officers acknowledged this was a matter of corporate discipline and would be discussed further.

 

 

 

29/20

Other Business

Additional documents:

Minutes:

There was no further business. The Chair thanked all for their contributions and thanked Cllr James who had stepped in to chair the meeting for one item when her connection failed.