Venue: Conference Room 1 - The Forum. View directions
Contact: Corporate and Democratic Support 01442 228209
Apologies for absence
To receive any apologies for absence.
Apologies were noted from Cllrs Reynolds and S Hobson, who were replaced by Cllrs Stevens and Freedman.
Declarations of Interest
To receive any declarations of interest.
A member with a disclosable pecuniary interest or a personal interest in a matter who attends a meeting of the authority at which the matter is considered -
(i) must disclose the interest at the start of the meeting or when the interest becomes apparent
and, if the interest is a disclosable pecuniary interest, or a personal interest which is also prejudicial
(ii) may not participate in any discussion or vote on the matter (and must withdraw to the public seating area) unless they have been granted a dispensation.
A member who discloses at a meeting a disclosable pecuniary interest which is not registered in the Members’ Register of Interests, or is not the subject of a pending notification, must notify the Monitoring Officer of the interest within 28 days of the disclosure.
Disclosable pecuniary interests, personal and prejudicial interests are defined in Part 2 of the Code of Conduct For Members
[If a member is in any doubt as to whether they have an interest which should be declared they should seek the advice of the Monitoring Officer before the start of the meeting]
There were no declarations of interest.
To confirm the minutes of the previous meeting and consider the actions.
Cllr Birnie referred to page 5, paragraph 4, noting that they were supposed to be discussing an external appointee at this meeting though this was not on the agenda. The Chair queried where the revised terms of reference as discussed in the minutes were and whether the suggestion that an independent member join the Committee had been actioned.
F Jump confirmed that the terms of reference were brought to the Committee in March and suggested that this be brought to the July meeting when they have a full complement of Audit Committee members so this can be discussed as part of a wider piece on training and responsibilities.
F Jump suggested that the proposal on independent appointees be brought to the July meeting for further discussion.
Cllr Douris asked if the individual Committee should update and approve its own terms of reference or if this has to be formally agreed at full Council. F Jump confirmed that they would need to be formally approved by full Council though they should be agreed by the Committee first.
N Howcutt advised that at the July meeting they would look further at the Committee's roles and responsibilities, noting that the Audit Committee is accountable to Council and can make recommendations to Council.
The minutes of the previous meeting were formally approved, though it was noted that no councillors were present at the previous meeting.
An opportunity for members of the public to make statements and ask questions in accordance with the rules as to Public Participation.
There was no public participation.
Cllr Elliot noted the robustness of financial controls and that it is a tribute to officers involved. Cllr Elliot also noted the financial sustainability of the Council.
The Chair supported the comments made by Cllr Elliot and commended the report.
Cllr Douris referred to the suggested recommendations within the report and queried why they were just suggestions. P Lazenby advised that this refers to the SICA, the progress report, which wasn't being presented at this meeting. P Lazenby confirmed that the suggested recommendations could be transferred to 'must'. Cllr Douris advised that 'should' would be more appropriate as this would encapsulate the suggested recommendation concept. P Lazenby confirmed that this update could be made if preferred by the Committee.
P Lazenby presented the internal annual audit report, noting that this covers audits that have taken place over the last 12 months and summarise recommendations, observations and concerns as well as attribute an overall opinion in terms of satisfaction for the internal controls presented. The observations are in respect of the areas that auditors have been asked to look at, which will be discussed in more detail at the next meeting, and the Committee should raise areas of concern in respect of key risks that the organisation faces as these are the areas that an opinion can be provided on.
P Lazenby noted a reasonable level of assurance for the controls they were asked to review, as detailed on page 1 of the report, with only one report showing limited assurance. 17 audits were provided, 16 of which had a level of assurance attributed, and when benchmarked against other organisations, DBC is comfortably in the reasonable level. On corporate health and safety receiving limited assurance, P Lazenby advised that this was a known area of business.
Cllr Elliot queried what 'discreet projects' refer to as mentioned in Annex C. P Lazenby advised that this is where there is a level of hypothecation with money set aside and can't be used for other areas.
Cllr Freedman commented on the approach to the internal audit function and suggested that the approach taken last year would be the same as previous years with a focus on the council's consistency of operations. Cllr Freedman stated that they have not exploited the value added function that internal audit should bring with more pronounced changes or threats that are being considered, such as the number of senior staff positions that have changed in recent years. Cllr Freedman suggested that the internal audit process should come along with other strategic discussions to ensure this input is being given whilst these are being considered.
P Lazenby advised that TIAA is not a consultancy firm that has been engaged and an are an audit organisation, and whilst they can provide added value, their time is primarily to support the overall level of assurance provided and changing this would need to be supported by the organisation with a clearly agreed scope.
N Howcutt explained that the Committee approves the annual audit ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
Item deferred to the next meeting due to the late arrival of papers.
P Cuttle presented the update, noting that external auditors provide outputs in the year on financial statements and the auditor's annual report, which covers the responsibility to provide commentary around value for money arrangements. Statutory recommendations tend to be more serious and these can be issued at any time. The report largely focuses on any key recommendations where significant weaknesses are identified or any improvements are raised.
P Cuttle confirmed that no statutory recommendations were raised for the year and no key recommendations were identified. The document is for information and provides the Committee with assurances on messages that should be received through other forums and sources. Areas highlighted are around financial sustainability and that DBC is well placed despite the challenging environment with a good level of reserves and saving plans are lower than some other councils. The Council are urged to not be complacent regarding its financial position.
P Cuttle advised that none of the 3 recommendations were significant and that not acting upon the first 2 recommendations would not impact the Council's ability to deliver its services. On the third recommendation regarding procurement, this should be implemented to help with transformation and savings programmes that the Council is looking to deliver.
The Chair stated that it would be beneficial for the agenda to state if documents are for information or approval.
Cllr Douris commented on councils that have had financial issues and noted that these were due to a failure of the Audit Committee to challenge what has been presented by officers. Cllr Douris noted that they are receiving the validation of the work completed by officers over the years and that the action is therefore to be aware of what is said in the report. On the internal audit, Cllr Douris suggested that if a manager objected to a recommendation to the report then they would be summoned to the Committee to explain this further.
Cllr Birnie advised that the audit is historic and can't look forward to what the new administration may look to do. P Cuttle commented that there is a degree of forward-looking work in terms of financial statements.
N Howcutt explained that all internal reports come with a recommendation on what the Committee will do and this can also be included on external reports. N Howcutt noted that most reports that come to the Committee are for review, scrutiny and challenge to gain assurance. On looking ahead, N Howcutt noted that auditing is carried out on an annual basis and part of the audit is to review the medium-term financial strategy, which is the sustainable strategy for the next 3-5 years, and the auditors have assessed whether this is robust, and the governance structure in place should provide assurance that decisions are in the right governance framework.
Cllr Stevens commented that he would hope N Howcutt, as the Section 151 officer, would be able to raise if he was not comfortable signing off a report. N Howcutt confirmed that all reports that ... view the full minutes text for item 7.