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Agenda and minutes

Venue: Committee Rooms A and B, Civic Offices, Elstree Way, Borehamwood

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Items
No. Item

347.

Membership

To receive details of any changes in membership of the Committee notified since the agenda was printed.

Minutes:

No change of membership had been made since the publication of the agenda.

 

The Chairman welcomed Councillor Gilligan to her first meeting as a member of this Committee.

 

348.

Communications and Apologies

(a)            Communications (if any) relating to business on the agenda.

 

(b)            Apologies for absence.

Minutes:

The Chairman reported that he intended to take agenda item 8 immediately after item 4. It was reported that an apology for absence had been received from Councillor Worster.

 

349.

Declarations of Interest

Members must clearly state the nature of the interest, and indicate whether it is Personal or Personal and Prejudicial.  The responsibility for declaring an interest rests solely with the Member concerned.

 

Personal interests: A personal interest arises in relation to any matter which might reasonably be regarded as affecting, to a greater extent than other Council Tax payers, ratepayers or inhabitants of the authority’s area, the well‑being or financial position of the Member or of a relevant person.

 

Where that interest arises solely from membership of, or position of control or management on a body to which the Member has been appointed or nominated by the Council or another body exercising functions of a public nature then, provided they do not also have a prejudicial interest, Members need only declare a personal interest at a meeting when they address the meeting on that business.

 

Personal and Prejudicial interests: A Member has a personal and prejudicial interest in a matter if the interest is one which a member of the public with knowledge of the relevant facts would reasonably regard as so significant that it is likely to prejudice the Member’s judgement of the public interest.  In these cases the Member concerned must declare the interest and withdraw from the meeting room while the matter is being considered.  Members with such interests may, however, attend the meeting for the purpose of making representations, answering questions or giving evidence relating to the business where the public have a similar right.

 

Further details and full definitions of personal and prejudicial interests are set out in the Councillors’ Code of Conduct (Section 5.1 of the Constitution).

Minutes:

No Member had an interest to declare in relation to the items of business on the agenda.

 

350.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 63 KB

To confirm and sign the minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 27 September 2011.

 

In accordance with the Constitution, no discussion shall take place upon the minutes, except upon their accuracy.

 

Minutes:

RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting held on 27 September 2011 be approved and signed as a correct record.

 

351.

External Auditors' Planning Services Review pdf icon PDF 224 KB

This report provides the conclusions of a review by the Council’s External Auditors’ of the Council’s arrangements to process planning applications.

 

Minutes:

Grant Thornton, the Council’s external auditors, had in 2009/10 completed a review of the arrangements in place at Hertsmere to process planning applications. This had identified weaknesses and inefficiencies in the process and a number of actions were recommended to improve the service. The external auditors had now undertaken a further review to assess progress in addressing the issues raised.

 

The auditors found that the Council had been slow to address a number of issues, particularly with the IT system. There was evidence that due to inefficiencies and poor working practices, the service was not maximising the value for money the Council could achieve and there was considerable scope for improvement.

 

The Chairman suggested that officers prepare a bid for capital investment in the service and submit it urgently to the Executive. It was acknowledged that officers may not be able to finalise the detail of the bid but it was important that provision was made to meet likely costs. The Chairman also proposed that this report be referred to the Overview and Performance Committee for a review of the policy implications of this situation and for discussion of the impact of the Locality Act on the planning service.

 

Councillor Graham pointed out that the response of management had been limited and proposed that an action plan be prepared to allow the Executive to monitor progress in remedying the matters highlighted in the external reports.

 

During debate it was noted that the Planning Service had undertaken work on the future pricing regime for its services. The Committee asked that a copy of this report be sent to Grant Thornton for their information.

 

RESOLVED that

 

(1)       the content of the Grant Thornton report be noted,

 

(2)       the Director of Environment prepare a bid for submission to the Executive, seeking financial support for the development of the Planning Services’ IT system, and

 

(3)       the Grant Thornton Planning Services Review 2010/11 report be referred to the Overview and Performance Committee for review of the policy implications and discussion of the impact of the Locality Act on the planning service.

 

352.

External Auditors' Annual Audit Letter 2010/2011 pdf icon PDF 191 KB

This report summarises the key issues that have arisen from work carried out by the Council’s External Auditors’ during 2010/11.

 

Minutes:

Mr P Westerman of Grant Thornton, the Council’s external auditors, introduced the Annual Audit Letter 2010/11. The letter summarised the key issues that had arisen from the work the external auditors had carried out for Hertsmere. The Committee noted the opinion of the external auditors that the Council’s 2010/11 accounts gave a true and fair view of the Council’s financial affairs and of the income and expenditure recorded by the Council. The external auditors had also recorded that the Council had made proper arrangements to secure economy, efficiency and effectiveness in its use of resources for the year ending 31 March 2011.

 

RESOLVED that the Annual Audit Letter for 2010/11 from Grant Thornton, the Council’s external auditors, be noted.

 

353.

External Auditors' Financial Resilience Review pdf icon PDF 685 KB

This report provides the Value for Money conclusion reached by the Council’s External Auditors after they have determined if the Council had in place the proper arrangements to secure financial resilience.

  

Minutes:

Mr P Westerman from the Council’s external auditors, Grant Thornton, introduced a report reviewing the Council’s arrangements for securing financial resilience. The Committee noted that the Auditor had found no cause for concern in respect of Strategic Financial Planning, Financial Governance and Financial Control. In the only other area, Key Indicators of Performance, the auditor had identified some potential risk and weaknesses.

 

In respect of the sickness rate amongst staff, the Auditor had noted that it had reduced. However the reduction had not achieved the target set by the Council and the Director of Resources said further action would be taken to bring about further improvement. The Auditor had also drawn attention to the number of posts being held vacant by the Council. Here the Auditor had commented on the ability of the Council to maintain resilience in the services it provides.

 

The Committee noted that this report provided substantial reassurance on the level of financial resilience enjoyed by Hertsmere.

 

RESOLVED that the information contained in the report of Grant Thornton be noted.

 

354.

External Auditors' Audit Plan 2011/12 pdf icon PDF 853 KB

This report sets out the Audit Plan of the Council’s External Auditors’ for 2011/12. It details the work that will be carried out to discharge the responsibility to give an opinion on the Council’s financial statements and a conclusion on the Council’s arrangements for achieving value for money.

 

Minutes:

Mr P Westerman from the Council’s external auditors Grant Thornton introduced the 2011/12 Audit Plan. It set out the work that the Auditor will carry out in meeting their responsibilities to give an opinion on the Council’s financial statements and a conclusion on the Council’s arrangements for achieving value for money. Mr Westerman pointed out the  2011/12 audit fee was less than the previous year and that additional assurance work on VAT and PAYE would be undertaken free of charge.

 

The Committee noted that the external auditors would look at the effectiveness of the Shared Internal Audit Service but suggested that it was a little early to commence a review of this new service in the near future.

 

The Plan stated that the Council would have to declare heritage assets as a separate category for the first time in the 2011/12 accounts. The Chairman asked that this aspect of this report be drawn to the attention of the Asset Management Panel.

 

RESOLVED that the information contained in the Grant Thornton report on the Audit Plan 2011/12, be noted.

 

355.

External Auditors' Certification report pdf icon PDF 265 KB

Various grant paying bodies require external certification of claims for grant or subsidy and returns of financial information. This report details the conclusions of the Council’s External Auditors’ on certification work, acting on behalf of the Audit Commission.

 

Minutes:

Various grant-paying bodies require external certification of claims for grant or subsidy and returns of financial information. Grant Thornton, as the Council’s external auditors, undertook certification work at Hertsmere as an agent of the Audit Commission. Mr P Westerman reported that for the 2010/11 financial year Grant Thornton had certified three claims which amounted to £78,004,184.

 

While two of the three claims had been qualified, Mr Westerman made clear that the External Auditors had no real concerns about the Council’s performance.

 

RESOLVED that the information contained in the Certification Work Report 2010/11 from Grant Thornton, the Council’s external auditor, be noted.

 

356.

SIAS Internal Audit Progress report pdf icon PDF 151 KB

Report A/12/03 provides information on the delivery of the Audit Plan and Key Findings: proposed amendments to the Audit Plan; high priority recommendations and performance management.

 

Minutes:

The Audit Manager reported on progress made by the Shared Internal Audit Services (SIAS) in delivering the Council’s Internal Audit Plan, along with proposed amendments to the Plan. He also informed the Committee on the implementation status of previously agreed audit recommendations and on an update on performance management information.

 

The Committee noted that, taking a pessimistic perspective, the Audit Manager estimated that at least 85% of the Audit Plan would be delivered by 31 March 2012. He also drew attention to proposed amendments to the Audit Plan. In answer to a question the Audit Manager said that SIAS would use the services of Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) for some audit work in areas where PWC they had particular expertise. The SIAS had not recruited to their staffing capacity and the arrangement with PWC would see them through their first year. In future they would be less reliant on PWC.  

 

RESOLVED that

 

(1)       the information contained in the report of the Shared Internal Audit Services be noted, and

 

(2)       the proposed changes to the Audit Plan, detailed in paragraph 2.3 of report A/12/03, be approved.

 

357.

Implementation of External Auditors' Recommendations - officers update report. pdf icon PDF 68 KB

Report A/12/02 provides the Committee with an update on progress made with the implementation of agreed recommendations in reports from the Council’s External Auditors’.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Head of Finance provided the Committee with progress made with the implementation of agreed recommendations contained in reports produced by the Council’s external auditors.

 

The Committee noted that the Council had now identified a product that would help in the management of fixed assets. In the meantime it was noted that the Excel spread-sheet arrangements had proved adequate. The meeting noted that implementation of the recommendations arising from the 2010 Annual Governance Report was underway.

 

RESOLVED that the information contained in the report of the Head of Finance (A/12/02) be noted.

  

358.

Anti-Fraud report pdf icon PDF 63 KB

This report provides Members with information on the progress with anti-fraud work.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Head of Finance reported with a summary of the Anti-Fraud Team’s performance in the period April 2011 to December 2012. The departure of the Anti-Fraud Manager in July 2011 had resulted in a slight backlog of cases, particularly with the Housing Benefit Matching Service. To clear the backlog a temporary fraud investigator has been engaged.

 

RESOLVED that the information contained in the report of the Head of Finance (Report A/12/08) be noted.

 

359.

Risk Management update

This will be an oral report on risk management.

 

Minutes:

The Director of Resources reported that a report on risk management would be submitted to the next meeting of this Committee. The Committee noted that risk management was now carried out by line managers and it was requested that the report cover the implications of this change and whether or not managers were responding in a consistent manner.

 

RESOLVED that it be noted that the Director of Resources would report on Risk Management to the next meeting of this Committee.

 

360.

Date of Next Meeting

The next meeting of the Committee is scheduled to take place on 10 April 2012 at 7.30pm in the Civic Offices, Elstree Way, Borehamwood.

 

 

Minutes:

Noted that the next meeting of this Committee would be held on Tuesday, 10 April 2012 and would be preceded by internal audit training.