Venue: Virtual - MS Teams
Contact: James Welbourn Democratic and Civic Officer
Public Participation Period
Up to 15 minutes are allowed for public participation. Participants are restricted to 3 minutes each.
A question and statement had been received from a member of the public:
The question is: How can WLDC provide focus and guidance to help engage fellow villagers of Normanby and Owmby to ask for a governance review (in the form of a public petition) when there is so little information currently available for us to act upon?
A governance review that would request for a boundary to be redrawn would enable the merger of the two current parish councils, becoming one council. We believe this would enable effective, respected administration and efficient governance of our community, reflecting the current public spirit and friendship of our villages. We would welcome guidance from the district council to include a factual time frame, with the practical steps the review would follow, with clear guidelines and transparency that can be well understood and interpreted by us all as residents. We also seek assurance that the new reformed boundary will be for administration only and that the villages of Normanby-by-Spital and Owmby-by-Spital are both assured of retaining their individual character and village identity. This request for a review is purely to cohesively administer the governance and day to day running and become one effective ‘parish’ council.
We believe that WLDC are aware that there is an appetite for change in our villages and that this would also futureproof the governance of our community for years to come. Normanby PC as it currently stands, indicates most councillors wish to continue with the same ideology and values as it has administered for decades. What can WLDC do to support not only myself (as a parishioner) but also many other residents who believe the current council do not reflect or act in the best interests of the people they are there to represent?
We seek the guidance of the Governance and Audit committee and are aware the next local government elections will be held in 2023. It would be most desirable to engage with the committee to achieve a governance review for Normanby and Owmby within this timeframe.
On a separate matter: May I ask if the committee are aware of several code of conduct complaints raised between current Normanby councillors, and if this is seen as appropriate behaviour? Whilst there should be procedural recourse for complaints, this appears to illustrate a total inability to function effectively and work cohesively together for the community. It is further evidence of a poorly-run council and the complaints system in place appears to have been utilised inappropriately to a point where it is in danger of losing impact.
We look forward to your guidance and reply.
The response from the Governance and Audit Chairman was as follows:
Thank you for your question, the first we have received at the Governance & Audit Committee in over six years. You will receive a written copy of this response following the meeting.
I will begin with the second matter you raise concerning the number of recent Standards complaints regarding Normanby-by-Spital Parish ... view the full minutes text for item 41.
Held on 13 October 2020.
The minutes of the meeting held on 13 October 2020 were approved as a correct record.
Members Declarations of Interest
Members may make any declarations of interest at this point but may also make them at any point during the meeting.
There were no declarations of interest.
Matters Arising schedule setting out current position of previously agreed actions as at 4 January 2021.
The matter arising was noted.
Members considered an update on the Governance and Audit Committee’s effectiveness action plan.
The Corporate Policy Manager introduced the report, and informed Committee that the Governance and Audit Committee Effectiveness working group had met and reviewed areas for improvement highlighted by a survey carried out by committee members in March 2020. An action plan had been devised, setting out the working group’s intentions.
It was hoped that if proposed, the items in the action plan would be completed by July 2021.
The following points were highlighted:
· Members were keen to continue with pre-meetings before the formal Governance and Audit committee meeting. This had not occurred prior to the October 2020 and January 2021 meetings; however this was due to training taking place before these meetings, and there being no desire for a further pre-meeting;
· Sessions on improving financial literacy had been offered by the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU), and were provisionally pencilled in for February and early March.
The report was moved, seconded, and following a vote it was unanimously RESOLVED to:
(1) Approve the Action Plan;
(2) Be assured that the Action Plan would adequately address the identified areas for improvement;
(3) Request that progress on the Action Plan be reported back to the committee in July 2021.
Members considered a report outlining the strategic risks facing the Authority as at January 2021.
The Corporate Policy and Governance Manager introduced the report, and highlighted the following points:
· ‘Risk Managers’ were asked to score their risks at their current state and determine the desirable level of risk for each topic. This methodology had been agreed by the Governance and Audit Committee in 2020;
· Covid-19 continued to have an impact on Council operations. It had not been reflected as a risk in its own right; rather it had been reflected in each individual risk where applicable;
· Brexit continued to be a risk, although it had not been disproportionately referred to within the report as some of its impacts had now been addressed. Three areas related to Brexit remained as risks:
o Hold ups at ports and the impact on road networks;
o Data handling;
o Procurement related matters.
On this last area, the committee were informed that the Authority’s procurement arrangements were adequate for the immediate future.
Members then asked questions of officers. Further information was highlighted:
· Although there are lots of areas that could potentially be risk factors, not all of them are under the direct influence of West Lindsey District Council;
· The schools educational programme on recycling was due to be completed by November 2022; this would have more traction if schools were more accessible. The Environment and Sustainability Working Group were investigating these issues, and the work would be started as soon as practicably possible;
· It was part of ongoing risk management to keep abreast of local issues related to health and wellbeing and the climate.
As a risk, the climate was similar to Covid-19 as it touched so many of the Authority’s operations. In the future, it could become a risk in its own right; this would avoid it being diluted by being filtered through other risks;
· Although there were initiatives mentioned in the report specific to Gainsborough, it was important not to forget the rest of the District;
· On the issue of housing improvement, the addition of a survey of current disused housing may be appropriate;
· When officers look at risks they look at the impact on the Corporate Plan objectives. It was important for the Authority to keep its guard against disinformation, as it was very much being seen at a local level.
Trusted sources were used to gather information, such as the Census and the State of the District report.
Note: Councillor David Dobbie joined the meeting at 1446.
· There was a difference between strategic, and operational risks. Operational risks were managed at a lower level in the organisation, whereas strategic risks were those faced by the Council as a whole. Should an operational risk escalate in nature then it would be reflected within the strategic risks.
The paper was then moved, seconded, and following a vote it was unanimously RESOLVED to:
(1) Note the report and be satisfied that any additional risks of a strategic nature had been identified by Members;
Members considered a progress report by Assurance Lincolnshire against the 2020/2021 annual programmes agreed by the Governance and Audit Committee in March 2020.
By way of introduction, some updates since the publication of the report were provided to committee members:
· The Homelessness audit report had been finalised and given ‘substantial’ assurance;
· The Strategic Risk audit on the inability to raise local educational attainment and skills was progressing;
· Audits on both the Crematorium and the Waste Depot were at draft stage;
· The Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and IT Helpdesk audits were still at fieldwork stage;
· Some additional work, on the subject of ‘subsidy testing’ had been undertaken by Assurance Lincolnshire, funded from the contingency allowance.
Following questions from committee Members, further information was provided:
· No staff at Assurance Lincolnshire had been furloughed; however the wellbeing of staff would remain a concern whilst government restrictions were in place;
· There were concerns in different parts of the country around auditors being able to provide an audit opinion on work of Councils; this was not a current concern for Assurance Lincolnshire;
· It had been a challenging year in terms of delivering on the Internal Audit Plan. Plans were constantly being reset and reviewed, which could lead to changes in scheduling. However, in terms of having enough staff to provide an opinion, there were no current concerns for Assurance Lincolnshire;
· Disasters and Crisis response had been raised as a new risk for 2021;
· The ‘Wellbeing Lincolnshire’ audit was due to be a broad brush review as East Lindsey and North Kesteven District Councils were also involved. This had not been scoped as yet, but the concerns on local vulnerable residents raised by a Member would be taken into account.
The report was then moved and seconded, and following a vote it was unanimously RESOLVED to agree that the content of the report had been considered and any actions required had been raised.
Members considered a report on the Treasury Management Strategy, Prudential Indicators, Minimum Revenue Provision (MRP) Policy and Capital Investment Strategy to facilitate effective financial management and planning.
The Treasury Management Strategy incorporated the requirements of the latest guidance from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) and the Ministry of Communities, Housing and Local Authorities (MCHLG).
The Treasury Management Strategy brought together the:
· borrowing strategy, which would ensure consideration was given to affordability and sustainability for the repayment of debt;
· The Annual Investment Strategy which was to make sure of providing security of the investment, liquidity and cashflow requirements, and finally yield, all are considered in the context of the Council’s risk appetite;
· The MRP policy page which determined how the Authority would repay prudential borrowing;
· The Committee are also requested to consider the Capital Investment Strategy, which was the framework by which capital investment and financing decisions would be made.
Draft prudential and treasury indicatorswere calculated in November and would therefore be updated based on the final Capital Programme and Medium Term Financial Analysis for the final version of the Treasury Management Strategy.
There are 2 changes of note to investments in commercial property, or ‘non-treasury investments:
1. In relation to the investment property portfolio, recent changes to the conditions for borrowing from the Public Works Loans Board (PWLB) now excluded being able to borrow for commercial purposes with the primary objective of securing a yield. This meant that any future acquisitions, subject to legal advice would need to be funded from the Authority’s resources. At this time it was unclear whether borrowing was allowed for replacement assets and therefore, this element of the strategy would be updated.
2. In respect of the Minimum Revenue Provision the Authority’s policy has been amended in relation to the Investment Property Portfolio, and a voluntary minimum revision would be considered on a case by case basis. This would allow any “overpayments” i.e. if the asset sale receipt was in excess of the borrowing outstanding those funds could be “withdrawn” to the General Fund.
This change had been discussed with the Authority’s External Auditors, Mazars, who had previously highlighted within their report received by this Committee in September 2020 a conclusion that the MRP policy be reviewed regularly to ensure that it was justified in relation to MCHLG guidance. The Council needed to ensure it acted reasonably, that members understand the policy and that any judgements are prudent and that any investments are proportionate.
There had been Treasury Management training open to all Members of the Council held on 7 January.
Following this introduction there were questions and statements from Members of the committee. Further information was provided:
· The topic of ethical investing would be explored more and developed in the next year. In terms of acquiring bonds on climate change, the investment value was higher than the funds available;
· There were £32 million of funds available to be utilised, which included £20 million of borrowing from the PWLB;
· The ... view the full minutes text for item 48.
The workplan was noted.
Exclusion of Public and Press
To resolve that under Section 100 (A)(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the public and press be excluded from the meeting for the following item of business on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraph 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act.
RESOLVED that under Section 100 (A)(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the public and press be excluded from the meeting for the following item of business on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraph 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act.
Treasury Management Practices
Members scrutinised a report providing the updated Treasury Management Practices and schedules.
The Treasury function was carried out in line with the Treasury Management Code of Practice and the Prudential Code.
The 12 treasury management practices set out how Treasury Management was managed within the Finance Team. Whilst these schedules were reviewed annually there had been a number of changes detailed at 2 in the report.
Within the Internal Audit Quarter 3 report seen previously, the Treasury Management Function had received high assurance for procedures and risk management.
Following questions from Members, further information was provided:
· It was very rare for the Authority to take out long-term investments, other than the CCLA Property Fund;
· The protection on the Authority’s bank accounts was the same as for any individual, as it was compensated up to £85,000 under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme;
· It was important to look at lender ratings when borrowing; the Authority had not borrowed from overseas for a long period of time;
· The Authority’s counterparty list was managed by an external company, and any changes were reported to the Finance Team on a daily basis There were limits on how West Lindsey District Council could invest with a counterparty;
· There were no significant changes within the proposed set of practices; however, two minor changes were:
o Changes to the Minimum Revenue Provision (MRP) Policy;
o A new Treasury Management system called TM Live had been implemented over the last year. This logged the borrowing and interest of the Authority;
· MIFID 2 was a legislative framework instituted by the European Union to regulate financial markets within the bloc and improve protections for investors. It has meant that if trading in money market funds you would need specific training. The practice had been updated to make sure West Lindsey District Council (WLDC) officers were compliant.
An additional recommendation had previously been suggested by the Chairman, “to recommend to Corporate Policy and Resources Committee the Treasury Management Practices”. This, and the two printed recommendations were moved and seconded en bloc, and following a vote, it was unanimously RESOLVED to:
(1) Be assured of the operational purpose of the updated Treasury Management Practices in effective Treasury management, and be satisfied that the updated practices have been scrutinised;
(2) approve the scrutiny of Treasury Management Practices at least every 3 years, and in any event when a significant update is required due to changes in legislation or the Prudential Code.