Agenda and minutes

Standards and Audit Committee
Thursday, 17th September, 2020 7.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Civic Offices, Gloucester Square, Woking, Surrey GU21 6YL

Contact: Doug Davern  on 01483 743018 or email  doug.davern@woking.gov.uk

Webcast: View the webcast

Items
No. Item

1.

Minutes

To approve the minutes of the meeting of the Standards and Audit Committee held on 23 July 2020 as published.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

RESOLVED

 

That the minutes of the Committee held on 23 July 2020 be approved and signed as a true and correct record.

2.

Apologies for Absence

To receive any apologies for absence.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

None.

3.

Declarations of Interest pdf icon PDF 25 KB

(i)         To receive declarations of interest from Members and Officers in respect of any item to be considered at the meeting.

(ii)        In accordance with the Officer Employment Procedure Rules, the Director of Legal and Democratic Services, Peter Bryant, declares a disclosable personal interest (non-pecuniary) interest in any items concerning the companies of which he is a Council-appointed director.  The companies are listed in the attached schedule.  The interests are such that Mr Bryant may advise the Committee on those items.

(iii)      In accordance with the Officer Employment Procedure Rules, the Director of Finance, Leigh Clarke, declares a disclosable personal interest (non-pecuniary) interest in any items concerning the companies of which she is a Council-appointed director.  The companies are listed in the attached schedule.  The interests are such that Mrs Clarke may advise the Committee on those items.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

In accordance with the Members’ Code of Conduct, Councillor I Johnson declared a non-pecuniary interest in agenda item no. 5, Protocols for Confidentiality and Officer Conflict of Interests, arising from his wife’s position as the Chairman of Woking Football Club. The interest was such that speaking and voting were permissible.

In accordance with the Officer Procedure Rules, the Director of Legal and Democratic Services, Peter Bryant, declared a disclosable personal interest (non-pecuniary) in any items concerning the companies of which he was a Council-appointed Director. The interest was such that speaking was permissible.

In accordance with the Officer Procedure Rules, the Director Legal and Democratic Services, Peter Bryant, declared a disclosable personal interest (non-pecuniary) in agenda item no. 5, Protocols for Confidentiality and Officer Conflict of Interests, arising from his position as a Council appointed Director of Kingfield Community Sports Centre Ltd, being a member of the Cards Trust; and on occasion providing advice and assistance to Woking Football Club on an unpaid basis. The interest was such that speaking was permissible.

In accordance with the Officer Procedure Rules, the Finance Director, Leigh Clarke, declared a disclosable personal interest (non-pecuniary) in any items concerning the companies of which she was a Council-appointed Director.  The interest was such that speaking was permissible.

In accordance with the Officer Procedure Rules, the Finance Director, Leigh Clarke, declared a disclosable personal interest (pecuniary) in agenda item no. 5, Protocols for Confidentiality and Officer Conflict of Interests, arising from her husband holding a small shareholding in Woking Football Club. The interest was such that speaking was permissible.

4.

Urgent Business

To consider any business that the Chairman rules may be dealt with under Section 100B(4) of the Local Government Act 1972.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

There were no items of Urgent Business.

5.

Protocols for Confidentiality and Officer Conflict of Interests STA20-012 pdf icon PDF 68 KB

Reporting Person - Peter Bryant

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Peter Bryant, Director of Legal and Democratic Services, introduced the report and stated that at its meeting on 30 July 2020, the Council had considered a report on the recommendations from the Overview and Scrutiny Committee in respect of the Woking Football Club and Associated Developments Task Group report.  It had been agreed that draft Protocols on Confidentiality and Officer Conflict of Interests would be received by the Standards and Audit Committee, and for the Committee to make recommendations back to full Council.  The Committee received a report with the two draft Protocols attached as appendices.

 

The Committee was advised that the draft Confidentiality Protocol would deal with the rare occasions where the Council was involved in a transaction which would require confidentiality, in order to protect the interests of the Council and / or the party the Council was dealing with.  The Protocol referred to Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) entered into with the Council, confidentiality clauses within contracts, and situations where Council and Committees discussed matters under Part II.  Provisions were made for the Council to undertake business on a confidential basis whilst making clear that the level of confidentiality should be kept at the minimum required to enable the business to take place, with a significant increase in Member oversight available through a new Register alongside restrictions on the process for drawing up new NDAs.

 

The Chairman noted that Reviews for each NDA would take place on the twelve month anniversary of each agreement.  In addition, whilst the previous report to Council stated that contractual confidentiality clauses would be drawn up alongside standard timescales for each clause, it was stated that this would be carried out either at the time of the next contract being entered into, with the resulting contract being received by the Council or Executive, or a separate report being received by the Executive if no contract was being entered into in the near future.

 

The Protocol contained an Annual Review and it was agreed that it should also constitute a review of the Protocol itself as well as the confidentiality provisions agreed by Officers under NDAs or by Council or Executive.  A new paragraph 5.0 of the Protocol would be added accordingly, headed ‘Review of Protocol’. 

 

The Committee received the Officer Conflicts of Interest Protocol which drew together the existing controls on Officers’ conflicts of interest. These were stated to be contained in the Local Government Act 1972, Officer Employment Rules and the Code of Conduct for Employees Policy. 

 

Regarding the issue of public perception, Peter Bryant stated that an Officer conflict of interest would arise if so deemed by a reasonable person in full knowledge of the facts, and that an Officer should only carry out tasks which were fully justifiable to the public.  It was noted that the report made provision for the Monitoring Officer to carry out a general review of the actions undertaken by officers, and agreed that further provision be made for the Deputy Monitoring Officer to undertake a general  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Internal Audit Progress Report STA20-013 pdf icon PDF 102 KB

Reporting Persons – Graeme Clarke and Juan Fosco, Internal Audit

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Juan Fosco, Assistant Manager of Internal Audit, introduced the report on the internal audit performance and activity from 23 July to 04 September 2020. 

The Internal Audit plan agreed by the Committee in March had been revisited in consultation with the Council’s Corporate Management Group due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  An additional review was added related to the Council’s performance during the pandemic with regard to lessons learnt during the period.  Due to the increased pressures and workloads it had been felt that a number of Audits could be deferred to begin in July 2020.  Accordingly around 20% of the Plan had been started by 1 September, with all Quarter 2 reports expected to be completed by the end of October.  The support received by the teams within the Council was noted to have been very positive and had enabled the delivery of the plan to be progressed.

A total of three final and two draft Internal Audit reports had been issued during the period, two of which received a limited assurance opinion, with seven high priority recommendations raised.  The summary reports were available through the Members’ Ipads.  The new action management system had been populated with 2018/19 and 2019/20 recommendations and was being updated as new reports were published.  An extract would be included in future Internal Audit progress reports.  There remained two outstanding high priority recommendations which related to counter fraud, with a Risk Assessment and Counter Fraud Strategy to be developed which would assist going forward.

Leigh Clarke, Finance Director, stated that CMG had revisited the management responses to the Off-Payroll Engagement report and agreed that some of the responsibilities given to Managers would be reviewed.

In relation to the Audit of Managing Agents (Health and Safety), the Chairman suggested that an update should be given in Quarter 4 of 2020 due to the responses to the audit recommendations requiring recruitment to a staff post.  Given the importance of Health and Safety, CMG would receive a further report towards the end of this year which would also be received by the Committee at its meeting in March 2021.  In addition, Managing Agents compliance should form part of the Annual Health and Safety Report received by the Committee each July.

Regarding the level of Health and Safety staff mandatory training courses being completed by staff, the Committee was advised that the number of courses had reduced and each member of CMG would deal with any remaining issues in their areas, with the aim of most being completed by the end of this calendar year.  CMG would review the situation at one of its weekly meetings in November. 

At the last meeting it had also been noted that a number of Risk Assessments had not been filed in the correct area on Sharepoint.  The matter had been referred to CMG and each member was ensuring that Assessments within their area had been filed correctly.  The latest update was that Building Services and Parking Services had moved their  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Members' Code of Conduct STA20-010 pdf icon PDF 57 KB

Reporting Person – Peter Bryant

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee received the report which stated that five complaints had been submitted under the Members’ Code of Conduct over the past year.  Four of the complaints had not merited formal investigation with one complaint to be determined.

 

A discussion was held on the obligations of Members to respond to correspondence from members of the public in a timely manner and noted that there were some instances, for example when a large number were received regarding a planning application that it would not be possible to reply to all.  If a complaint was received from a member of the public regarding a Councillor, it was assessed against the Members’ Code of Conduct.  Political Groups would be able to introduce additional controls if the Members of that Group felt it appropriate.

 

RESOLVED

 

That the report detailing the complaints, submitted under the Members’ Code of Conduct, received by the Monitoring Officer between 1 August 2019 and 31 July 2020 be noted.

8.

Ombudsmen Complaints STA20-011 pdf icon PDF 60 KB

Reporting Person - Peter Bryant

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee received a report which set out details of recent complaints to the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman and the Housing Ombudsman.  During the year ended 31 March 2020, the Council had been the subject of three detailed investigations, none of which were upheld by the Ombudsman.  In addition, during the year ended 31 August 2020, two complaints had been received by the Housing Ombudsman and the outcome from both was to be determined.

 

RESOLVED

 

That the position regarding complaints to the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman and the Housing Ombudsman be noted.

9.

Appointment of Substitutes to Standards Hearings Sub-Committee STA20-014 pdf icon PDF 51 KB

Reporting Person – Peter Bryant

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee received a report which sought the appointment of Substitutes to the Standards Hearings Sub-Committee.  Following consultation with Group Leaders, it had been stated that Councillor Boote would act as the Substitute for Councillor Bond; Councillor Lyons would act for Councillor Johnson; and Councillor Hussain would be the Substitute for both Councillors Elson and Whitehand.

 

It was formally proposed and seconded that the Members be appointed as Substitutes to the Sub-Committee and it was accordingly,

 

RESOLVED

 

That Councillors Boote, Lyons and Hussain be appointed as Substitutes to the Standards Hearings Sub-Committee for the remainder of the 2021/22 Municipal Year.