Agenda and minutes

Corporate Governance and Standards Committee - Thursday, 18th November, 2021 7.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Millmead House, Millmead, Guildford, Surrey GU2 4BB. View directions

Contact: John Armstrong, Democratic Services and Elections Manager  Tel: (01483) 444102


No. Item


Apologies for absence and notification of substitute members

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Local code of conduct - disclosure of interests

In accordance with the local Code of Conduct, a councillor is required to disclose at the meeting any disclosable pecuniary interest (DPI) that they may have in respect of any matter for consideration on this agenda.  Any councillor with a DPI must notparticipate in any discussion or vote regarding that matter and they must also withdraw from the meeting immediately before consideration of the matter.


If that DPI has not been registered, you must notify the Monitoring Officer of the details of the DPI within 28 days of the date of the meeting.


Councillors are further invited to disclose any non-pecuniary interest which may be relevant to any matter on this agenda, in the interests of transparency, and to confirm that it will not affect their objectivity in relation to that matter.


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There were no disclosures of interest.



Minutes pdf icon PDF 164 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting of the Corporate Governance and Standards Committee held on 23 September 2021 (attached).


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The minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 23 September 2021 were approved as a correct record.  The Chairman signed the minutes.



Planning Appeals Monitoring Follow up Report pdf icon PDF 181 KB

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The Committee considered the third monitoring report on planning appeals, which focused on ‘overturn’ appeals data and ‘costs’ data for 2018, compared with 2019, 2020 and (up to November) 2021.


The report had suggested that, in future, the focus should be on appeal decisions covering the previous two calendar years which would allow a greater focus on the analysis of the decisions presented, and attention was drawn to the number of Planning Committee decisions in 2020, which was lower than other years due to the cancellation of several meetings as a result of the national Covid lockdown measures in place.  The overall number of appeal decisions had also been lower in 2021 in part due to the same reasons.


Officers had attached commentary to each year's report which looked at the proportion of appeals allowed in respect of member overturn decisions and overall appeal performance.  The report noted that there was a consistent trend regarding the number of appeals being allowed in respect of Planning Committee decisions being considerably higher than overall appeal decisions. 


The report had also included details of the range of costs associated with defending appeals together with the key risks and financial implications.  The report had recommended that, in future, this monitoring report be presented annually to the Committee as the timing of appeal decisions meant that twice yearly reporting did not present sufficient data to establish a trend or meaningful update.


The Lead Councillor for Development Management commented on the opportunity cost associated with officers working on defending planning appeals which meant that officers could not work on other planning applications.


During the debate, the following points were raised:


·         In response to concerns over the veracity of information provided in the report, the Committee noted that the information contained both the appeal outcomes generally (i.e. the outcome of all planning appeals) and specifically the outcome of appeals in respect of committee overturns.

·         In response to concerns regarding use of the full resources of the Council in respect of appeals against Planning Committee overturns, the Interim Head of Place confirmed that all appeals are robustly defended to the best of officers’ ability, irrespective of the decision-maker.

·         Where an overturn is contemplated by the Planning Committee, discussion as to likely outcome of an appeal should be avoided, or at least discussed using neutral language.

·       The importance of the need for ongoing training for Planning Committee members was again emphasised, particularly with a view to improving the quality of decision making to enable councillors to reach their own conclusions on the planning merits of individual applications.

·       In response to a concern over the number of appeals in respect of the non-determination of planning applications by the Council and a request for a moratorium on acceptance of applications, the Committee noted that the volume of applications that the Planning team was currently working on had almost doubled compared to the levels at the beginning of the pandemic.  This had led to the Council having to use  ...  view the full minutes text for item CGS40


Internal Audit Progress Report (April to October 2021) pdf icon PDF 199 KB

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The Committee considered a report on progress made by the Council’s internal audit manager (KPMG) on their internal audit plan for 2021-22 for the period April to October 2021, which included a summary of the work that they had concluded since the previous report to Committee and what they had planned to do ahead of the next.  The report also provided an executive summary of three internal audit reports which examined Key Learnings from Covid, Safeguarding, and the Future Guildford Programme. 


In relation to Key Learnings from Covid, the Committee noted that this had an Amber/ Green assurance rating (significant assurance with minor improvement opportunities). KPMG had noted good practice around the roll out of IT, the quick establishment of robust governance structures, with key findings and recommendations around formally taking minutes of meetings, regular action tracking, and the review and testing of business continuity plans.


In relation to the Safeguarding report, the Committee was informed that this had received an Amber/Red assurance rating (partial assurance with improvements required), which was below management's forecast.  The Committee’s attention was drawn to the Supplementary Information Sheet which included the agreed management responses to KPMG’s recommendations. KPMG had noted good practice in that the management had started to introduce a safeguarding governance structure and that there were guides in place to support staff in the safeguarding referrals process.  Their findings and recommendations were around clarity over policy review and approval schedules, the content of the policy, the training framework in place and in particular the ownership of monitoring training schedules and monitoring compliance with training and also around maintaining a central log of all safeguarding referrals made.


The third of the Internal Audit reports on the Future Guildford programme had received an Amber/Green assurance rating, which was in line with management's forecast.  KPMG had noted good practice around the regular reporting of progress on the programme to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, regular meetings of the main programme board with consistent agenda items and strong initial consultations with staff.  KPMG’s recommendations for this report related to undertaking a formal ‘lessons learned’ exercise.


KPMG also drew attention to a new element of their progress reports which involved sending satisfaction questionnaires with all of their final reports to the Executive sponsor.  The results of the questionnaires relating to the HRA/Right to Buy receipts and performance monitoring reviews were set out in their report.


In debating this item, the Committee raised the following points:


·       In response to a question as to why the Council’s Safeguarding performance was unsatisfactory, the Committee noted that part of the problem related to identifying the Council’s role given that Surrey County Council was the statutory authority for safeguarding.  It was also noted that where the Council had referred safeguarding cases to Surrey, there had been little feedback on the outcome or any learning points arising.  The Committee felt that the Surrey Safeguarding Board should be requested to establish better communication with partners regarding the outcome of cases referred together with  ...  view the full minutes text for item CGS41


Appointment of external auditors pdf icon PDF 222 KB

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The Committee was reminded that, following the closure of the Audit Commission in 2015, the Council had considered options for the appointment of its external auditors in December 2016 and had agreed to opt-in to the appointing person arrangements made by Public Sector Audit Appointments (PSAA) for the appointment of external auditors from 2018-19 for a period of five years up to and including the audit of the 2022-23 accounts. 


This arrangement would terminate on 31 March 2023.  The Council was now invited to consider arrangements for the re-appointment of its external auditor for a 5-year period from 2023-24. 


PSAA was now undertaking a procurement for the next appointing period, covering audits for 2023-24 to 2027-28. During Autumn 2021, all local government bodies needed to make important decisions about their external audit arrangements from 2023-24. They had options to arrange their own procurement and make the appointment themselves or in conjunction with other bodies, or they could join and take advantage of the national collective scheme administered by PSAA.


The Committee considered a report setting out the proposals for appointing the Council’s external auditor for the five-year period from 2023-24.


Officers considered that the sector-wide procurement conducted by PSAA would produce better outcomes and would be less burdensome for the Council than a procurement undertaken locally because:


  • collective procurement reduced costs for the sector and for individual authorities compared to a multiplicity of smaller local procurements;
  • if it did not use the national appointment arrangements, the Council would need to establish its own auditor panel with an independent chair and independent members to oversee a local auditor procurement and ongoing management of an audit contract;
  • it was the best opportunity to secure the appointment of a qualified, registered auditor - there were only nine accredited local audit firms, and a local procurement would be drawing from the same limited supply of auditor resources as PSAA’s national procurement; and
  • supporting the sector-led body offered the best way of ensuring there was a continuing and sustainable public audit market into the medium and long term.


If the Council wished to take advantage of the national auditor appointment arrangements, it was required under the local audit regulations to make the decision at full Council. The opt-in period started on 22 September 2021 and would close on 11 March 2022.


Having considered the proposals, and the options open to the Council, the Committee


RECOMMEND (to Council on 7 December 2021):


That the Council accepts Public Sector Audit Appointments’ invitation to opt into the sector-led option for the appointment of external auditors to principal local government and police bodies for five financial years from 1 April 2023.



To enable the Council to comply with statutory obligations under Section 7 of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014.



Financial Monitoring 2021-22: Period 6 (April to September 2021) pdf icon PDF 310 KB

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The Committee considered the latest financial monitoring report, which summarised the projected outturn position for the Council’s general fund revenue account, based on actual and accrued data for the period April to September 2021.


Officers were projecting an increase in net expenditure on the general fund revenue account of £1,762,936, which was down from £3m reported at the last meeting after transfers to and from reserves.   This was predominantly due to the review of the interest receivable and payable which had resulted in a net increase in interest receivable.


Covid-19 continued to impact the Council.  The direct expenditure incurred by the Council in the current financial year currently stood at £299,597.  The Council had received a grant of £622,690 to finance direct Covid-19 costs for 2021-22.  


The indirect costs of Covid-19, particularly the loss of income, were reflected in the services forecasting. The Council had made a claim of £1.45 million in respect of some of the lost income for the three months April to June, under the Sales, Fees and Charges (SFC) compensation scheme.  This was currently included within the projection.  Officers were currently projecting a loss of income for the full year of around £4.2 million.  At present the Government did not appear to have any plans to extend the SFC compensation scheme beyond June 2021.The report considered the expenditure and income forecasted up to 30 September 202, which would potentially be subject to movement depending on the success of the Government’s roadmap for lifting all Covid restrictions. 


Whilst a £17 million transfer from reserves had originally been budgeted, this was now expected to be £24 million. The Committee noted that reserves generally were running at dangerously low levels of approximately £5.8 million, whereas officers would normally recommend reserve levels at around £12 million.


There had been a reduction of £178,097 in the statutory Minimum Revenue Provision (MRP) charge to the general fund to make provision for the repayment of past capital debt reflecting a re-profiling of capital schemes. 


A surplus on the Housing Revenue Account would enable a projected transfer of £8.4 million to the new build reserve and meet the forecasted £2.5 million to the reserve for future capital at year-end.  The transfer to the New Build reserve was £7,372 higher than budgeted due to lower total expenditure over income.


Progress against significant capital projects on the approved programme as outlined in section 7 of the report was underway.  The Council expected to spend £60.444 million on its capital schemes by the end of the financial year. 


The Council’s underlying need to borrow to finance the capital programme was expected to be £37.78 million by 31 March 2022, against an estimated position of £94.59 million. The lower underlying need to borrow was a result of slippage on both the approved and provisional capital programme as detailed in paragraphs 7.3 to 7.6 of the report.


The Council held £204 million of investments and £339 million of external borrowing on 30 September, which  ...  view the full minutes text for item CGS43


Work programme pdf icon PDF 98 KB

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The Committee considered its updated 12 month rolling work programme and noted the correction on the Supplementary Information Sheet in respect of the suggested deletion of the Annual Audit Letter 2020-21 item from the 24 March 2022 meeting as this would now be incorporated into the separate item on the Audit Findings Report.


In considering the work programme, and specifically the suggestion made at the last meeting that the Committee receives a presentation on measures being undertaken to address the slippage in the capital programmes, it was suggested that this presentation should take place immediately prior to the Committee meeting in April 2022.


The Committee


RESOLVED: That, subject to the correction on the Supplementary Information Sheet referred to above, the updated 12 month rolling work programme, as set out in Appendix 1 to the report submitted to the Committee, be approved.



To allow the Committee to maintain and update its work programme.