Contact: John Armstrong, Democratic Services and Elections Manager Tel: (01483) 444102
Apologies for absence and notification of substitute members
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Nigel Manning and John Redpath, and from Maria Angel MBE, Murray Litvak, and Tim Wolfenden.
Councillor Ruth Brothwell substituted for Councillor John Redpath.
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.
There were no disclosures of interest.
To confirm the minutes of the meeting of the Corporate Governance and Standards Committee held on 20 January 2022.
The minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 20 January 2022 were approved as a correct record. The Chairman signed the minutes.
Internal Audit progress report (including the Head of Internal Audit Opinion 2021-22 and Internal Audit Plan 2022-23) PDF 201 KB
The Committee considered a report on progress made by the Council’s internal audit manager (KPMG) on their internal audit plan for 2021-22, which included a summary of the work that they had concluded since the previous report to Committee, together with details of the final three internal audit reports for 2021-22 as follows:
· Follow-up reviews from all five amber/red rated reports made in 2020-21.
· CIPFA financial management compliance (assessed as amber/green)
· Effectiveness of this Committee as an audit committee (assessed as amber/green)
In relation to the follow-up reviews, KPMG reported that 13 of their recommendations had not yet been fully implemented, and management had proposed revised due dates for all 13 of those management actions, which would be followed by KPMG during 2022-23.
Following completion of all the programmed activities in the internal audit plan for 2021-22, KPMG had also produced their Head of Internal Audit Opinion for 2021-22, for which partial assurance had been given based on the activities of the year and which reflected the ongoing challenging environment against which the Council was operating. Whilst KPMG had identified good examples of strong controls during the year, COVID and accommodation of the Business World implementation were still presenting issues that were impacting on the overall system of internal control.
KPMG had also presented their proposed Internal Audit Plan for 2022-23 for the Committee’s approval.
In debating this item, the Committee raised the following points:
· In response to a concern regarding the need for a flexible approach to the audit plan for 2022-23, bearing in mind the structural changes that the Council was going through and the financial consequences of those changes, KPMG confirmed that the audit plan would be kept under review on a quarterly basis to ensure that forthcoming audit reviews were relevant. Any proposed changes to the plan would be referred to the Committee for approval.
· In relation to the overdue recommendation on timely completion of bank reconciliations and in response to a request for further information regarding the issues with Business World, the Director of Resources confirmed that the automated bank reconciliation module had been implemented in July 2021, implementation of Income Manager had commenced, with other modules scheduled for implementation in the near future. Bank reconciliations were being brought up to date and were currently two months behind with that work.
· A request for an interim report from management on progress with implementation of audit recommendations, particularly in relation to the audit review on Safeguarding which had been reported to the Committee in November 2021.
· It was noted that KPMG’s review of the effectiveness of the Committee had concluded with a significant assurance with minor improvements required. In terms of taking the recommendations forward, it was proposed that, in addition to the formal minutes, a decision and action tracker would be included on every Committee agenda in future.
· In response to a request for guidance on reporting annually to the Council on the work and effectiveness of the Committee, KPMG advised that Committee ... view the full minutes text for item CGS58
Gender Pay Gap Report 2022 PDF 210 KB
The Committee was informed that the Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017 imposed obligations on employers with 250 or more employees to publish information annually relating to the gender pay gap in their organisation. In particular, employers were required to publish, amongst other information, the difference between the average hourly rate of pay paid to male and female employees; and the relative proportions of male and female employees in each quartile pay band of the workforce.
The Committee therefore considered Guildford’s Gender Pay Gap Report for 2022, which would be published on the Council’s website and on a publicly accessible Government website and retained for a period of three years.
The figures in the Report, which were based on hourly rates of pay, showed that:
· the Council’s female employees had an average hourly rate that was 8% higher than male employees’ hourly rate; and
· at the mid-point within the range of hourly earnings that the Council paid its employees, female employees had an hourly rate that was 13% higher than male employees’ hourly rate.
The main reason for this gender pay gap was an imbalance of male and female colleagues across the services as there was a much higher proportion of men working in the Waste Operations and Parks & Street scene Services. Many of the roles within those services fell within the lower pay bands.
During the debate a request was made for comparative data, in future years’ Gender Pay Gap Reports, of how Guildford had performed nationally in respect of the gender pay gap, and in respect of those employees in the lower quartile, a breakdown as to the number of full time, part time, and outsourced workers. The Lead Specialist (Human Resources) confirmed that this could be provided.
RESOLVED: That the Gender Pay Gap Report for the year 2022, attached at Appendix 1 to the report submitted to the Committee, be noted, subject to the following further actions:
Annual report of the Monitoring Officer regarding misconduct allegations PDF 146 KB
The Committee received and noted the Monitoring Officer’s annual report about decisions taken on standards allegations against borough and parish councillors for the 12-month period ending 31 December 2021.
The Committee noted that during this period, there had been 14 complaints in total,
all of which involved borough councillors.
Seven of the complaints had failed the initial jurisdiction test, none had proceeded to investigation; two were subject to no further action at initial assessment stage and five were subject to informal resolution. There were six ongoing complaints at the time of writing the Annual Report.
By way of comparison and to put the statistical information on the number of complaints received into context, the Supplementary Information sheet circulated at the meeting noted that the number of misconduct allegations received by the Monitoring Officer over the past three years was as follows:
The Monitoring Officer reported on two common themes relating to the complaints received:
· the use of social media in relation to the complaints, and
· the use of inflammatory language being used by Councillors on social media and emails leading to complaints.
The Committee expressed disappointment that the use, or misuse, of social media was a recurrent theme bearing in mind the Social Media Guidance for Councillors that the Corporate Governance Task Group had drafted, that the Committee had endorsed, and that the Executive had adopted in 2020.
The following points were raised by the Committee in the debate:
· A request that future Annual Reports set out the comparative statistical information in respect of misconduct complaints for the previous three years.
· A further request that the table setting out details of the decisions taken in relation to allegations of misconduct appended to the report should include an additional column showing the date of file closure; and where the matter was still ongoing, the reason(s) for this.
· The Chairman requested clarification as to whether the six ongoing complaints were included in the 14 complaints received overall, or whether they related to complaints from previous years.
· In response to concerns over actions that could in circumstances where councillors were being harassed or intimidated by members of the public, councillors were advised to contact the Monitoring Officer for advice and assistance. It was noted that Surrey Police had previously advised councillors on personal safety where they had received threats or intimidation.
The Committee therefore
RESOLVED: That the cases referred to the Monitoring Officer under the Council’s arrangements for dealing with allegations of misconduct for the period 1 January to 31 December 2021, be noted subject to the comments referred to above and the following further actions:
Financial Monitoring Report (April 2021 - January 2022) PDF 259 KB
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 2021 to January 2022.
Officers were projecting an underspend on the general fund revenue account of £229,000. This figure included the final element of the in-year savings plan to redeem the Council’s holding in the M&G Global Dividend Fund as investment income (£1.306 million). However, there was still expected to be shortfalls around expectations of budgeted income.
The direct expenditure incurred by the Council on Covid-19 in the current financial year currently stood at £334,454. The Council had received a non-specific Covid-19 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 for some of the income loss for the months of April to June, under the Sales, Fees and Charges (SFC) compensation scheme totalling £1.45 million. 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 have any plans to extend the SFC compensation scheme further.
The Council was currently forecasting to have £51.6 million in reserves at the end of the year, of which £10.64 million was usable.
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.
Progress against significant capital projects on the approved programme as outlined in section 7 of the report was underway. The Council expected to spend £59.74 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 £28.98 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 £212 million of investments and £332 million of external borrowing on 31 January, which included £193 million of HRA loans. Officers confirmed that the Council had complied with its Prudential indicators in the period, which had been set in February 2021 as part of the Council’s Capital and Investment Strategy.
In considering this report, the Committee made the following comments:
· In response to an enquiry, in the context of outstanding sundry debts, as to whether the Council had contingencies in place to assist those in financial hardship, including support from the Government, the Director of Resources confirmed that the Local Council Tax Support Scheme would help people who were struggling to pay their council tax if they met certain criteria, and there was also a discretionary hardship fund as a fall-back. It was also ... view the full minutes text for item CGS61
The Committee considered its updated 12 month rolling work programme and noted that the audit of the 2020-21 accounts was still ongoing due to a variety of factors, which were set out on the Supplementary Information Sheet. The Committee noted that many councils across the country were facing audit delays with only 1 in 10 audits having been completed by the deadline for the 2020-21 accounts. Audit completion rates across the country were significantly lower than in previous years.
Whilst the auditors would be continuing their work on the audit during April, it was noted that if the audit was not completed by the end of April, then it would be delayed until at least July, for the reasons stated.
As such the 2020-21 audited statement of accounts, external audit findings report, and the external audit plan for 2021-22 would be marked as “Unscheduled” on the work programme, until further notice. It was noted that the Committee had held its annual private meeting with Grant Thornton immediately prior to this meeting, at which concerns were expressed as to the ongoing delays in completing the audit of accounts. The Committee felt that the external auditors should nevertheless submit an update on progress with the audit of the 2020-21 accounts to the 21 April 2022 meeting, setting out details of the audit work undertaken, and the work still to be done, the timescale for completion of the audit, and any impact of the delay in respect of subsequent years’ audits.
In relation to the Committee’s request earlier in the meeting about receiving an interim audit report on progress with the outstanding matters identified by KPMG in their follow-up reviews, particularly in relation to safeguarding, it was suggested that this should be marked as “Unscheduled” and reviewed again at the next meeting to establish a meeting at which the report could be considered once the timescales for implementing the actions were understood.
Accordingly, the Committee
RESOLVED: That the updated 12 month rolling work programme, as set out in Appendix 1 to the report submitted to the Committee and subject to the changes referred to above, and to the further action listed below, be approved.