Agenda and minutes

Corporate Governance and Standards Committee - Thursday, 19th January, 2023 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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Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Liz Hogger and Murray Litvak.




Election of Vice-Chairman of the Committee 2022-23

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The Committee


RESOLVED: That Councillor Susan Parker be elected Vice-Chairman of the Committee for the remainder of the 2022-23 municipal year.



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 83 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting of the Corporate Governance and Standards Committee held on 17 November 2023.

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The minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 17 November 2022 were approved as a correct record.


The Chairman signed the minutes.



Decision and Action Tracker pdf icon PDF 67 KB

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The Committee noted that the decision and action tracker had been introduced to monitor progress against the decisions and actions that the Committee had agreed, which would be kept up to date for each meeting.  When decisions/actions were reported as being ‘completed’, the Committee would be asked to agree to remove these items from the tracker.


The Committee, having noted the updates set out on the Supplementary Information Sheet


RESOLVED: That the decision and action tracker be noted and that the actions reported as being completed be removed from the table.



Review of Probity in Planning Local Code of Practice - Handbook for Councillors and Officers pdf icon PDF 78 KB

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The Committee noted that the Council had last reviewed the Probity in Planning - Local Code of Practice Handbook in April 2019.  The Handbook formed part of the Council’s Constitution and provided guidance for councillors and officers on their role and conduct in the planning process. The guidance included how councillors and officers should manage contact with applicants, developers and objectors or supporters. The purpose of the guidance provided in the document was to ensure that decisions made in the planning process were not biased, were taken openly and transparently, and based only on material planning considerations.


As part of its ongoing work reviewing various aspects of the corporate governance of the Council, the Corporate Governance Task Group appointed by this Committee had conducted a thorough review of the Handbook.


The draft revised Handbook, as recommended by the Task Group, was attached as Appendix 2 to the report submitted to the Committee.


Each part of the Handbook had been carefully reviewed to ensure that the document reflected the law, and current best practice.  The Committee’s attention was drawn to a separate review of the Planning Committee, which had been undertaken by an Executive working group, which examined a number of recommendations by the LGA /PAS Peer Review.  Two of the recommendations had been the subject of discussion by both the working group and the Corporate Governance Task Group, namely the call-up process for referral of applications to Planning Committee by councillors, and the process for overturning officer recommendations on applications at Planning Committee meetings.  There had been differences of opinion expressed on both these matters by members of both groups.


The Lead Councillor for Planning Development, Legal and Democratic Services commented that the proposed changes to the Member referral process would replace the current seven-day notice procedure. A more collaborative, and constructive, less sequential approach was proposed in which all ward members would have the opportunity to express concerns about specific applications and, where necessary, call-up the application for determination by the Planning Committee at the beginning, rather than at the end, of the 8-week determination period.  The need for the change had been highlighted as a key recommendation of the Peer Review to help the Council accelerate the processing of planning applications and improve the Council’s performance in determining non-major applications within the statutory 8-week period.  The Lead Councillor commented that the current procedure was inefficient and not widely used in other Local Planning Authorities.  It was noted that there was a very real possibility of the Council being designated by the Secretary of State for failure to adequately perform its function in determining non-major applications.


In considering the report and the draft revised Handbook, the Committee made the following comments and suggestions:


Proposed Call-up process:

·       Councillors have always had the opportunity of discussing particular applications with officers where it was felt that issues needed to be brought to their attention.  Concern that the proposed new process would not enable councillors to see the officer’s report on an application  ...  view the full minutes text for item CGS51


Summary of Internal Audit Reports (April 2022 to January 2023) pdf icon PDF 70 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 2022-23 for the period April 2022 to January 2023, 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 reviewed the design and effectiveness of the processes and controls over corporate programmes at the Council for which KPMG had provided a ‘partial assurance with improvements required’ (amber-red rating).


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


·       Whilst the report had set out the agreed management actions in respect of the red (high risk) findings, there were no similar actions set out in respect of the amber (medium risk), or green (low risk) findings.   In response, Mr Crouch of KPMG indicated that they had not previously set out agreed actions in respect of amber or green findings in their executive summary reports.  However, he would be happy to share the detail of the agreed actions in respect of this audit report with Councillors.


·       It was noted that KPMG were due to submit their internal audit report on Regeneration to the next meeting of the Committee, and in that regard, it was assumed that, as Weyside Urban Village was a key regeneration project, further information on that project would come forward as part of that report.


·       Further information was requested in relation to the comment in the audit report that KPMG had agreed with management to undertake an additional review looking at the payroll budget discrepancy identified in 2022.  In particular, whether this discrepancy related to the payroll error referred to in the draft budget. The Lead Councillor for Finance and Planning Policy stated that this error had been first mentioned to the Committee at its meeting in September last year, and to the Executive following that meeting.  This had been the third year where there had been an issue with incremental pay rises to employees, amounting to approximately £600,000 per year.  Whilst employees had been paid the correct amount, it had not been accounted for correctly in the budget.  It was anticipated that this would be corrected in the forthcoming budget.  As it was a significant issue, it was considered appropriate to commission an audit report.


·       In response to a request for an update on the recruitment of a Programme Manager and the issue raised regarding the integration between Verto and Business World, the Executive Head of Regeneration and Planning Policy reported that it was anticipated that the target date for the recruitment of the Programme Manager was 30 April 2023.  In relation to the integration between Verto and Business World, it was noted that considerable effort had been made to ensure that there was alignment between the two systems in terms of the detail that was included on both.  However, the fiscal integration of the two different types of software, had not  ...  view the full minutes text for item CGS52


Safeguarding - Internal Audit Report Update pdf icon PDF 135 KB

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The Committee considered a report on the progress made in response to the recommended actions in the KPMG internal audit report on the Council’s safeguarding arrangements in November 2021.


The purpose of the report was to provide the Committee with the opportunity to examine the progress and activities undertaken in the context of the Council’s statutory safeguarding duties, and to advise and comment on the appropriateness of the draft Strategic Safeguarding action plan 2023-24.


The report had also provided the background to the Council’s responsibilities and its safeguarding audit commitments in the context of the statutory duties set out in the legislation and statutory guidance.


The activities undertaken, progress made towards target actions, and mitigations implemented in the last year were summarised in the report with more detailed tracking of targets and commentary presented in Appendix 1.


The draft Strategic Safeguarding action plan 2023-24, which was attached as Appendix 2 to the report, responded to the recommendations made in the latest statutory Section 11 and Surrey Safeguarding Adults Board (SSAB) quality assurance audits, as well as the outstanding actions from the non-statutory KPMG audit.


The Committee had been asked:


(a)   to review the progress against the recommended actions in the KPMG Safeguarding audit 2021, as set out in Appendix 1, and


(b)   to comment on the appropriateness of the Strategic Safeguarding Group Action Plan 2023-24 as set out in Appendix 2.


The Leader of the Council, Councillor Julia McShane recognised the importance of safeguarding and the wide scope of the work to ensure that the Council was safeguarding those with whom it interacted and that it was meeting its statutory duties. The Leader also acknowledged, and was reassured by, the partnerships that the safeguarding leads had with the safeguarding boards, with various county and local safeguarding groups and district and borough colleagues, to share best practice learned from reviews and to ensure that the Council was meeting its commitments under the statutory safeguarding audits.  The Leader also thanked staff, in particular those on the frontline, who had sound knowledge and always had safeguarding at the forefront of their work in safeguarding customers and residents. 


The Committee thanked the officers for their work on this very important area of the Council’s work and made the following comments during the debate on this matter:


·       In relation to Recording Safeguarding Referrals contained in the Safeguarding KPMG audit action plan (update December 2022) it was noted that a central recording system should be established across the organisation, which required an IT solution. In response to a query as to whether we could learn from other authorities in making the transition to such a system as smooth as possible, it was confirmed that there was communication and liaison on such matters via the Safeguarding Group.  As stated in the report, the IT solution would need to meet all the accessibility, confidentiality and usability requirements and be corporately aligned.  Officers were investigating the possible use of ECINS community safety case management system.


·       It  ...  view the full minutes text for item CGS53


Capital and Investment Strategy 2023-24 to 2027-28 pdf icon PDF 373 KB

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The Committee considered a report on the Council’s capital and investment strategy, which gave a high-level overview of how capital expenditure, capital financing and treasury management activity contributed to the provision of local public services along with an overview of how associated risk was managed and the implications for future financial sustainability.


Decisions made now, and during the period of the strategy on capital and treasury management would have financial consequences for the Council for many years into the future. The report therefore included details of the capital programme, any new bids/mandates submitted for approval plus the requirements of the Prudential Code and the investment strategy covering treasury management investments, service investments, and commercial investments.  The report had also covered the requirements of the Treasury Management Code and the prevailing DLUHC Statutory Guidance.


The Committee noted that in order to achieve the ambitious targets within the Corporate Plan, the Council needed to invest in its assets, via capital expenditure, which was split into the General Fund (GF) and Housing Revenue Account (HRA).


All projects, regardless of the fund, would be funded by capital receipts, grants and contributions, reserves, and finally borrowing.  When preparing the budget reports, it was not known how each scheme would be funded and, in the case of regeneration projects, what the delivery model would be.  The report showed a high-level position.  The business case for each individual project would set out the detailed funding arrangements for the project.


The Committee noted that some capital receipts or revenue income streams might arise as a result of regeneration schemes, but in most cases the position was currently uncertain, and it was too early at this stage to make assumptions.  It was likely that there would be cash-flow implications of the development schemes, where income would come in after the five-year time horizon of the report and the expenditure incurred earlier in the programme.


The Council had an underlying need to borrow for the General Fund capital programme of £286 million between 2022-23 and 2027-28.  Officers had put forward bids, with a net cost over the same period of £10 million, increasing this underlying need to borrow to £296 million should these proposals be approved for inclusion in the programme.


The capital programme included several significant regeneration schemes, which it was assumed would be financed from GF resources.  However, subject to detailed design of the schemes, there might be scope to fund them from HRA resources rather than the GF resources in due course.  Detailed funding proposals for each scheme would be considered when their Outline Business Case was presented to the Executive for approval.


The main areas of expenditure (shown gross), as set out in the report, were:


·       £274 million Weyside Urban Village (WUV)

·       £62 million strategic property purchases

·       £32 million North Downs Housing (NDH)

·       £28 million Ash road bridge and footbridge



Upon reviewing the current capital programme, officers had identified that there was a separate scheme for the bus station, the cost of which had also been  ...  view the full minutes text for item CGS54


Financial Monitoring 2022-23 : Period 8 (April to November 2022)

To receive a verbal update.

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The Committee received an oral update from the Section 151 Officer on the financial monitoring for the period April to November 2022. It had not been possible to produce a written report due to other pressures and priorities associated with managing the current anticipated budget deficit and ongoing budget preparation work.


The Committee noted that the period 4 position reported in October 2022, had shown a £3.1m net deficit in the current year.  In response, a budget pressures and MTFP report, which included an action plan with 17 points, was considered and put into place in October.  Due to staff resourcing issues, work on implementing the action plan took some time to get underway, particularly bearing in mind the ongoing budget preparation work.  The finance team capacity had been increased to enable this work to be carried out.


Further detailed work would be undertaken reviewing the financial position with reports expected for consideration by Council in July 2023.  In the meantime, budget monitoring had continued with ongoing discussions with management.  The Committee was advised that the current position had shown the deficit to be somewhere between £2m and £3m, although there were caveats to that around some of the movement on the capital programme, and the Minimum Revenue Provision, which was quite a significant amount of money for Guildford in its capital programme, together with adjustments for interest estimates.


The Section 151 Officer also referred to income adjustments around car parking and utility costs. The Joint Management Team had been looking at what action it needed to take in response to the financial position, and the most appropriate action taken was simply a voluntary holding back on spend where possible.  That was considered to be an appropriate action because anything further than that would have been damaging to service delivery and particularly to the most vulnerable in the community.  It was noted that some of the inflationary pressures would be picked up through reserves, as that was their purpose in these circumstances, and that there were sufficient reserves to enable that to happen.  These cost pressures were also reflected in the 2023-24 budget.


The Section 151 Officer assured the Committee that a written financial monitoring report would be presented to the next meeting on 15 March 2023.


The Deputy Leader of the Council and Lead Councillor for Finance and Planning Policy commented that work has had to be prioritised as indicated by the Section 151 Officer, and that the additional staffing resources in the Finance team would alleviate the position.


The Committee


RESOLVED: That the oral update on the results of the Council’s financial monitoring for the period April to November 2022 be noted.



Annual Report of the Corporate Governance and Standards Committee 2021-22 pdf icon PDF 72 KB

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The Committee noted that, following receipt of the KPMG internal audit report on the effectiveness of the Committee, considered on 24 March 2022, one of the recommendations was that the Committee should report at least annually to the Council on its activities and an assessment of its performance in discharging its responsibilities as defined in the Committee’s terms of reference.


The Committee considered and reviewed the first of these annual reports setting out details of the Committee’s work during the 2021-22 municipal year, under the main headings within the terms of reference, namely:


·       Audit and Accounts activity,

·       Corporate Governance Activity, and

·       Ethical Standards Activity  


The Committee particularly welcomed the table in Annex 2 to the Annual Report setting out the types and category of report considered by the Committee during the year.


Following discussion with the chairman, it was proposed to bring the next Annual Report, for 2022-23, to the September 2023 meeting, and every September thereafter.


The Committee


RESOLVED: That the Annual report of the Corporate Governance and Standards Committee for the municipal year 2021-22 be commended to full Council for adoption.



To ensure that the Committee is accountable for its work to the full Council.




Work programme pdf icon PDF 59 KB

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The Committee


RESOLVED: That 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.