Council services by letter

Agenda and minutes

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Venue: Committee Room 5, Harrow Civic Centre, Station Road, Harrow, HA1 2XY. View directions

Contact: Frankie Belloli, Senior Democratic Services Officer  Tel: 020 8424 1263 E-mail:  frankie.belloli@harrow.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

191.

Attendance by Reserve Members

To note the attendance at this meeting of any duly appointed Reserve Members.

 

Reserve Members may attend meetings:-

 

(i)                 to take the place of an ordinary Member for whom they are a reserve;

(ii)               where the ordinary Member will be absent for the whole of the meeting; and

(iii)             the meeting notes at the start of the meeting at the item ‘Reserves’ that the Reserve Member is or will be attending as a reserve;

(iv)              if a Reserve Member whose intention to attend has been noted arrives after the commencement of the meeting, then that Reserve Member can only act as a Member from the start of the next item of business on the agenda after his/her arrival.

Minutes:

RESOLVED:  To notethat no apologies had been received and no Reserve Members had been appointed.

192.

Declarations of Interest

To receive declarations of disclosable pecuniary or non pecuniary interests, arising from business to be transacted at this meeting, from:

 

(a)               all Members of the Committee;

(b)               all other Members present.

Minutes:

RESOLVED:  To note that there were no declarations of interests made by Members.

193.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 144 KB

That the minutes of the meeting held on 18 July 2017 be taken as read and signed as a correct record.

Minutes:

RESOLVED:  That the minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 18 July 2017 be taken as read and signed as a correct record.

194.

Public Questions, Petitions or Deputations

To receive any public questions received in accordance with Committee Procedure Rule 17 (Part 4B of the Constitution).

 

Questions will be asked in the order notice of them was received and there be a time limit of 15 minutes.

 

[The deadline for receipt of public questions is 3.00pm, Thursday 31 August 2017.  Questions should be sent to publicquestions@harrow.gov.uk  

No person may submit more than one question].

Minutes:

RESOLVED:  To note that no public questions, petitions or deputations were received at this meeting.

195.

References from Council and other Committees/Panels

To receive references from Council and any other Committees or Panels (if any).

Minutes:

RESOLVED:  To note that no references had been received.

RESOLVED ITEMS

196.

Statement of Accounts 2016-17 pdf icon PDF 174 KB

Report of the Director of Finance

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee received a report on the audited accounts for the Council for the 2016-17 financial year; this included the expected opinion of the external auditors, KPMG, on the accounts.  An officer reported that there had been no significant amendment since the draft accounts were considered by the Committee in July.  She thanked Andy Sayers and Emma Larcombe from KPMG for the professional and proficient way they had conducted the audit and for the support they had given to officers throughout the process. 

 

Andy Sayers, partner at KPMG, introduced their external audit report (Appendix 4), explaining the circumstances of the adjusted and unadjusted audit differences which had been discovered; none of these had been judged as being material to the overall opinion on the accounts.  He took the Committee through the significant audit risks identified, confirming that KPMG were comfortable with the measures taken to mitigate the risks.  In respect of the Council’s financial resilience and value for money processes, KPMG considered the arrangements for identifying, monitoring and reporting on budget savings to be appropriate.  Mr Sayers cautioned that this opinion related to the arrangements rather than the achievement of savings; in common with other councils, there would undoubtedly be challenges in this area.  He referred to the Council’s level of general reserves, confirming that they were at the lower end of the London range among a number of authorities at a similar level; in this respect, KPMG would monitor the budgeting processes and the Council’s management of the savings position.  Mr Sayers confirmed that some 14 items identified in their audit for 2015-16, 10 had been implemented and only 4 such items had been raised in 2016-17 with none of these being significant.  He considered that this represented good progress and he was confident KPMG would issue an unqualified opinion on the accounts.  He concluded by confirming the company’s independence in its role as the Council’s external auditors.

 

The Chair thanked Mr Sayers and Ms Larcombe for their work on the audit, and also thanked the Director of Finance and her staff for again achieving what was expected to be an unqualified opinion on the accounts. 

 

A Member was interested to know KPMG’s view about whether the Council’s level of reserves could be considered as “prudent”.  Mr Sayers confirmed that KPMG was comfortable with the way in which the reserves had been set; he underlined that councils obviously had to work with the funds available to them for this purpose and also explained that the practice of authorities varied in terms of the treatment of earmarked and non-earmarked reserves so comparisons were not necessarily simple. 

 

The Member also raised the question of bank reconciliations, asking whether KPMG considered the deficiencies in this area to be fundamental.  Mr Sayers acknowledged that control of cash was an issue of fundamental importance and advice had been given on tightening procedures to reduce the risk of discrepancies.  He confirmed that satisfactory explanations had been provided for the issues identified in the audit.  An  ...  view the full minutes text for item 196.

197.

Annual Governance Statement 2016-17 pdf icon PDF 254 KB

Report of the Corporate Director of Resources and Commercial.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee received a report on the Council’s arrangements to promote effective corporate governance of the authority, ensuring that its business is conducted in accordance with the law and proper standards, and that public money is safeguarded and properly accounted for, and used economically, efficiently and effectively.  In particular, the Committee’s attention was drawn to the improvements required in the area of health and safety.  The Divisional Director, Environment & Culture and the Head of Community and Public Protection, attended the meeting to address the issues since their department was now responsible for this area.  The Divisional Director underlined his commitment to ensuring the Council improved its health and safety controls given its fundamental importance for citizens, service users and staff.  The Corporate Strategic Board (CSB) had adopted a draft health and safety policy and action plan, proving the framework for a more structured approach in future. 

 

A Member asked about the performance in terms of ensuring that new staff were complying with the requirement to take an online training course; he also was interested in how managers were held accountable for this.  It was confirmed that the induction programme for staff included health and safety; in addition to the online course, staff without ready access to computers received a booklet and briefing.  The Environment and Culture Division used “safety circles” to encourage a focus on health and safety, and there was also joint work with the trade unions.  A software package had been implemented allowing for effective and coordinated data capture.  The Divisional Director would write to the Member in respect of the specific question on the proportion of new staff taking the online training.

 

In response to the Member’s question about the adequacy of resources to implement the health and safety work, it was confirmed that a dedicated post of Health and Safety Manager had been established in the Environment and Culture Division where some of the more significant risks were likely to arise due to the nature of the services. 

 

It was proposed by a Member that a report be brought to the next meeting on progress with the health and safety work.  The Corporate Director, Resources and Commercial, reported that CSB had been careful to establish a realistic timescale for this work; while a progress report could be made to the Committee in December, it would necessarily be an interim update.  In terms of resourcing, it would be important for the Council to embed health and safety as part of managers’ responsibilities across the organisation rather than solely in a health and safety function. 

 

In response to another question from a Member, it was confirmed that Internal Audit would monitor progress on the improvements to health and safety arrangements. 

 

RESOLVED:  To

 

(1)          approve the Annual Governance Statement for 2016/17;

 

(2)          approve the Governance Structure;

 

(3)          note the Head of Internal Audit’s overall opinion 2016/17.

198.

Exclusion of the Press and Public

To resolve that the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following item of business, on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of confidential information in breach of an obligation of confidence, or of exempt information as defined in Part I of Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972:

 

Agenda Item No

 

Title

Description of Exempt Information

12.

Information Report - Corporate Risk Register

Information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information)

 

Minutes:

RESOLVED:  That in accordance with Part I of Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following item(s) for the reasons set out below:

 

Item

Title

 

Reason

11.

Corporate Risk Register

Information under paragraph 3 (contains information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information).

 

199.

Information Report - Corporate Risk Register

Report of the Corporate Director of Resources and Commercial.

Minutes:

The Committee received a report on the Council’s 2017/18 Quarter 1 Corporate Risk Register to assist the Committee in monitoring progress on risk management.

 

A Member’s raised his concern about the lack of progress on the affordable homes target (Corporate Risk No.3), particularly in relation to the significance of this area of work.  It was confirmed that this would be addressed in the Quarter 2 report.

 

RESOLVED:  That the report be noted.