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Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Conference Room 3A, Number One Bickerstaffe Square, Blackpool, FY1 3AH

Contact: Elaine Ireland  Senior Democratic Governance Adviser

Link: Watch The Meeting Here

Items
No. Item

1.

APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were submitted on behalf of Ms Gill Brown, Independent Co-opted Member.

2.

DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST

Members are asked to declare any interests in the items under consideration and in

doing so state:

 

(1) the type of interest concerned, either a

 

(a) personal interest

(b) prejudicial interest

(c) disclosable pecuniary interest (DPI)

and

 

(2) the nature of the interest concerned

 

If any Member requires advice on declarations of interests, they are advised to contact the Head of Democratic Governance in advance of the meeting.

Minutes:

Councillor Burdess declared a personal interest in relation to agenda items 5 ‘Strategic Risk Register – Sustainability of the Council’ and 6 ‘Management Response to the External Auditor’s Report to Those Charged with Governance (ISA 260)’ due to her position as Council appointed Non-Executive Director on the Blackpool Transport Services Limited Board. She further advised that should the financial details relating to the company be discussed in detail within these items, she would declare a prejudicial interest and leave the meeting for the duration of such discussions.

 

Councillor Roberts declared a personal interest in relation to agenda items 5 ‘Strategic Risk Register – Sustainability of the Council’ and 6 ‘Management Response to the External Auditor’s Report to Those Charged with Governance (ISA 260)’ due to his position as Council appointed Non-Executive Director on the Blackpool Airport Operations Limited Board. He further advised that should the financial details relating to the company be discussed in detail within these items, he would declare a prejudicial interest and leave the meeting for the duration of such discussions.

 

Councillor Galley declared a personal interest in relation to agenda items 5 ‘Strategic Risk Register – Sustainability of the Council’ and 6 ‘Management Response to the External Auditor’s Report to Those Charged with Governance (ISA 260)’ due to his position as Council appointed Non-Executive Director on the Blackpool Transport Services Limited Board and the Blackpool Entertainment Company Limited Board. He further advised that should the financial details relating to these companies be discussed in detail within these items, he would declare a prejudicial interest and leave the meeting for the duration of such discussions.

 

Councillor Critchley declared a personal interest in relation to agenda item 5 ‘Strategic Risk Register – Sustainability of the Council’ due to her position of employment at a provider of sheltered housing.

 

Councillor R Scott declared a personal interest in relation to agenda item 5 ‘Strategic Risk Register – Sustainability of the Council’ due to his position as a Public Governor on the Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.

 

3.

MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING HELD ON 29 APRIL 2021 pdf icon PDF 508 KB

To agree the minutes of the last meeting of the Audit Committee held on 29 April 2021 as a true and correct record.

Minutes:

The Committee agreed that the minutes of the meeting held on 29 April 2021 be signed by the Chairman as a true and correct record.

4.

AUDIT FOLLOW UP - VEHICLE OPERATOR'S LICENCE pdf icon PDF 472 KB

To consider a progress report on the recommendations made in the internal audit report of the Vehicle Operator’s Licence issued on 5 November 2020.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Mr Jez Evans, Head of Waste and Environmental Operations presented a progress report on the recommendations made following the internal audit review of the Vehicle Operator’s Licence which had been completed in November 2020.

 

The Committee considered the action plan of agreed recommendations and Mr Evans reported that substantial progress had been made in addressing the issues highlighted by the audit. In relation to recommendation R4 ‘The Transport Manager’s current responsibilities should be reviewed to ensure statutory hours of work as stipulated by the Traffic Commissioner are met,’ Mr Evans reported that a temporary post had been established and a further new post would be created in Integrated Transport to ensure that the Transport Manager resumed her statutory 30 hours per week in her role as Vehicle Operator Licence holder. He added that the decision had been taken to make the temporary team leader position a permanent post with effect from September 2021 to further assist the Transport Manager to focus on meeting compliance requirements.

 

The Committee questioned what the anticipated impact of the Blackpool Waste Company (Enveco) transfer of services would have on service delivery, in particular in relation to recommendation R1 ‘The organisational chart showing the levels of communications and controls over the two operating sites should be updated to reflect the current officers in post.’ Mr Evans advised that the transfer of services to Enveco would result in a fifty per cent reduction of the Council’s Operator’s Licence workload as vehicles were transferred to the waste company. In response to the Committee’s concerns that penalty points on drivers’ licences were not being recorded as part of the licence checking process, Mr Evans clarified that whilst all drivers’ licences were routinely checked, the audit had identified an issue with regards to a potential delay in the Transport Manager contacting drivers in cases where they had failed to provide their licence for inspection. As a result, Service Managers had been reminded of their responsibilities in ensuring that team members had presented their drivers’ licences in a timely manner.

 

Mr Evans informed the Committee of the beneficial impact of the audit as the review had assisted in highlighting the statutory requirement for the Transport Manager to ensure 30 hours per week were dedicated to her role as holder of the Vehicle Operator’s Licence and the resulting addressing of staff capacity had alleviated the additional pressures experienced by the team.

 

Mr John Blackledge, Director of Community and Environmental Services reported that the audit had been requested specifically to assist in identifying any capacity needs across the team and that he was confident that the resulting restructuring of the service would result in all compliance issues being successfully managed going forward.

 

The Committee noted the beneficial utilisation of internal audit to assist in addressing identified concerns and the department’s acceptance and positive response to the resulting recommendations.

 

[Mr Evans and Mrs Rowbottom left the meeting on conclusion of this item.]

 

5.

CENTRAL SELECTIVE LICENSING SCHEME UPDATE pdf icon PDF 477 KB

To consider the progress of the Central Selective Licensing Scheme and associated Housing Enforcement actions to improve and regulate the private rented sector.

Minutes:

The Committee received a progress update on the Central Selective Licensing Scheme and associated Housing Enforcement actions aimed at improving and regulating the private rented sector. Ms Alex Bracken, Housing Enforcement Manager provided an overview of the scheme, informing the Committee that Selective Licensing was a discretionary licensing scheme covering those privately rented properties which were not covered by mandatory or additional licensing. Selective Licensing was intended to address the impact of poor quality privately rented properties, lack of management by landlords and to reduce levels of anti-social behaviour. Ms Bracken explained that as Blackpool already had existing licensing schemes operating in 2018, the Council required permission from the Secretary of State to introduce the new Selective Licensing Scheme in the Central area of the town. This had been approved in December 2018 and came into force on 26 March 2019. Committee members were told that the Scheme applied to the area which formed part of Talbot, Brunswick and Bloomfield wards and that it would cease to have effect on 25 March 2024. Ms Bracken advised that the Central Additional Licensing Scheme would cease to have effect in July 2021, with 339 Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) currently being licensed under this Scheme.

 

Ms Bracken outlined the key facts of the Central Selective Licensing Scheme, informing the Committee that 1712 properties had been licensed, with fees to the sum of £947,890 having been collected. Committee members were informed that the cost of a licence was £775 (£542 with 30 per cent discount) for a single occupancy property, with multiple units up to two costing £1,090 (£775 with 30 per cent discount) and £68 for every additional unit over two. To date, 1422 landlords had applied for the Blackpool Standards which allowed for a 30 per cent reduction of the cost of a licence. In terms of enforcement, Ms Bracken reported eight prosecution cases for failure to license had been pursued and three civil penalties for failure to license in the Central Selective Licensing area had resulted in fines of £2500 each. She explained that a civil penalty was an alternative to a prosecution case and resulted in a fine that would be paid to the Council. The Committee was informed that other prosecutions and civil penalty cases had continued across Blackpool regarding breaches of enforcement notices and HMO management regulations, with a recent prosecution case in the magistrate’s court resulting in a fine of £24,121.

 

Ms Bracken reported that Blackpool had received funding from central government as one of five areas in the country to contribute to a national pilot looking at how far enforcement could be taken in respect of regulating the supported housing sector and whether improvements could be made. The new scheme brought in officers from other areas such as Social Services, Housing Benefits, Corporate Fraud, Housing Enforcement, Fire Service and Planning Enforcement and provided a means for a multi-agency approach to look at how accommodation could be improved. The Committee was informed that the pilot would  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

STRATEGIC RISK REGISTER - SUSTAINABILITY OF THE COUNCIL pdf icon PDF 450 KB

To consider the controls being implemented to manage the strategic risk relating to sustainability of the Council.   

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered a progress report outlining the individual risks identified within the Strategic Risk – Sustainability of the Council. Consideration was given to the sub-risk ‘Insufficient funding to deliver services,’ with Mr Steve Thompson, Director of Resources providing an update. He reported that budget monitoring had taken place from month 0, which included forecasting the impact that the pandemic would have on the Council’s financial position. The Committee heard that the residual impact of the pandemic continued to pose a risk, with government funding having been provided for the first quarter of the financial year. Mr Thompson advised that a refresh of the Medium Term Financial Sustainability Strategy would be undertaken during the year, together with an updated Medium Term Financial Plan of at least five years’ horizon. In addition, the suite of income and debt collection strategies would be reviewed over the year.

 

Mr Thompson informed the Committee that a restructure of the Council’s accountancy department was underway in order to refocus resources to meet reprioritised demands such as corporate finance, wholly owned companies and capital expenditure. He advised that the Council would receive a share of the £15 million allocated funding to address the recommendations from the Redmond Review, aimed at addressing capacity issues. With reference to the departmental restructure, the Committee queried whether additional resources would be required to meet the demands of the current workload. Mr Thompson responded by advising that a risk management approach would be taken to achieve a reprioritisation and redistribution of workload across existing staffing levels and to further develop existing talent within the team.

 

The Committee questioned whether the current spending ratio of approximately 79 per cent of the Council’s budget to social care expenditure was sustainable. Mr Thompson acknowledged social care expenditure as an area of potential concern, not just in Blackpool but nationally and advised that the Directors of Children’s and Adult’s Services were monitoring the situation.

 

Mr Neil Jack, Chief Executive provided an update in relation to the sub-risk ‘Insufficient central government funding for Social Care,’ in relation to Adult’s Social Care. Mr Jack reported that the Covid-19 pandemic had resulted in significant operational and financial challenges for adult social care providers and that the Council had put in place a range of financial and other support measures during the last twelve months which continued to operate subject to a review at the end of June 2021. He acknowledged that there was uncertainty with regards to the continuation of funding post-June despite the fact that Covid-related costs would continue beyond this point. Mr Jack assured the Committee that the Council would continue to raise awareness of the issues affecting the care sector with central government and to lobby for additional resources through its work with the Local Resilience Forum and other bodies.     

 

The Committee asked how value for money could be assured from social care providers, with Mr Jack clarifying that with regards to value for money there were other considerations aside from the financial cost of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

MANAGEMENT RESPONSE TO THE EXTERNAL AUDITOR'S REPORT TO THOSE CHARGED WITH GOVERNANCE (ISA 260) pdf icon PDF 530 KB

To consider the management response to Deloitte’s Governance Report for 2019/2020.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered the management response to Deloitte’s Governance Report for 2019/2020 as presented by Mr Steve Thompson, Director of Resources. Ms Nicola Wright, Deloitte noted the Council’s encouraging responses and advised that a follow up of compliance implementation would be included as part of the audit process for the 2020/2021 accounts.

 

The Committee asked whether in relation to long term debtor recoverability there would be an opportunity to establish a debt profile and target investment to other areas of Blackpool’s economy. Mr Thompson advised that whilst the debt profile would require a refresh in response to the impact of the pandemic, once this had been undertaken he would provide a copy to Committee members.

 

When questioned on whether the Corporate Leadership Team (CLT) had the capacity to research new ideas to identify savings or investments in their individual directorates, Mr Thompson advised that the requisite processes were in place to allow this to happen and that the allocation of capacity would be addressed as part of the imminent CLT ‘Away Day’. Furthermore, Mr Jack reported that transformation capacity existed within Mr Lockley’s directorate which worked to support departments to identify improved ways of working and to assist transformation.

 

The Committee asked Deloitte when the 2019/2020 accounts could be expected to be signed off, with Ms Wright agreeing to a deadline of 5 July 2021.

8.

AUDIT COMMITTEE ACTION TRACKER pdf icon PDF 439 KB

To consider the Committee’s updated Action Tracker.

Minutes:

The Committee considered the updated Action Tracker, noting that no actions were due for further consideration at this time. The Chair requested that the noted meeting between Ms Wright and Mr Rayner from Deloitte with the Chair and Vice Chair of the Audit Committee and the Director of Resources to discuss future working relationships be scheduled to take place in the near future.

9.

DATE OF NEXT MEETING

To note the date and time of the next meeting of the Committee as 30 September 2021, commencing at 6pm.

Minutes:

The date of the next meeting of the Committee was noted as 30 September 2021, commencing at 6pm.