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Agenda and minutes

Venue: Via Zoom

Contact: Elaine Ireland  Democratic Governance Senior Adviser

Link: Watch the Meeting Here

No. Item



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)



(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.


There were no declarations of interest on this occasion.



To agree the minutes of the last meeting of the Audit Committee held on 25 June 2020 as a true and correct record.


The Committee agreed that the minutes of the meeting held on 25 June 2020 be signed by the Chairman as a true and correct record.



To provide the Audit Committee with a summary of the work completed by Risk Services in quarter one of the 2020/2021 financial year.

Additional documents:


Mrs Tracy Greenhalgh, Head of Audit and Risk provided the Committee with a summary of the work completed by Risk Services in quarter one of the 2020/2021 financial year. Mrs Greenhalgh explained that internal audit work had initially been paused at the beginning of the financial year as the Council dedicated its resources to responding to the Covid-19 medical emergency. In addition two members of the internal audit team had been redeployed to support the Community Hubs through the provision of administration and telephone support but had since returned to the team. Audit work had been recommenced via online auditing methods which had been developed in order to continue the delivery of the internal audit service during the pandemic. The Committee was informed that the performance data from the first quarter had been impacted as a result, but Mrs Greenhalgh assured Members that the internal audit plan would be reassessed in order to allow a new focus on areas of risk associated with the Covid-19 response. She reported that there had been limited progress in the updating of risk registers as delivery focus had instead been on ensuring that a robust business continuity plan was in place, but she felt assured that all risks had been managed appropriately across the Council.


Dr Arif Rajpura, Director of Public Health provided an update on the Council’s latest position regarding the pandemic. Dr Rajpura confirmed that cases had started to rise locally which in turn increased the demand for response efforts from the Council. With regards to Test, Track and Trace, Dr Rajpura confirmed that the Council was working in conjunction with the national system whereby all complex cases were being passed on to the Council to be dealt with locally. Blackpool had not experienced any major outbreaks of Covid-19 within care settings and the majority of positive cases had occurred within households. Regular testing was continuing within care home settings, with some positive asymptomatic cases being identified, particularly amongst staff and these were being dealt with in line with government guidelines. The Council was also undertaking work to trace positive cases where the national system had failed to make contact with the individuals within the initial 24 hour period. Dr Rajpura reported that the national system had an approximate success rate of 60-70 per cent whereas the Council had been able to make contact with approximately 85 per cent of cases. He stressed the importance of following up on all positive cases to help limit the spread of infection.


Dr Rajpura informed the Committee of the preventative Covid-secure work being implemented across the town, aimed at ensuring businesses, work places and schools continued to provide safe environments. Support was being offered by the Council to help ensure all venues could safely conform to the guidelines, but Dr Rajpura also stated that enforcement action would be taken in cases where business owners did not comply.


The Committee was informed that cases were expected to increase over the coming weeks and months, as respiratory  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.



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

Additional documents:


The Committee considered a progress report outlining the individual risks identified within the Strategic Risk – Sustainability of the Council.


Mr Steve Thompson, Director of Resources provided an overview of the sub-risk ‘Insufficient funding to deliver services.’ He summarised the existing controls and mitigations and highlighted that ongoing financial modelling would be undertaken to assess the impact of funding cuts given the level of uncertainty beyond 2020/2021. Mr Thompson reported that the monthly financial monitoring would ordinarily be reported externally from month three through to year end but due to the current uncertainties around the impact of the pandemic, reporting had been extended to include month two and also included details of the financial monitoring in relation to the Council’s eight Wholly Owned Companies. He further reported that the impact of Covid-19 on the Council’s companies also had a potential impact on the Council as it would assume the transferred risk as parent company.


Mr Thompson informed the Committee that the Council had to date received approximately £116 million of government assistance via a number of grants and Covid-19 related funding and anticipated further financial support to come. He reported that central government had been honouring its intention to recompense local authorities and regular updates and communication between both parties was ongoing. With regards to the future impact of the pandemic on the Council’s financial sustainability, Mr Thompson stated that it was an uncertain situation which made longer-term financial planning more difficult to undertake.


The Committee questioned whether analysis of the Council’s debt profile had been undertaken in order to identify any exposure. In response Mr Thompson informed Members that continuous benchmarking was undertaken with other similar local authorities in relation to the Council’s debt and reported that Blackpool fell in the mid-range.


Members questioned if any positives from the current situation had been identified which could be reported. Mr Thompson praised the efforts of the Council’s ICT department in the successful integration of home working, thanks in part to the work undertaken over previous years to upgrade ICT equipment and encourage the use of flexible home working across departments.


The Committee asked whether any particular departments had been more severely impacted by the pandemic than others with Mr Thompson reporting that the income-generating services had been most effected but that the government compensation scheme should address some of these losses.


Members sought assurance that should concerns be raised regarding the governance arrangements and financial stability of the Council’s Wholly Owned Companies then processes were in place to ensure that the Audit Committee would be informed of such concerns. Mr Thompson confirmed that any such issues would be raised via the external monitoring process and as part of the financial governance framework via the Shareholder’s Advisory Board. Mr Mark Towers, Director of Governance and Partnerships clarified that the Shareholder’s Advisory Board’s terms of reference included the role of seeking assurance that appropriate controls were in place around good governance and risk management. He explained that this was further strengthened via  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.



To consider a progress report on the recommendations made in the internal audit report of Advertising issued on 30 September 2019. 

Additional documents:


Mr Philip Welsh, Head of Tourism and Communications presented a progress report on the recommendations made following an internal audit review of Advertising in September 2019. Mr Welsh advised that the newly appointed Business Development Manager was now in post.


The Committee asked when the Advertising and Sponsorship Strategy, as detailed within recommendation R3 of the action plan and with a completion target date of March 2020, would be completed and whether any flexibility around recent Covid-19 restrictions would be included within the document. Mr Welsh reported that the new target date was October 2020 and that the scope of the strategy had since been widened to include additional assets and the aim would be to make the document as Covid-proof as possible. In respect of recommendation R4, the Committee asked for examples from other local authorities, noting that the recommendation’s target date of March 2020 had passed. Mr Welsh advised that once examples of best practice had been embedded they would be easier to sustain and his team had taken the opportunity afforded by Covid-19 to review practices in place across other local authorities. As a result he reported that increased efforts to forge partnerships with outside agencies had been implemented in order to develop opportunities for income generation, for example via national advertising projects.


The Committee questioned whether the newly-appointed Business Development Manager had made any reportable progress on improving the service, with particular emphasis on securing sponsorship as outlined in recommendation R6. Mr Welsh stated that the new post-holder had been successful in securing sponsorship from new partners for this year’s illuminations as well as for the Lightpool Festival in October 2020. In addition, the Business Development Manager had secured partnership interest in relation to the events programme for 2021.


The Committee requested further information in relation to advertising opportunities that were being implemented in conjunction with the Council’s Wholly Owned Companies. Mr Welsh reported that his team was eager to work closely with the Council’s companies and that future opportunities to engage in advertising via digital developments would be explored. He stressed the importance of ensuring a consistent approach to advertising across all Council-owned assets and informed Members that a piece of work aimed at creating guidelines to achieve this was underway.


In response to a question asking which of the audit’s recommendations had been most beneficial to the service, Mr Welsh replied that the recommendation regarding the implementation of a more strategic approach to income generation via advertising had resulted in the most positive impact. On the topic of advertising, a question was raised regarding the possibility of utilising Blackpool Tower as a source of advertising. Mr Welsh replied that whilst direct advertising placement on the tower itself was not an option, wider publicising of the high quality of the illuminations as an advertising product was a target which his team was working on.


The Committee sought clarification that the action plan target dates had all been achieved, with Mr Welsh advising that a  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.



To receive a verbal update from Deloitte on the ongoing Audit.


Ms Nicola Wright, Audit and Assurance Partner, Deloitte updated the Committee on the ongoing audit of the Council’s accounts. She informed Members that working remotely to undertake the audit, due to current Covid-19 restrictions, had adversely affected the speed of the audit but that work was progressing. Ms Wright reported that the work programme had been changed to place a greater emphasis on material valuation of the Council’s assets, including its Wholly Owned Companies and that pension assets would also require additional review.


The Committee noted that there were two months remaining until the deadline for the submission of the Council’s end of year accounts, with Ms Wright assuring Members that this allowed sufficient time for the completion of the outstanding work and that she would raise any concerns regarding the deadline with the Chair of the Audit Committee should any arise.



To consider the self-assessment of the internal audit team against the Public Sector Internal Audit Standards.  

Additional documents:


The Committee was asked to consider the self-assessment of the internal audit team against the Public Sector Internal Audit Standards (PSIAS). Mrs Tracy Greenhalgh, Head of Audit and Risk explained that the Public Sector Internal Audit Standards required that an external assessment of an organisation’s internal audit function was carried out once every five years by a qualified, independent assessor or assessment team. External assessments could be in the form of a full external assessment or a self-assessment with independent external validation.


Members were informed that in June/July 2019 the Corporate Leadership Team and the Audit Committee approved that Blackpool Council participate in the peer review process developed by the Lancashire Districts Chief Auditor Group which would address the requirement of a self-assessment with independent external validation. 


In preparation for the external assessment the internal audit team had undertaken a self-assessment which needed to be considered by the Audit Committee prior to the external validation exercise.


The PSIAS set out a range of criteria which must be met. The self-assessment had identified that the Council continued to conform to the vast majority of these requirements and had identified some best practice recommendations on how to make further improvements. Mrs Greenhalgh assured the Committee that those identified areas were being addressed by herself and her team.





To note the date and time of the next meeting of the Audit Committee as 30 November 2020, commencing at 6pm.


The date and time of the next meeting of the Committee was noted as 30 November 2020, commencing at 6pm.