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Agenda and minutes

Venue: Committee Room A, Town Hall, Blackpool

Contact: John Greenbank  Democratic Governance Senior Adviser

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 made on this occasion.



To agree the minutes of the last meeting of the Audit Committee held on 15 June 2023 as a true and correct record.


Resolved: That the minutes of the meeting held on 15 June 2023 be signed by the Chair as a true and correct record.



To consider a progress report on the recommendations made in the internal audit report of Children’s Services Financial Systems issued on the 16 August 2022.


Mr Chris Coyle, Assistant Director of Operations - Children’s Social Care, presented a report on progress against the recommendations made in the internal audit report of Children’s Services Financial Systems issued on the 16 August 2022.


He explained that following the audit, work had been undertaken to ensure that all necessary information was captured on the Mosaic recording system. This would assist in enabling Children’s Services in registering all spending against individual children, allowing a better understanding of how money is spent in each case and its effectiveness.


The development of the Mosaic system was being undertaken and it was expected that this work and the necessary testing and staff training would be complete by early September 2023. Mr Coyle added that the Children’s Services financial team had also been involved in the commissioning of the system.


Compliance with the Scheme of Delegation was also discussed with Mr Coyle explaining that approval for spending had been reviewed to ensure that responsibility for approvals was in place and undertaken correctly. He further informed the Committee that the Mosaic System would be developed so that repeat costs could not be automatically renewed for a period longer than six weeks. This would ensure that repeat costs had to be re-entered after this time and allow ongoing monitoring of such costs and their effectiveness. In support of this a flowchart had been created to inform staff of the steps needed to approve spending and highlighting individuals responsible under the Scheme of Delegation.


The Committee noted that in addition to this, the audit had made recommendations that a Financial Framework be developed. Mr Coyle reported that the framework was being developed and the Committee asked that confirmation be provided once this had taken place.


Mr Steve Thompson, Director of Resources, also explained that although he held responsibility for agreeing the Scheme of Delegation the specific responsibility for financial decision making lay primarily with services. This was because such decisions required the service specific knowledge that officers within those services possessed. He added that the Council’s Finance teams system, Tech One, was linked to the Mosaic system and allowed an overview of spending, but also highlighted that Children’s Services provided value for money and that this had been demonstrated by the services performance when benchmarked against comparable local authorities.


The Committee noted that there had been a delay in the implementation of the internal audit’s recommendations. Mr Coyle explained that this had been the result of the need to implement the new Mosaic system first before the audit recommendations could be implemented. Although it was stated that the system had already been successfully implemented within Adult Services, Ms Kate Aldridge, Head of Corporate Delivery, Performance and Commissioning, reported that the Children Services element of the system had not be activated at the time of procurement as this was not considered appropriate. However, the increased functionality of the system had meant that implementation within Children Services had been undertaken.


Members also considered what challenged existed to ensuring  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.



To consider a progress report on individual risks identified in the Council’s Strategic Risk Register.


The Committee considered a deep dive into the Strategic Risk “Operations” which included the sub-risks (a) Failure of Children’s Social Care and (b) Failure of Adults Social Care.


(a)    Failure of Children’s Social Care


Ms Victoria Gent, Director of Children’s Services presented an update in relation to sub risk (a). She explained that following Ofsted awarding the Council a rating of “Requires Improvement” in 2022 work continued towards achieving a rating of “Good”. A key part of this work was the submission for funding from the Department for Education (DfE) for the creation of a multi-disciplinary team within Children’s Social Care (CSC). The team would focus on working with parents and families to prevent children entering into the care system and it was recognised that time would be need to embed this new approach and new ways of working.


It was hoped that this team would also support the work being undertaken as part of the Children’s Services Improvement Plan with work to establish a team complete by the autumn of 2023. Ms Kate Aldridge, Head of Corporate Delivery, Performance and Commissioning, added that the DfE funding for the team would be for its establishment not it ongoing operation, funding for which would be needed for elsewhere.


Partnership working was also highlighted as a key area of work for CSC, with a draft partnership plan being developed. Local safeguarding arrangements were also reported as undergoing change with a return to a place based approach, starting 4 September 2023, from the Pan-Lancashire working that had been operated. This would allow a greater focus from partners on work being undertaken within Blackpool in areas such as domestic abuse and neglect.


The Council had also worked with partners to establish Early Help family hubs in the north, south and central areas of the Blackpool. This work had been achieved with support from services across the Council and would represent a significant improvement on the early help offer of CSC.


Looked After Children (LAC) was a significant challenge and work had been undertaken to reduce the number of children being cared for in this way. Ms Gent explained that this had to be undertaken in a safe and proportional way but that officers were confident that the number of LAC could be reduced in line with comparable local authorities. Mr Chris Coyle, Assistant Director Children’s Services (Children’s Social Care and TiS) explained that although a small number of Blackpool’s LAC were placed outside of the town, where possible CSC sought to keep children within Blackpool. He also added that there was no financial benefit to placing children outside of Blackpool as the cost of their placement was still the responsibility of the Council.


The Committee noted that the overall gross risk score had fallen to 15 from 25 and queried in light of the ongoing overspend within Children’s Services, if this was realistic. Ms Gent responded that although major challenges existed the work that had been outlined in the report and the overall change  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.



To consider and approve the audited Statement of Accounts for 2020-2021.

Additional documents:


Mr Steve Thompson, Director of Resources, presented the External Auditor’s Report to those Charged with Governance (ISA 260) and Statement of Accounts 2020/2021. He highlighted the delay that had been experienced in finalising the accounts due to a national issue relating to the accounting of infrastructure assets. A solution for this had been agreed by Parliament in November 2022 and this had allowed the External Auditor to complete the work on the 2020/2021 accounts. Mr Thompson also stated that the delay to the 2020/2021 accounts had caused a delay to the accounts for 2021/2022 and 2022/2023. It was planned that the 2021/2022 accounts would therefore be brought to the Committee by November 2023 and that the 2022/2023 accounts would be brought by the end of the current financial year.


Mr Stuart Kenny, External Auditor, Deloitte, informed the Committee that due to the solution agreed for accounting for infrastructure assets up to 85% of the 2020/2021 accounts had to be amended. Despite this however, it was not expected that there would be a material change to the Council’s financial position. He added that the value for money assessment would state that weaknesses had been identified around Children’s Services due to the outcome of the 2019 Ofsted review of Children’s Services.


The Committee noted that the level of “Unusable Reserves” had experienced a significant reduction compared to the previous year. Ms Karen Tomlinson, Corporate Finance Accountant, explained that the reduction was due to technical adjustments relating to valuations of the pension fund and property, plant and equipment. The Committee also noted that the level of creditors at 31st March 2021 was significantly higher than the previous year due to the timeliness of creditor payments and the level of Covid grants received in advance.


The valuation of Blackpool Housing Company Ltd’s (BHC) housing stock was discussed with it being noted that the valuation had been undertaken by a BHC Senior Manager. Mr Kenny explained that although best practice was for an independent valuation to be sought, the external auditor had reviewed the valuation outcome and found it to be correct.


Members highlighted that the External Auditor had stated that the Council’s Internal Audit could not be relied upon in preparation of its audit of the accounts. Mr Kenny explained that this statement was required by the regulator and did not reflect Deloitte’s view of the Council’s Internal Audit Team. The regulator required Deloitte to undertake its audit without reference to an internal audit work that had been undertaken.


The Committee asked that in light of the additional work required to finalise the accounts that details of the external auditor’s fee be brought to a future meeting of the Committee.


It was noted that there remained a number of points of clarification that were needed before the accounts could be signed. The Committee therefore were requested to approve the accounts but asked, recognising the need to complete the accounts and move forward, that Mr Thompson await the clarification of these issues and consult  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.



To provide the Audit Committee with a summary of the work completed by Risk Services in quarter one of the 2023/24 financial year.

Additional documents:


Ms Tracy Greenhalgh, Head of Audit and Risk, presented the Risk Services Quarter One Report. She highlighted that in respect of Corporate Fraud in addition to the fraud team’s work in relation to Council Tax work had been undertaken to assist in identifying the fraudulent use of Blue Badges as part of the “National Blue Badge Day of Action”. As part of this exercise 200 hundred badges had been inspected, with 10 being seized due to fraudulent use.


The Committee noted in respect of Council Tax Fraud that no fraud had been reported, this was as a result of the Council treating all cases of suspected fraud in the first instances as error. If any of these cases were found to be ongoing in quarter two Ms Greenhalgh confirmed that they would then be treated as fraud.


The internal audit reports issued in quarter one were discussed with Ms Greenhalgh highlighting instance of Priority One recommendations being made in relation to Heritage Service Transition and IT Help Desk and Device Management audits. In both these cases management had confirmed that the recommendations would be implemented within the agreed timescales.


Members discussed the ongoing recruitment challenge within the Audit and Risk Team with Ms Greenhalgh explaining that a “grow your own” approach had been adopted, whereby the Council trained up auditors itself. It was noted that this approach was a long term strategy and would assist in retaining staff.


Resolved: That the Risk Services Quarter One Report be noted.



To note that there are no outstanding items on the Committee’s Action Tracker.


The Committee noted that there were no outstanding items on the Action Tracker.



To note the date and time of the next meeting of the Committee as 14 September 2023, commencing at 6.00pm.


The date and time of the next meeting was noted as Thursday, 14 September 2023 at 6pm.