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Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Committee Room A, Town Hall, Blackpool

Contact: John Greenbank  Democratic Governance Senior Adviser

Items
No. Item

1.

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:

There were no declarations of interest made on this occasion.

2.

MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING HELD ON 24 NOVEMBER 2022 pdf icon PDF 460 KB

To agree the minutes of the last meeting of the Audit Committee held on 24 November 2022 as a true and correct record.

Minutes:

Resolved: That the minutes of the meeting held on 24 November 2022 be signed by the Chair as a true and correct record.

3.

ANNUAL GOVERNANCE STATEMENT - MID-TERM REVIEW pdf icon PDF 570 KB

To provide the Audit Committee with an update on progress made on the actions identified in the Annual Governance Statement 2021-2022.

Minutes:

Ms Tracy Greenhalgh, Head of Audit and Risk and Ms Lorraine Hurst, Head of Democratic Governance, presented the Annual Governance Statement (AGS) 2021-22 Half Year Review. Ms Greenhalgh informed the Committee that the report had been prepared to allow members to monitor the progress of identified actions AGS.

 

The measuring of the success of the AGS was highlighted, with Members querying how the performance would be quantified. Ms Greenhalgh explained that in relation to the Community Engagement Strategy, the implementation of the framework could be subject to future audit although it was currently being implemented across Council services and wholly-owned companies.

 

With respect of the potential CQC inspection of adult social care, Ms Greenhalgh informed the Committee that work was ongoing to ensure preparedness and that an audit of any self-assessment exercises would be undertaken in 2023. Ms Karen Smith, Director of Adult Services, added that the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services had agreed to undertaken a desktop exercise on the impact the service was having and identify any areas for improvement. The Local Government Association had also been engaged to undertake a peer review of Adult Services. It was foreseen that the outcomes of these exercises would allow any improvements to be identified and implemented ahead of a Care Quality Commission visit expected later in 2023.

 

The Committee discussed economic changes that had occurred since the start of the 2021/2022 AGS year and whether these had the affected the actions within the report relating to contracts and procurement. Ms Greenhalgh explained that contract management was a subject of regular internal audit to ensure an ongoing oversight of risk. This had been especially important due to the large number of contracts in place to support the ongoing development of Blackpool Town Centre. Mr Steve Thompson, Director of Resources, further explained that contract management training would be rolled out across Council services to ensure a consistency approach and that new contract software would allow for the simpler identification of existing weaknesses.

 

Ms Hurst emphasised that the AGS remained an important document to provide assurance to the Committee regarding the Council’s governance processes, noting that this included the self-assessment work undertaken by the Committee itself.

4.

INTERNAL AUDIT FOLLOW-UP: CLIMATE CHANGE pdf icon PDF 733 KB

To consider a progress report on the recommendations made in the internal audit report of Climate Change issued on the 31 March 2022.

Minutes:

Mr Scott Butterfield, Strategy, Policy and Research Manager, presented a progress report on the recommendations made in the internal audit report of Climate Change issued on 31 March 2022. He reported that following the declarations of a Climate Emergency in 2019 a Climate Action Plan had been developed aimed at the Council achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2030. and helping the town work towards a similar deadline The progress of climate emergency work and the action plan had been monitored regularly by the Council’s Tourism, Economy and Communities Scrutiny Committee through six-monthly updates and in-depth review work.

 

In respect of the recommendations made in the report, Mr Butterfield reported that the majority had been completed with progress against the outstanding actions being shown in the report. Regarding the establishment of a Climate Experts group to support the work in Blackpool, Mr Butterfield reported that upon consultation with academics at various institutions, engagement would take place at a regional rather than local level around areas of specialism, although there had been interest in involvement in specific projects.

 

It was also reported that Blackpool’s Climate Action Plan had been assessed by the lobbying group Climate Emergency UK which had scored Blackpool at 61% in terms of actions towards becoming net-zero, which was the highest score of local authorities in Lancashire.

 

The Committee highlighted the feedback from climate change training and Mr Butterfield advised that the course would be redesigned to ensure that it adopted a “people centric” approach. Further training modules would also be made available to staff through iPool online training.

 

Barriers to the delivery of climate change work were also discussed with Mr Butterfield highlighting that resources remained the biggest challenge although a focus on recruitment of graduates with necessary skills and knowledge could address this.

 

The opportunities created by the rising cost of energy bills due to increased fuel costs, in relation to encouraging a move to renewable sources was raised. The Committee noted that a number of schemes were being developed for some of the Council’s assets with large roofs resources from the Shared Prosperity Fund had been identified for solar panelling and heat source pumps. Financial modelling for the installation for solar panelling on Blackpool Coastal Housing stock was also being developed.

 

In response to a question from members as to the role of Audit Committee in helping achieve climate change actions, Mr Butterfield advised that climate change considerations in audit work was important along with members in general challenging content of reports to ensure that climate change and sustainability considerations were fully specified.

 

Resolved: That the report be noted.

5.

JOINT ROLE WITH LANCASHIRE AND SOUTH CUMBRIA INTEGRATED CARE BOARD (ICB) pdf icon PDF 480 KB

To consider an update in relation to the risks and opportunities presented by the appointment of the Council’s Director of Adult Services to the Integrated Care Board as Director of Health and Care Integration.

Minutes:

Ms Karen Smith, Director of Adult Services presented an update in relation to the risk and opportunities presented by her appointment to the Integrated Health Board (ICB) as Director of Health and Care Integration. She reported that the ICB had been established in 2022 and combined the eight Clinical Commissioning Groups into a single body. The ICB was governed by an Executive Board and had an Executive Leadership Team to oversee its work. Blackpool formed one of four areas under the ICB and each had a responsible director for the work taking place.

 

It was intended that Ms Smith holding a joint role with the Council and the ICB would allow greater Council influence on the direction of health and social care services and decision-making, ensure better alignment with the NHS and prevent conflicting demands through a joined-up approach. The ICB would adopt a “placed-based approach” to each of the four areas and the identification of Blackpool as a footprint would help ensure that services were delivered and more tailored to the needs of the community, along with any specific budgetary delegations.

 

The impact of the joint role on Ms Smith’s responsibilities as the Council’s Director of Adult Services was discussed. Ms Smith reported that her involvement in health related work had increased as a result of the appointment but that a structure had been put in place to ensure she was supported and that Council service delivery would not be disadvantaged. Mr Neil Jack, Chief Executive, added that the new structure allowed staff within Adult Services to take greater ownership of the work being delivered and offered them the opportunity for personal development and succession planning.

 

The role of Blackpool Council in the appointment of a future ICB Director of Health and Care Integration was queried with Mr Jack explaining that as a joint position, the Council would retain influence over any future appointment to ensure the best person for Blackpool was in post.

 

The Committee welcomed the information provided and asked that an update on the risk and opportunities of the joint role be provided to a meeting in twelve months’ time.

 

Resolved: That an update on the risk and opportunities of Ms Smith’s joint role with the ICB be provided to a meeting in twelve months’ time.

6.

STRATEGIC RISK REGISTER DEEP-DIVE - FINANCIAL pdf icon PDF 558 KB

To consider a progress report on individual risks identified in the Council’s Strategic Risk Register and to consider the controls being implemented to manage the strategic risk relating to finance.

Minutes:

The Committee considered a deep dive into the Strategic Risk “Financial” which included the sub-risks (a) ‘Insufficient funding to deliver services’, (b) ‘Insufficient central government funding for social care’ and (c) ‘Increased fraud and error’.

 

(a) ‘Insufficient funding to deliver services’

 

Mr Steve Thompson, Director of Resources, informed the Committee that public sector finance remained under significant pressure, particularly in respect of social care. This had been the situation since 2011-12, and the Council had adapted to operate in a more efficient way, while increasing productivity and seeking income generation opportunities. The Council had also achieved success in securing additional grant funding for a number of projects.

 

The Council had adopted a Medium Term Financial Strategy covering a six-year period that operated as an important mitigation to ensure service delivery, offered focus for future funding and ensured a consistent approach year-on-year. An area of risk remained however in the continued use of annual local government settlements, with the 2023/2024 settlement having been received on 19 December 2022 which left only a short period in which to finalise the budget for the upcoming year. The Council also possessed a Financial Assurance Framework which Mr Thompson agreed to circulate to members of the Committee for information.

 

The Committee discussed the risk of a Section 114 notice having to be issued by Mr Thompson as Section 151 Officer. He responded that the issue of such a was not limited to bankruptcy but included issues such as corruption within a local authority. He further stated that in many local authorities where S114 notices had been issued. financial mismanagement had been a major contributing factor. Mr Neil Jack, Chief Executive, added that the Council undertook continuous monitoring of the budget throughout the year to identify emerging issues and necessary actions. He added that in many cases financial over exposure in projects had led to S114 notices in other authorities. In contrast the Council had sought to mitigate the risks associated with capital projects including the agreement of fixed costs.

 

Mr Thompson added that individual project boards were established to provide oversight and monitoring of risk registers.

 

(b) ‘Insufficient central government funding for social care’

 

Adults Social Care

 

Ms Karen Smith, Director of Adults Services, reported that the primary mitigation in respect of ASC was its Medium Term Financial Plan which allowed control of the financial risks related to the service. It was also highlighted that the Senior Accountant was embedded with the Directorate’s Management Team, and therefore had an understanding of the work and the resources required and that a close working relationship with the Director of Resources, also ensured that costs could be controlled and effective financial monitoring was taking place. However it was noted that demand for adult social care was increasing as a result of an ageing population and subsequent reduction in the size of Blackpool’s workforce along with complex health requirements within the demographic and that closer working with health services was the most effective way to address this.

 

Work to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

STATEMENT OF ACCOUNTS 2021/2022

To receive a verbal update from the external auditor on progress to sign-off the Annual Statement of Accounts 2021/2022.

Minutes:

Ms Nicola Wright, External Auditor, Deloitte, provided a verbal update on progress to achieve sign-off for the Statement of Accounts 2020/2021 and 2021/22. She reported that following the publication of guidance on the accounting of infrastructure assets, that work was underway to ensure the sign off of the 2020/2021 Accounts for consideration by the Committee at its March 2023 meeting. Following this it was expected that the 2021/2022 accounts would be completed for later in 2023.

 

Resolved: That the update be noted.

8.

AUDIT COMMITTEE ACTION TRACKER pdf icon PDF 411 KB

To consider the Committee’s updated Action Tracker.

Minutes:

The Committee gave consideration to the updated Action Tracker.

 

Resolved: To note the Action Tracker.

9.

DATE OF NEXT MEETING

To note the date and time of the next meeting of the Committee as Thursday 2 March 2023, commencing at 6.00pm.

Minutes:

The date and time of the next meeting was confirmed as Thursday, 2 March 2023 at 6pm