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To receive any apologies for absence.
Apologies for absence were received from Cllrs Mike Parkes and William Trite.
To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 16 January 2020.
The minutes of the meeting held on 16 January 2020 were confirmed and signed.
Declarations of Interest
To receive any declarations of interest.
No declarations of disclosable pecuniary interests were made at the meeting.
To receive questions or statements on the business of the committee
from town and parish councils and members of the public.
Please note that public speaking has been suspended during the Covid-19 crisis. Each question or statement is limited to no more than 450 words and must be electronically submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org by the deadline set out below.
The question or statement will be read out by an officer of the Council and
a response will be given by the appropriate Portfolio Holder at the meeting. All questions/statements and the responses will be published in full within the minutes of the meeting.
The deadline for submission of the full text of a question or statement is 8.30am on Monday 18 May 2020.
There were no representations from parish or town councils or from members of the public.
To consider a report from the Service Manager for Assurance.
Members considered a report from the Corporate Director for Legal and Democratic which set out the key features of the governance framework in place in the Authority and provided a review of its effectiveness.
Members were advised this was the first Annual Governance Statement for the newly formed Dorset Council and had been based on the previous County Council’s statement. Since March the report had been updated due to the Covid 19 campaign.
The Chairman made reference to Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and asked when members were likely to see them and if they would be available for the July meeting. The Service Manager for Assurance advised that within the risk management update it was key that there were appropriate links between risk and performance. The aim was to align KPIs with the top level corporate risks and that would provide an overview for members.
Cllr Heatley commented that he had expected to see how things had gone with the new council and was a bit confused about what this particular document was for. His understanding was that the review was what we were doing now and felt that this should this be reflected in the Annual Governance Statement. The Service Manager for Assurance advised that this was the case and that this report was very much a first draft for this committee and he was happy to incorporate members’ comments. He had aimed to keep the document quite succinct and the accompanying Local Code of Governance went into more detail. Cllr Heatley noted that whilst risk management was the next item on the agenda he felt it also needed to be included with this document. He was aware that the Council did not yet have the management information needed to meet what was required in the Corporate Plan but felt that systems of control and management information needed to demonstrate progress in achieving the objectives of the Corporate Plan but felt that systems of control and management needed to be included in this Statement. He also felt there was very little recognition that this was a new Council. The Service Manager for Assurance offered to look at this area further and to include the experience that Dorset Council has had during the year.
Cllr Gray noted that the document talked about efficiencies and effectiveness but did not mention value for money. The Executive Director for Corporate Development advised that this document accompanied the annual accounts when they are completed later in the year. The financial documents would tell the story of how the organisation had evolved along with the value for money element. Cllr Gray was still concerned that value for money was bot being recognised enough and felt it needed to be part of all documents in the future.
Cllr Christopher advised that in respect of value for money members needed to bear in mind that this would be commented on by the external auditors. He highlighted the importance of the Council dealing with their suppliers and that ... view the full minutes text for item 71.
To consider a report from the Service Manager for Assurance.
Members considered a report from the Corporate Director for Legal and Democratic which gave members’ the opportunity to review and challenge the Council’s risk register.
The Service Manager for Assurance explained that he had consulted with Heads of Service and Service Managers to see what they considered as the key risks. This work built on the risk appetite agreed by the Shadow Council. Each risk had an identified risk owner and a management update on the current position. There still appeared to be some gaps but officers would be following up on those.
The Vice Chairman appreciated the good work that was being done so far, but felt that the scoring system was too simplified. He felt it would be helpful to see what had happened since the last time members audited the register but recognised it was a balancing act. His view on linking risk to KPIs was that it could be quite cumbersome and it be might be better to link them to the corporate objectives. The Service Manager advised that the scoring matrix had been intentionally kept simple to improve buy-in, but this would be reviewed over time. The Risk and Resilience Officer added that officers were currently working on the development of a 5 by 5 matrix. When the KPIs were agreed they would be looking to embed them to give a true reflection of risk and performance.
With reference to risk CRR003 Cllr Christopher was concerned that when a Head of Service left the Authority there was a need to ensure there was effective support for those who lead in specific council departments. He felt this was a particular risk and mentioned the difficulty of recruiting and retaining staff and suggested that should be given a greater focus rather than relying on agency staff. The Executive Director for Corporate Development commented on retaining the workforce and highlighted that staff were a key part of the organisation. Dorset Council’s ambition was to be an Employer of Choice and wanted people to stay working with the Authority. He made reference to the recent convergence work and ultimate loss of some staff and that during this current crisis a secure job in local government could be more attractive. The Senior Leadership Team had learnt that office based staff didn’t need to actually be in the office and therefore this could result in widening the search for staff and not have to relocate them. What the modern office looks like post Covid would be very interesting.
Following a question from a member about the period of time over which risks were assessed, the Service Manager for Assurance advised, it was ordinarily around a 3 year cycle but some would be longer term judgements for example Climate Change. The Chairman felt it would be helpful to add time parameters to the risks.
In respect of the new ways of working the Vice-Chairman considered if there would be an Opportunity Register along with a Risk Register as this could yield some ... view the full minutes text for item 72.
To consider any items of business which the Chairman has had prior notification and considers to be urgent pursuant to section 100B (4) b) of the Local Government Act 1972. The reason for the urgency shall be recorded in the minutes.
The following items of business were considered by the Chairman as urgent pursuant to section 100B (4) b) of the Local Government Act 1972. The item was considered to be urgent because of the ongoing need to assess Code of Conduct complaints despite the limitations caused the current Covid-19 situation.
Delegation to the Monitoring Officer with regard to Code of Conduct Complaints
The Monitoring Officer reminded members that member conduct and member behaviour was part of this committee’s remit, not just Dorset Councillors but also town and parish councillors. There were 2 sub committees that supported this work. Assessment sub-committee meetings were held in a confidential session to decide whether complaints warranted investigation. Hearing sub-committees were held in public to decide to hear the outcomes of investigations and make decisions on complaints.
Over the past few months business has been building up and there was pressing concerns regarding one council. The Monitoring Officer requested a delegation to enable the Monitoring Officer to meet with a small panel of members to carry out the initial assessment of complaints. The delegation would be in consultation with three members of the Audit and Governance Committee.
Councillor Lacey-Clarke felt uncomfortable with complaints not going to a proper sub-committee as he was not really in support of anything that removed the final decision making from councillors. He asked if it would be possible for delegation to be given to the Chairman of the Audit and Governance Committee instead. The Monitoring Officer advised that except in relation to executive business the law [prevented delegations being given to an individual member.
The Monitoring Officer also explained the practical implications for Democratic Services of running virtual meetings and the agreement of Group Leaders that virtual meeting would be limited to meetings of the Cabinet, Audit and Governance Committee, Overview and Scrutiny, Area Planning and Licensing.
In answer to a question from the Chairman, the Monitoring Officer confirmed that any delegation would only be in place for the time when the Authority was running virtual meetings.
Following a question from a member about the size of the backlog, the Monitoring Officer advised that it was not simply just about numbers but more that there was one particular local council in Dorset where there were pressing problems that needed to be resolved quite urgently.
Proposed Cllr Simon Christopher
Seconded Cllr Susan Cocking
1. That delegated authority be given to the Monitoring Officer to assess code of conduct complaints and the delegation should only be exercised after consultation with any three members of the Audit and Governance Committee.
2. That the delegation should remain in place only whilst the Council is operating virtual meeting arrangements as part of the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.