Agenda and minutes

Dorset Council - Audit and Governance Committee
Thursday, 7th November, 2019 10.00 am

Venue: Committee Room A/B, South Walks House, South Walks Road, Dorchester, DT1 1EE

Contact: Lindsey Watson  01305 252209 - Email: lindsey.watson@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

40.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 111 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 14 October 2019.

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 14 October 2019 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.

41.

Declarations of Interest

To receive any declarations of interest.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

42.

Public Participation

To receive questions or statements on the business of the committee from town and parish councils and members of the public.

Minutes:

There were no representations from parish or town councils or from members of the public.

43.

Urgent items

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.

Minutes:

In response to a request from the Chairman, the committee was provided with an update in respect of outstanding issues with signing off the accounts of the former Dorset Councils Partnership councils.  The Executive Director of Corporate Development noted that confirmation had been received from the External Auditor that all work required had been completed.  The only outstanding point was to receive confirmation from banks as to balances as at 31 March 2019.

 

On a separate point, the Chairman noted that he had received a communication from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government with regard to reviewing the role of the external auditor.

44.

Presentation - Dorset Council Workforce Data and People Strategy pdf icon PDF 1 MB

To receive a presentation on Dorset Council Workforce Data and the People Strategy.

Minutes:

Following a request by the committee at a previous meeting, councillors received a presentation which covered Dorset Council workforce data and the People Strategy.  The committee considered the issues arising from the presentation and during discussion, the following points were raised:

 

Workforce Data

 

·                Staff turnover and sickness absence figures were noted

·                10% of posts in the establishment were vacant and it was noted that some vacant posts had been held while restructures were undertaken.  The current tranche 2 was coming to an end

·                A review of recruitment practice had been undertaken

·                The Dorset Council website was the main location for council job vacancies, although it was noticed that a lower level of recruitment was currently taking place

·                As at the end of September 2019, the headcount for Dorset Council was 4669 (3665 Full time equivalents)

·                A discussion was held with regard to sickness levels and in particular the level of long-term sickness and the strategies that were in place to deal with these issues

·                A comment was made with regard to stress related illness and issues around mental health in particular directorates and that there may be a need for a specific piece of Human Resources (HR) work within these directorates

·                An overview of the issues being addressed through the Blueprint for Change consultation was provided including the need for manageable case loads for social workers

·                Levels of staff morale in the council were considered and different views expressed.  The council was looking to procure a system in order to survey staff in a more modern way

·                The council operated a ‘Business Partner’ approach with each service area being allocated a senior HR contact.  Workforce data was also available at directorate level

·                A point was noted with regard to the need for the committee to receive information on a timely basis and particular reference was made to the position in Children’s Services

·                The Executive Director of Corporate Development responded to recognise the position and to reiterate that everything was being done to support Children’s Services through the Blueprint for Change consultation

·                The Chairman noted that he had been contacted by the South West Audit Partnership with regard to the timing for the committee receiving information and inviting any comments from councillors prior to him submitting his response

·                Information from each directorate was included in the presentation and reference was made to ‘knowledge management’ and how information could be retained or transferred with people leaving the council.  Particular reference was made to information from the Business Insight and Corporate Communications area

·                A point was raised as to how Dorset Council held and shared information and it was understood that some work was being undertaken in this area.  It was noted that a councillor workshop on the Dorset Council transformation programmes was being held on 10 January 2020 and it was suggested that councillors attend this session and following this, the committee could give further consideration to whether any further work was required in this area

·                The Portfolio Holder for Children, Education  ...  view the full minutes text for item 44.

45.

Presentation - Dorset Council EU Exit Preparations pdf icon PDF 179 KB

To receive a presentation from the Executive Director of Place with regard to preparations being made by Dorset Council in respect of EU Exit.

 

The presentation will be available at the meeting.

Minutes:

The committee received a presentation from the Executive Director of Place, which set out the preparations being undertaken by Dorset Council in respect of EU Exit.  The update covered the work that had been undertaken by the council and noted that an extension for EU Exit had been granted until 31 January 2020. 

 

It was reported that in line with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s approach, the Strategic and Tactical Groups set up by the council had been paused.  All structures in this area would be reconvened in January 2020.

 

Councillors considered the issues arising from the presentation and during discussion, the following points were raised:

 

·                In response to a question the Executive Director confirmed that scenarios would be prepared for from the emergency control centre based at County Hall.  Desktop exercises were undertaken and the Executive Director was confident that the council had the resilience to deal with events, including where there may be more than one incident

·                Work had begun on the issues around recovery following response, which had included discussion with Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council on areas such as support for economic development

·                Close work was undertaken with the Police around social unrest issues, which was an area led by the Police, supported by the council

·                A discussion was held with regard to the EU Settlement Scheme and it was noted that the Home Office had confirmed  the current scheme would be open until at least 31 December 2020.  Relevant people could be advised to register under the scheme if required and it was noted that Citizens Advice could assist people to register

·                The Chairman asked that a further update be provided at an appropriate time.

46.

Treasury Management 2019/20 Mid-Year Update pdf icon PDF 415 KB

To receive the 2019/20 Mid-Year update for Treasury Management.

Minutes:

The committee received and considered a report which summarised the treasury management performance and position information for Dorset Council for the financial year to 30 September 2019.  A training session was to be run for all councillors, provided by officers and advisers, to further explain the responsibilities that councillors had in relation to treasury management.

 

Councillors considered the contents of the report and during discussion, the following points were raised:

 

·                Reference was made to a loan from BAE Systems, set out in appendix 2 of the report and points noted with regard to potential public concern with ethical borrowing issues and the ability to repay the loan early if required.  In response, the Service Manager for Treasury and Investments provided background to the specific loan and noted that the loan had consolidated a number of previous loans.  There would be a premium in order to repay early.  It was noted that a number of the loans listed were loans taken out by the former Dorset County Council and that they would have been taken out in accordance with the strategy of the former council

·                In response to a question, it was noted that there was an active market in inter-authority lending for short term borrowing

·                A lot of borrowing was based on the strategy of the former Dorset County Council

·                The council would aim to have variances in the maturity dates for loans in order to mitigate in case of a sudden increase in interest rates.

47.

Audit and Governance Committee Work Programme pdf icon PDF 75 KB

To review the Audit and Governance Committee Work Programme.

Minutes:

Councillors reviewed the Audit and Governance Committee work programme and items expected at forthcoming  meetings.  It was noted that the External Audit Plan would now be presented to the meeting on 16 January 2020.

 

At the next meeting on 3 December 2019, the committee would be considering the Financial Report for Quarter 2 2019/20.  The committee requested that the Executive Director of People – Children be invited to the meeting as it was noted that there was a 13% overspend on budget in this area for the first 6 months of the financial year (as set out in the finance report considered at Cabinet on 5 November 2019) and councillors would like the opportunity to have a discussion on progress being made in this area.

 

The committee also requested a further update on Dorset Council preparations in respect of EU Exit at their meeting on 16 January 2020.

48.

Exempt Business

To move the exclusion of the press and the public for the following item in view of the likely disclosure of exempt information within the meaning of paragraph x of schedule 12 A to the Local Government Act 1972 (as amended).

 

The public and the press will be asked to leave the meeting whilst the item of business is considered.

 

There is no exempt business.

Minutes:

There was no exempt business.