You are here:

Agenda and minutes

Venue: Committee Room 3 - Waltham Forest Town Hall. View directions

Contact: John Williams, Democratic Services Officer  020 8496 4344 | Email: john.williams@walthamforest.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

43.

APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE AND SUBSTITUTE MEMBERS

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Caryle Webb-Ingall, Independent Co-opted Member.

44.

DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST

Members are required to declare any pecuniary or non-pecuniary interests they or their spouse/partner may have in any matter which is to be considered at this meeting. Interests are defined on the inside cover of this agenda.

Minutes:

None.

45.

MINUTES OF THE PREVIOUS MEETING pdf icon PDF 74 KB

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 12 January 2017 were approved as a correct record and signed by the Chair.

46.

DRAFT EXTERNAL AUDIT PLAN pdf icon PDF 62 KB

Report presented by Neil Hewitson, KPMG

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee received a presentation from Neil Hewitson of KPMG.

 

Mr Hewitson introduced himself and said he had taken over the role of Paul Johnstone at Director at KPMG, the Council’s external auditors. 

 

On the Financial Statement Audit and opinion, Members’ attention was drawn to four significant audit risks:

 

Valuation of land and buildings

Changes in the pension liability due to LGPS Triennial Valuation

Revenue recognition for Section 106 income

New format of core financial statements (Minute 48 refers)

 

Mr Hewitson also summarised the arrangements and methodology for the external auditors’ Value for Money work.

 

The Vice-Chair expressed interest in the way the Council values its land and buildings and was concerned that certain assets might be undervalued, or that the rents charged might not reflect the value.  It was explained that there are different categories of asset, and changes to the way the highway infrastructure (roads, bridges, pavements, signage, verges etc.) is valued are expected.  Rents charged reflect the agreement with the tenant organisation and not necessarily assessed value of the property.

 

47.

2015/16 CERTIFICATE OF GRANTS AND RETURNS ANNUAL REPORT pdf icon PDF 64 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to a report of the Strategic Director of Finance and Governance and Chief Accountant.

 

It was confirmed that the overpayment of Housing Benefit mentioned in the report was no more that £100.

 

 

Decision

 

The Committee noted and welcomed the External Auditor’s Audit Plan for 2016/17 as set out Appendix 1 to the report.

48.

REVIEW OF ACCOUNTING POLICIES AND CHANGES ON NEW ACCOUNTING STANDARDS pdf icon PDF 101 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to a report of the Strategic Director of Finance and Governance and Chief Accountant.

 

Brian Moldon introduced the report and said there were no significant changes, particularly as the expected new highways and infrastructure valuation had been postponed by CIPFA.  However, there are new formats for the Comprehensive and Income Statement (CIES) and the Movement in Reserves Statement (MiRS), and a new Expenditure and Funding Analysis which will assist stakeholders will assist stakeholders by improved presentation.  There is closer alignment with the monthly monitoring report to Members based around how the directorates are organised.  The practice of earmarking reserves in the MiRS has ended. 

 

The Chair asked about categorisation of the CIES disclosure in Appendix 1 to the report, and the apparent disparity in expenditure on, for example, Adult Social Care.  It was explained that CIPFA expects drilling down to a reasonable level, but this does not always reflect the Council’s own classifications.

 

The review also envisages earlier and faster closure of the accounts, brought forward from the end of June to the end of May.  There will therefore be a pause in taking orders and queries in the last two weeks of March, but in response to a question from the Chair, Mr Moldon confirmed that payments to third sector organisations will be maintained.

 

Decision

 

The Committee:

 

noted and agreed the changes to the Council’s accounting policies that have been made as a result of changes to the local authority accounting framework for 2016/17; and

noted the changes to the Comprehensive Income and Expenditure Statement (CIES), Movement in Reserves Statement (MiRS) and the new Expenditure and Funding Analysis (EFA) note.

 

49.

REGULATION OF INVESTIGATORY POWERS ACT 2000 (RIPA) UPDATE pdf icon PDF 68 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to a report of the Head of Litigation and Public Law.

 

Kim Travis introduced the report and said the next RIPA inspection would be later in the month. She outlined changes in the RIPA regime and updates to the current policies and codes of practice. 

 

Members were anxious that training on the use of investigatory powers should be ongoing and not seen as a reaction to impending inspections.  The Director of Governance and Law said that the Governance Board which he chairs is developing an annual programme and a more rigorous forward plan than hitherto.

 

Councillor Asghar asked whether using juveniles to make attempted purchases in shops to ensure alcohol and tobacco licences are being adhered to was covered by the Act.  It was confirmed that this does not come within the definition of covert surveillance, whereas placing a hidden camera in a suspect’s shop or premises would require authorisation.

 

Decision

 

The Committee:

 

noted the current use of RIPA in relation to surveillance and acquisition and disclosure of communications data as set out in this report

noted that the Office of Surveillance Commissioners will be carrying out an inspection on the Council’s RIPA procedures on 29th March 2017

approved and recommended to Cabinet the revised LBWF RIPA Procedure Manual in Appendix 1, subject to any further amendments being made by the Director of Governance and Law following the forthcoming inspection.

 

noted that the Director of Governance will report back to the Committee upon the outcome of the inspection at the next meeting.

 

50.

MEMBER ROLES

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to a report of the Head of Litigation and Public Law.

 

Kim Travis introduced the report, which presented the results of the consultation with Members on role descriptions following the last meeting of the Committee.  She highlighted the amendment suggested by Councillor Pye reflecting the work carried out by Councillors in their own wards.

 

Councillor Hemsted was wary of rigid job descriptions that went beyond Members’ statutory role and the normal expectations of their constituents, especially if they implied some form of appraisal, which rightly took place at election time.  Officers provided assurance that the purpose is to give clarity to existing roles, and no evaluation or monitoring was implied. They will provide a focus for Member training and for induction following elections.

 

It was clarified that the Cabinet Member role was generic whereas the Portfolio Holder role was specific and would be tailored to the portfolio.

 

The Chair recalled that the Working Group had also asked about maternity and paternity leave for Members, and occupational health measures, so that they could step aside from their roles if necessary without penalty.  The Director of Governance and Law said that as Members rather than employees, there was no statutory right to time off but there was discretion to make appropriate provision within the Members’ Allowance Scheme.  In this connection, he was sorry that the Scheme had not been brought to the Committee in time for consideration in advance of full Council, and undertook the Committee to consult in the meantime.

 

Decision

 

The Committee

noted the amendment made to Core Role for Members following the consultation carried out by the Director of Governance and Law;

recommended the Council to formally adopt the Roles as set out in Appendices 1 to 10 be formally part of the Constitution;

 

asked that discretionary maternity and paternity leave and occupational health measures be considered as part of the Members’ Allowance Scheme, for consultation with Committee Members in advance of full Council.

 

51.

ADDITIONAL GUIDANCE ON USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA pdf icon PDF 106 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to a report of the Director of Governance and Law.

 

Decision

 

The Committee noted the outcome of the consultation and recommended for approval by Council the draft Social Media Protocol attached at Appendix 1.

  

52.

REVISED PLANNING CODE OF PRACTICE pdf icon PDF 84 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to a report of the Director of Governance and Law

 

The Director introduced the report and said that the proposals had arisen from concerns that that the current Terms of Reference lead to a considerable number of uncontroversial applications going to the Planning Committee unnecessarily when in fact it should be concentrating on major developments and those of significant public interest.  Amendments to the Terms of Reference will have consequential changes to the Planning Code of Practice.

 

Councillor Hemsted strongly objected to the proposals.  She asked who they were intended to benefit, the Council or residents?  It was her right as an elected member to take an interest in the whole borough and not be restricted to planning matters solely in her own ward.  She queried the legality of the proposals given the duty placed on the Council by the Statement of Community Involvement (under the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004), and said that Members should always have the right to bring decisions to a higher level, and not subject to the discretion of officers.   The threshold of 150 units for applications where fewer than five objections have been received was much too high, and she saw the proposed changes to public speaking times at committee meetings as stifling democracy. 

 

Some of these concerns were shared to a degree, in particular the threshold of 150 units, especially whereas 16 units was considered ‘large’ in other contexts, and where the inclusion of affordable housing was concerned.  The Committee suggested possible changes to the unit threshold and also acknowledged the potential impact of these on the height threshold of 30 metres, although Councillor Hemsted cautioned that amendments of this nature needed careful consideration and should not be rushed. 

 

The Director of Law and Governance was not of the view that the proposals were contrary to the Statement of Community Involvement, but undertook to check the position and respond to Councillor Hemsted more fully.  

 

Members were of the view that before the proposals went to full Council, they should be in a more widely acceptable form, particularly with reference to thresholds, following further consultation with the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Planning Committee.

 

Decision

 

On being put to the vote, with three in favour and one against, the Committee approved in principle the amendment of the Terms of Reference for the Planning Committee and consequential changes to the Planning Code of Practice, subject to further consultation before submission to full Council in the light of Members’ comments above.

 

Councillor Hemsted asked that her objection to the recommendations and vote against be recorded.

 

53.

CORPORATE PARENTING: GOVERNANCE pdf icon PDF 75 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to a report of the Divisional Director, Children and Families and Democratic Services.

 

John Williams introduced the report and said that when a child comes into care, the Council becomes their parent.  This places a heavy responsibility on officers and particularly Members to see that the Council acts in the same way as any good parent would act. It is the  role of Corporate Parenting Board to see this happens,

 

Since recent Ofsted and CQC inspections, the Board’s role and profile have been strengthened, and governance arrangements reviewed.  In particular, it seeks to highlight the role of all Councillors as corporate parents; to strengthen the voice of the child and ensure genuine dialogue with children and young people; and to  raise the profile of looked after children with members of the Board. 

 

The governance review is aimed at improving the accountability of agencies also responsible for looked after children – chiefly the NHS and the Virtual School but also voluntary sector, youth justice and the police, and  the co-operation of those agencies with the Council and each other.  It has resulted

in a broader brush approach and more aspirational terms of  reference than   the rather granular existing document. 

 

The Vice-Chair welcomed the review and praised the work of the Corporate Parenting Board, which was of vital importance.  

 

Decision

 

The Committee:

noted the Corporate Parenting Board’s review of its governance arrangements; and

adopted the revised arrangements as set out in Appendix 1 and recommended Council accordingly as a revision to the Constitution.

 

54.

PROGRESS UPDATE ON DELIVERING THE INTERNAL AUDIT PLAN FOR 2016-17 pdf icon PDF 300 KB

Minutes:

Consideration was given to a report of the Head of Internal Audit and Anti-Fraud.

 

Gemma Young introduced the report and said that overall assurance was reasonable, with nine providing limited assurance, and three cases of nil, which were bound to be of concern.

 

The Vice-Chair welcomed the report and said it was good that improvements were being found and built upon.  However, she repeated the continuing and mounting concern that finding after finding pointed to the lack of training of staff.  It appeared that in certain areas of the Council, staff were doing things the way they always had, and there did not seem to be a central mechanism for ensuring that training had been delivered or if not, whether this had been followed up with management.

 

The Chair asked whether poor audit findings were brought to the attention of the relevant Portfolio Lead Member.  Miss Young said that Directors were asked to share the information.  The Committee felt this could be strengthened.

 

Direct Payments – Councillor Mahmud asked why spot checks were not undertaken.  Resources had been given as the reason, but Miss Young agreed that the spend and the safeguarding aspect indicated that these should happen and be written into the relevant policies and procedures.

 

Adult Social Care –The Vice-Chair referred to the meeting of the Adult Social Care Scrutiny Committee the previous evening where there was concern at the number of systems that did not interface with one another.  In this context it was worrying that there was no specific risk register for the service.

 

Miss Young said that risk registers were being extended downward throughout the Council, and the areas where none exist are brought to the attention of the Insurance and Risk Manager.

 

Mortuary – Councillor Mahmud asked whetherthe audit had indicated shortcomings in the checking of business continuity plans.  Officers explained that the business continuity team is shared with London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, and that measures have been put in place to ensure that checks take place every time templates are updated, namely every three months.

 

Officers agreed that waived mortuary charges should be recorded, although the justification would normally be a sensitive matter such as the death of a child.

 

Housing – Health and Safety Checks – Members acknowledged that the checks were based on the Council’s legal obligations, but also believed that damp should also be included in inspections and assessments.

 

TMOs – The Committee welcomed the suggestion that representatives of Tenant Management Organisations be invited to the next meeting.

 

Decision

 

The Committee noted the report.  

55.

CORPORATE ANTI-FRAUD TEAM UPDATE - 2016-17 TO DATE pdf icon PDF 163 KB

Minutes:

Consideration was given to a report of the Head of Internal Audit and Anti-Fraud.

 

Blue Badge Fraud – Miss Young explained how blue badge checks are carried out: a photograph of the badge is taken and run through the system.  If any irregularities emerge, officers wait for the holder to return to the vehicle and questions are asked, including address checks.  She undertook to find out what happens in instances where possible fraud is traced to another borough, as local authorities’ prosecution policies are not consistent.  The potential loss caused by fraud and the non-payment of parking and congestion charges has been estimated at potentially £5.5k per year per badge.

 

The Committee welcomed the progress on tackling social housing fraud, although the difficulty of obtaining statements from tenants in sublet properties was acknowledged.

 

Decision

 

The Committee

 

noted the report;

 

asked that the idea of a central mechanism to ensure that staff training was carried out and recorded be explored; and

 

agreed that adverse audit findings should be shared with the relevant Portfolio Lead Member.

56.

REVIEW OF INTERNAL AUDIT CHARTER pdf icon PDF 177 KB

Minutes:

Consideration was given to a report of the Head of Internal Audit and Anti-Fraud.

 

It was confirmed that the Charter is a requirement of the UK Public Sector Internal Audit Standards.

 

Decision

 

The Committee agreed:

 

·         the Internal Audit Charter;

·         the Internal Audit Strategy; and

·         to permit the Head of Internal Audit to agree the quarter 1 Internal Audit Plan 2017-18 with Strategic Directors.