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Agenda and minutes

Venue: Committee Room 3 - Waltham Forest Town Hall

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

Items
No. Item

31.

APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE AND SUBSTITUTE MEMBERS

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Matt Davis; and also from John Turnbull, Strategic Director of Finance and Governance.

 

It was noted that Councillor Nick Halebi was present as substitute Member for Councillor Davis.

32.

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.

33.

MINUTES OF THE PREVIOUS MEETING pdf icon PDF 96 KB

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 21 September 2017 were approved as a correct record and signed by the Chair.

 

34.

CONTRACT WAIVER MONITORING pdf icon PDF 126 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to a report of the Director, Supply Chain.

Dave Levy introduced the report and drew Members’ attention to the low numbers of contract waivers, which have been steadily reducing.

It was explained that by far the largest waiver, Catalyst, was a service concession contract which, although outside the Regulations, had been formally waived to ensure transparency.  It was in effect a finder’s fee for recovery of monies including VAT that had proved very successful in producing savings.  Members enquired as to the amount Catalyst actually received in return.

Mr Levy asked the Committee to see the waivers in the context of a total spend in the region of £270 million, and reminded Members that they would not expect to see large amounts as there is a ceiling above which officers cannot waive.

In relation to the GovDelivery Communications Cloud Marketing Automation System Procurement, the Chair felt that the reason given was more a description of the waiver than the rationale, and asked for further information.

 

Decision

The Committee

(a)          noted the contract waivers in the reporting period;

(b)          asked for further information to be provided on the contract waivers mentioned above; and

noted with satisfaction the low number and value of waivers over the past 12 months, and the steady reduction in recent years.

35.

INSPECTION PROGRAMME FOR COMMERCIAL PROPERTIES pdf icon PDF 71 KB

Minutes:

Consideration was given to a report of the Director of Property and Asset Management.

 

Glenn Miller introduced the report and said that 195 properties out of a total of 295 had been inspected, will all inspections to be completed by the end of the next financial year.  The programme was generally going well although there have been a few instances where tenants have been reminded of their obligations.

 

Decision

 

The Committee noted the commercial properties inspection programme which has been undertaken by the Property and Asset Management team since the 27 June 2017, as set out in paragraph 4.1 of the report.

36.

DRAFT EXTERNAL AUDIT PLAN 2017/18 pdf icon PDF 62 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

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

 

Goodrich introduced the report and said that the External Auditors’ two key responsibilities were to provide a statement on the accounts, including the Pension Fund accounts, and a conclusion on the arrangements for the efficient use of resources.

 

The main areas covered are risks associated with management override of controls, valuation of land and buildings, as well as recognition of Section 106 income.  Ms Goodrich noted that the shortened timetable for closing accounts, with the date brought forward from 30 September to 3 June, places additional pressure on the Corporate Accountancy team.

 

The fee of approximately £190,000 is calculated according to the standard PSAA (Public Sector Audit Appointments) scale.

 

The Vice-Chair asked about the potential overspend of £3.4 million at the end of month 7.  Ms Goodrich explained that this formed part of the Value for Money assessment of the Council’s resilience to reduced funding from central Government, and was the potential before actions were put in place.  Brian Moldon added that the situation is monitored through monthly reports to Management Board and Cabinet.

 

The Chair asked whether the quadrants in the heat map reflected industry standards, and was informed that they illustrated the processes according to KPMG’s interpretations: transactions are routine operational matters; judgment covers the risk areas; and disclosure is about openness and transparency.

 

Decision

 

The Committee noted the External Auditor’s Audit Plan for 2017-18 as set out in the report.

 

37.

2016/17 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.

 

Goodrich  introduced the report and said the qualified certification in relation to Housing Benefit Subsidy should not cause Members too much concern, as this was in the nature of system, and reflects the pattern nationally 86 per cent of opinions are qualified.  She assured Councillor Mahmud that the under- and overpayments were not significant enough to merit further action.  There were unqualified certifications in relation to the Teachers’ Pension return and Polling of Housing Capital Receipts Return.

 

Decision

 

The Committee noted the External Auditor’s 2016-17 Report on Certification of grants and returns as set out in Appendix 1 to the report.

38.

PROPOSED CHANGES TO PRESENTING 2017/18 ACCOUNTS TO THE COMMITTEE AND UPDATE ON THE 2018/19 AUDIT PROCUREMENT pdf icon PDF 77 KB

Minutes:

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

 

Brian Moldon introduced the report and outlined the implications of the shorter timescale for presenting the 2017/18 accounts.  This could entail the draft accounts being presented to the Committee at the end of May or a special meeting to receive the final accounts at the end of July.

 

Decision

 

The Committee

 

(a)           agreed that the Statement of Accounts for 2017/18 will be presented to the Committee at the July Committee when the Auditors will also present their findings and report; and

noted that the latest position on the procurement process of the external auditors.

39.

THE REGULATION OF INVESTIGATORY POWERS ACT 2000 (RIPA) INSPECTION AND REVISED RIPA POLICY pdf icon PDF 66 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

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

 

Mark Hynes introduced the report and said it followed the paper that came to the Committee in June 2017, and which would be submitted to Cabinet with minor amendments the following week.

 

Councillor Halebi asked if outside agencies were used for surveillance.  Officers replied that it was usually council officers, in some instances members of the public and occasionally children to make test purchases.  Creating a bogus profile on social media or tracking people’s movements counts as surveillance under the Act, and the evidence gathered is therefore admissible.

 

Councillor Ali asked about the extent of CHIS (Conduct and Use of a Covert Human Intelligence Source) and was informed that it was extremely rare and that to some extent its reported use had caused it to fall into disrepute.

 

Ms Young agreed with the view expressed by Members that all surveillance including by CCTV must be time-limited and time-expired.

 

The Chair queried the dates on the distribution list of the Procedures Manual, and asked whether the ones in 2013 should be updated, particularly since it appeared that some of the officers had now left the Council.  Mr Hynes undertook to check the positon and once Cabinet has formally agreed the policy, the list will be reviewed and the Manual redistributed.

 

Decision

 

The Committee approved and recommended to Cabinet the revised London Borough of Waltham Forest Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) Procedure Manual in Appendix 1 to the report.

 

40.

TREASURY MANAGEMENT STRATEGY, MINIMUM REVENUE PROVISION POLICY STATEMENT AND ANNUAL INVESTMENT STRATEGY 2018-19 pdf icon PDF 78 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to a report of the Pensions and Treasury Manager.

 

Debbie Drew introduced the report and said there had been no significant changes to the policy.

 

It was clarified that the zero estimates for Adult Social Care and other areas in 2019/20 and 2020/21 were because forecasts were unknown at this time for these areas of capital expenditure.

Members also observed that debt would double in the next few years.  Offices confirmed this, and said this was mainly due to the borrowing requirements for the SPV (special purpose vehicle) for housing, the replacement of reserves, where previously this had been used for internal borrowing; and the Town Hall Campus project and associated accommodation requirements.

 

Decision

The Committee

(a)    recommended Council to:

(i)        agree the Treasury Management Strategy Statement and Annual Investment Strategy Report 2018/19.

(ii)       agree the MRP strategy for 2018/19  (as outlined in appendix 1 to the report).

(iii)      agree the Prudential Indicators as set out in the Treasury Management Strategy, which demonstrate that the Council’s capital investment plans are affordable prudent and sustainable.

agreed that any changes to the Capital programme that lead to material changes to the Treasury Management figures  between this report and when it goes to full Council in March are delegated to the Strategic Director of Finance and Governance to approve, which will be reported back to the next meeting of the Committee.

41.

ELECTION ARRANGEMENTS 2018 pdf icon PDF 77 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

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

 

Mark Hynes introduced the report and assured the Committee that any changes to polling stations would be made in full consultation with Ward Members.  The report provided a snapshot of the current situation and the fuller picture would be reported to the next meeting.

 

The Chair was enthused by Mr Hynes’s description of new election management software being used in London for the first time.  It allows, for example, monitoring of the turnout throughout the day, and delivery of postal votes to polling stations.  He would invite the Chair to a demonstration.  He also referred to the trend towards Friday counts and whether this should be considered locally.

 

Caryle Webb-Ingall asked about progress towards making the count more electronic.  Mr Hynes said this would happen once the legislative hurdles were removed for Parliamentary and local elections, and the technology had been proven in the London Mayoral election.  Scotland and Wales were going a step further in consulting on electronic voting.  Waltham Forest has indicated to the Cabinet office that they would be willing to bid for funding to pilot this should a byelection occur, as part of the drive to raise turnout in local elections and meet the expectations of the public, especially younger voters, in terms of technology.

 

The Chair referred to the case of a resident who voted twice in last year’s General Election and then boasted about it on Twitter.   Mr Hynes said that checks in place since 2014 meant this could be captured by matching someone’s date of birth with their National Insurance number.

 

Decision

 

The Committee

 

(a)  noted the report; and

 

(b)  gave encouragement to the greater use of technology in running elections.

 

42.

RISK MANAGEMENT UPDATE pdf icon PDF 106 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

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

Andrea Nitschke introduced the report and drew Members’ attention to the main points.  The Amey contract has now been reduced from a strategic to an operational risk.  It was pointed out that in relation to SRFH005 – Housing Strategy – that 160 units have been built, not 260.  SRFG0002 – Maximising Income Generation: the third bullet refers to a programme of digitalisation to improve debt recovery.

RWF and Digital - The Vice-Chair commented on the extent to which the Redefining Waltham Forest programme depended on the delivery of a digital strategy, and asked whether there was robust enough challenge by Management Board to ensure this.  Ms Nitschke said the process was subject to benchmarking and scrutiny by the transformation Team and had been the subject of an internal audit report.

Councillor Mahmud expressed her continuing concern at the effectiveness of certain systems on which the strategy depends: for example if a resident reports a neighbourhood problem online, the tendency for systems to say the job has been done when in fact it has simply been entered.  Ms Nitschke said this would not necessarily appear on a strategic risk register, but departments were expected to have the necessary operational mitigations in place.  A strategic risk is in place relating to contract management. 

Carillion - In relation to contracts, Ms Webb-Ingall asked if the necessary checks and balances were in place to deal with the impact of an event such as the recent collapse of Carillion.  Mr Levy added that this operates at quite a high level.  The Council does not have any contracts with Carillion, but that is not to say there will not be an impact on the supply chain and firms operating in the borough, and subcontractors – who may be working for the Council – not being paid.  He said that due diligence includes checking the company’s published accounts and sometimes its management accounts, and there is the whole process of contract management.  However, in a commercial environment Members should be aware that there is always the risk that something like this might happen.

Departmental Risk Registers – the Chair referred to an earlier discussionabout bringing these to Committee.  Ms Nitschke said that officers from departments used to come to meetings on a rotating basis, but it was of limited value to Members.  Nevertheless the Committee said they would like to see some sample departmental registers circulated to give Members a flavour of their content and scope, and how they differed from the strategic register.

 

Decision

The Committee:

(a)    noted the contents of the report;

(b)   agreed the strategic risk register, detailed in Appendix A to the report; and

asked for samples of departmental risk registers to be circulated to Members.

43.

AUDIT & FRAUD DIVISION - CORPORATE ANTI-FRAUD TEAM UPDATE pdf icon PDF 483 KB

Minutes:

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

 

Gemma Young introduced members of her team, Kevin Campbell-Scott, Corporate Anti-Fraud Manager, and Berniece Sarsah, Internal Audit Manager, to the Committee, and the Chair welcomed them to the meeting.

 

Miss Young introduced the report and said that with policies had been refreshed but no major change of strategy or approach was proposed. The team were pleased with a successful prosecution under the Proceeds of Crime Act resulting in a confiscation, compensation and, unusually, award of costs.

 

Training on fraud and awareness continues and has been made bespoke for Housing, where tenants may find themselves unwitting victims of bogus landlords.  The intention is to extend this to estate agents and other bona fide landlords.  Members asked that the position should also be checked with regard to unregistered letting agents, where conduct and practices where less likely to be regulated.

 

Recent checks of council housing have indicated that almost all tenants are where the Council believes them to be, although a couple of unauthorised sublets have been disclosed.

 

Miss Young informed Councillor Halebi that the formula for calculating the amount saved for the public purse from preventing fraudulent right-to-buys, of which there were 61, is based on the maximum London discount of £104,900.  Fraud often comes to light when it transpires that the tenant is on benefits and therefore the purchaser must be someone else.

 

The Chair pointed out that the total new build value of successful property recoveries (page 214) appeared to be £1 million short, and should be £8,350,000.

 

With regard to the cases of interest, Members expressed concern that certain cases had not been sufficiently anonymised and that individuals could be identified from the situation described.  Officers undertook to revise and replace the relevant paragrpahs.

 

The Vice-Chair asked about the risk of benefit investigators’ posts being deleted.  Miss Young said they had transferred to the DWP and she was not a aware of any such proposals.  However, there is the feeling that the number and effectiveness of investigations may have slackened as the system has tended to become more centralised with less autonomy.

 

Decision

 

The Committee:

 

(a)    noted the report and proactive plan;

(b)    approved the updated policies; and

asked that inclusion of letting agents in fraud training be explored further.

44.

AUDIT & FRAUD DIVISION - INTERNAL AUDIT UPDATE pdf icon PDF 240 KB

Minutes:

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

 

Gemma Young introduced the report and said around 30 per cent of the plan had been completed and most drafts will be finalised by the end of March 2018.  One priority recommendation in relation to Direct Payments has not been implemented.  The nil assurance in relation to Housing Management Files came to light through the Corporate Anti-Fraud  Team’s own work, where it became apparent that staff were searching for and taking away files

they needed that had already been boxed up for archiving.  Ms Young assured Councillor Halebi that documented procedures and controlled documentation formed part of the recommendations.

 

Decision

 

The Committee noted the report.