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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

45.

APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE AND SUBSTITUTE MEMBERS

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Umar Ali and Councillor Matt Davis.

 

It was noted that Councillor Marion Fitzgerald was present as substitute Member for Councillor Davis.

 

46.

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.

 

47.

MINUTES OF THE PREVIOUS MEETING pdf icon PDF 87 KB

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 17 January 2017 were approved as a correct record and signed by the Chair.

 

48.

ASSESSMENT OF GOING CONCERN STATUS FOR THE COUNCIL pdf icon PDF 141 KB

Minutes:

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

 

Brian Moldon introduced the report and outlined the main factors underpinning the assessment of the Council as a going concern, including the Council’s current and projected financial position, the strategic planning and budgetary framework process, governance arrangements, and the regulatory and control environment in which the Council operates as a local authority.

 

Mr Moldon drew Members’ attention to the key elements of the Council’s current financial position, its reserves and the General Fund and HRA (Housing Revenue Account) balances.  Looking ahead, the Medium Term Financial Strategy has been refreshed, with an improvement in the potential funding gap of £7.6 million in 2019/20 to £4.7 million.

 

External audit had provided a satisfactory ‘Value for Money’ conclusion that the organisation had proper arrangements or challenging how it secures economy, efficiency and effectiveness in its operations.  Mr Moldon also provided an overview of the strategic planning and budgetary process, and the governance and control environments as detailed in the report.

 

The Chair referred to recent events at Northamptonshire County Council.   It was explained that councils are required to set a balanced budget, and in this instance  the s.151 Officer was not satisfied that this was the case.  At Waltham Forest, the Council’s history of stable finances and access to financial resources and the absence of any significant risks have led the Strategic Director of Finance and Governance to conclude that the Council is clearly a going concern and therefore the accounts can be prepared on this basis.

 

Decision

 

The Committee noted the outcome of the assessment made of the Council’s status as a “going concern” for the purposes of the statement of accounts 2017/18.

 

49.

REVIEW OF ACCOUNTING POLICIES AND CHANGES TO NEW ACCOUNTING STANDARDS pdf icon PDF 80 KB

Minutes:

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

 

Brian Moldon introduced the report and brought to Members’ attention the main changes to the local authority accounting framework in 2017/18, including their effect on the Council’s accounting policies and the statutory framework for preparing and reporting local authority financial statements.

The changes in 2017-18 are limited in number and minor.  However, in 2018-19 there will be major changes in terms of compliance with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), chiefly to:

·         Tended toIFRS 9 Financial Instruments

·         IFRS 15 Revenue from Contracts with Customers

Mr Moldon said there was adequate notice of the changes, and they were unlikely to pose any great difficulty to the Council.

The Vice-Chair asked about ‘unrealised gains and losses’, and whether the Council had experienced any.  It was explained that the Council did not have the complex and risky investments this was intended for, and any loss would be covered from a reserve. 

The Chief Accountant was able to provide assurance that his team was on target to meet the tighter timescales for closing the 2017-18 accounts.

Decision

 

The Committeenoted 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 2017/18.

 

50.

EXTERNAL AUDIT PROCUREMENT FOR GRANTS AND RETURNS CERTIFICATION WORKS pdf icon PDF 75 KB

Minutes:

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

Brian Moldon introduced the report and updated the Committee on the outcome of the procurement exercise for External Audit Grant Claims and Returns Certification works for 2018/19.

 

Decision

 

The Committee noted that KPMG would be undertaking the grant claims and returns certification works for 2018/19.

51.

DATA PROTECTION BREACHES REPORTED IN 2017 AND CHANGES TO COMPLY WITH THE GENERAL DATA PROTECTION REGULATIONS pdf icon PDF 134 KB

Minutes:

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

 

Mark Hynes introduced the report and said that the Information Governance Board (IGB), which he chaired, promoted and managed information governance and security to support the delivery of effective Council services. All data breaches are reviewed by IGB to find any lessons learnt and make policy or process changes to stop the reoccurrence of the breach.  A total of 39 data protection breaches were reported and investigated in 2017.  These should not be a major concern, and it was noted that the vast majority of these were due to simple human error rather than IT applications.  A Data Protection Manager has now been appointed to oversee this area.

Mr Hynes informed the Committee that data protection laws were changing. The General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) would become the single pan-European law for data protection in May 2018. The UK would adopt the Data Protection Bill and continue to be in line with the rest of Europe. GDPR brings a much higher level of scrutiny, regulation and potential fines than were in place and therefore would involve a significant amount of change to be implemented across the Council.

The Vice-Chair welcomed the mandatory awareness training, which is an e-learning system monitored by HR with additional back-up for managers in charge of key data sets.  She also asked if there may be more breaches than the ones reported.  Mr Hynes agreed this might be the case, but officers were aware that all breaches must be reported to the IGB, no matter how small.  

Among the paper-based breaches where identifiable personal information was disclosed, these were typically instances where documents have been sent in error to the wrong person with no malice or intent, and the recipient contacts the Council.

It was unlikely that the whole organisation would be fully compliant by May 2019.  However, the Information Commissioner's Office has promised not be overzealous so long as there is evidence that matters are being addressed.  Waltham Forest is in no markedly better or worse situation than other local authorities, and the appointment of the new Data Protection Manager goes a long way to provide the necessary assurance.

 

In relation to the video uploaded to YouTube, it was explained that this was a training resource containing personal information that should not have been included.

 

The Chair asked to what extent the Regulations applied to Members.  Mr Hynes explained that all Members needed a licence from the ICO.  The existing ones expired soon and would be extended until after the election, when a new set would be obtained for re-elected and newly elected councillors.  The licences enable Members to carry out their official business safely and require the personal data they hold to be proportionate, relevant and protected.  It was clarified that this did not apply to internal political party matters or communication.

 

Mr Hynes said that data protection would feature prominently in Member training following the election, covering the Regulations and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 51.

52.

ELECTION PLANNING 2018 pdf icon PDF 88 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

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

 

The Director was pleased to introduce Ian Buckle, recently appointed as Head of Electoral and Democratic Services, who was warmly welcomed by the Committee.

 

Mark Hynes introduced the report and updated Members on the key activities in relation to planning for the 2018 Local Elections since the last report to the previous meeting in January 2018.

 

All changes to polling stations have been discussed with ward Members.  The strong representations for the count to take place straight after the polls close have been heeded, and it will not be held over until Friday.

 

Decision

 

The Committee noted the report and the decision to hold the count on the night of Thursday 3rd May 2018.

53.

MATERNITY, PATERNITY AND SICKNESS ABSENCE FOR MEMBERS pdf icon PDF 75 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

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

 

Mark Hynes introduced the report and outlined the proposed Protocol on Members’ Sickness and Maternity/Adoption/Paternity Leave as considered and agreed by the Constitution Working on 23 January 2018.

 

In the event that a group leader takes maternity, paternity or sickness absence, Councillor Fitzgerald proposed that the arrangements to recompense the Member should be agreed by the Monitoring Officer in consultation with a councillor appointed by the relevant group, and this was accepted by the Committee.

 

Decision

 

The Committee:

 

(a)  noted the contents of this report and Protocol at Appendix 1, subject to the amendment of Paragraph 2.4 to read:

 

“2.4    Arrangements to recompense members who take on such additional duties from a fellow councillor who is absent through illness or injury will be agreed by the Monitoring Officer in consultation with the relevant group Leader, or if the absence is being taken by a group leader, consultation with a councillor appointed by the relevant group, and must be in accordance with the Members Allowances Scheme.”

recommended that Full Council agree and adopt the amended Protocol as part of the Members’ Allowance Scheme.

54.

PROGRESS UPDATE ON DELIVERING THE INTERNAL AUDIT PLAN FOR 2017-18 pdf icon PDF 243 KB

Minutes:

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

 

Gemma Young introduced the report and updated Members on the progress being made towards delivering internal audits in the 2017-18 internal audit plan.  Close to 50 per cent of audits have been fully completed, and five per cent have yet to start.  Table 4 showed a large number of audits with Reasonable assurance, although they was a considerable number to come.

 

Housing File Management - Picking up on the Nil assurance in Housing File Management, the Vice-Chair asked who was ultimately responsible for monitoring and accountability.  Should there not be a specific job description reflecting this in every area?  Miss Young said this was not universal: each contract has a contract manager within the overall contract management framework.  Housing Files fell into a gap during the handover from Ascham Homes to the Council: responsibility has now been assumed by Business Support which includes contract compliance.

 

More generally, ensuring compliance is a line management issue with the Internal Audit team providing the third line of defence, tending to monitor the bigger contracts more closely.

 

Amey - Miss Young agreed with Councillor Fitzgerald that it was disappointing that Amey were failing to provide the information required of them – a strategic report, customer surveys, complaints policy - especially so early into the contract.  Payments may be withheld if service standards are not maintained, or if overspends occur on a contract that was supposed to deliver savings.  This is area being closely monitored by Management Board.

 

Decision

 

The Committee noted the report.

55.

INTERNAL AUDIT CHARTER, STRATEGY AND PROVISIONAL PLAN FOR 2018-19 pdf icon PDF 173 KB

Minutes:

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

 

Gemma Young introduced the report, setting out the Internal Audit Charter; the Internal Audit strategy; and the provisional internal audit plan of activity for 2018-19, with the full audit plan for 2018-19 to be presented to the Committee in June 2018.

 

Decision

 

The Committee noted the report.

56.

CORPORATE ANTI-FRAUD TEAM UPDATE pdf icon PDF 116 KB

Minutes:

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

 

Gemma Young introduced the report and drew Members’ attention to the main areas of corporate anti-fraud activity, namely:

 

·       Social Housing Fraud

·       Right to Buy Fraud

·       Council Tax Fraud

·       Corporate and Internal Fraud

·       School Admissions Fraud

Members were pleased to hear of the major fraud awareness training programme taking place in Housing, focusing not just on tenancy and Right to Buy matters, but how to spot money laundering and internal fraud.  The regular tenancy verification exercises also prove popular with legitimate tenants, as they identify unlawful sublet tenancies that are more likely to be the source of anti-social behaviour and neighbour nuisance.

 

The Committee was also interested in Miss Young’s description of the web-based system for checking fraudulent or stolen ID documentation, including from overseas, and agreed that this would become increasingly important in identifying and combating fraud.

 

Decision

 

The Committee noted the report.

57.

VOTE OF THANKS