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Agenda and minutes

Venue: Committee Room 2 - Waltham Forest Town Hall. View directions

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

Items
No. Item

1.

WELCOME, APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE AND SUBSTITUTE MEMBERS

Minutes:

The Chair welcomed Members and officers to the first meeting of the Committee in the new administration following the local elections.  He praised the work of Councillor Douglas in chairing and guiding the Committee over the previous years, and looked forward to building on the strong legacy he had inherited.

 

Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Rosalind Doré.  It was noted that Councillor Jonathan O’Dea was present as substitute Member for Councillor Doré.

2.

MINUTES OF THE PREVIOUS MEETING pdf icon PDF 105 KB

Minutes:

It was noted that Councillor Ali had submitted his apologies for absence to the Chief Whip prior to the meeting.

 

Subject to this amendment, the minutes of the meeting held on 8 March 2018 were approved as a correct record and signed by the Chair.

3.

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

4.

ANNUAL REPORT: OUTCOME OF HOUSING FIRE RISK ASSESSMENTS (FRAs) pdf icon PDF 128 KB

Minutes:

Consideration was given to a report of the Divisional Director, Housing Services, setting out the Council’s arrangements for the fire safety for its housing stock, performance in respect of fire risk assessments and future proposals to develop these arrangements.

Maureen McEleney introduced the report and outlined a number of actions taken over the last year to enhance fire safety.  This was the first annual report, following consideration of fire safety in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy in June 2017.

Ms McEleney said that officers regularly check  the progress of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry and any issues emerging, as well as the interim findings of the independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety led by Dame Judith Hackitt.  It was reiterated that there is no ACM cladding on buildings in the borough.  Two private blocks which had ACM cladding have now been stripped.  Officers are also seeking to identify any front entrance doors in our stock similar to those that gave rise to concern at Grenfell, which were  produced by a manufacturer that has now ceased trading.

Leaseholders - Councillor Fitzgerald asked whether leaseholders in council blocks would be required to pay for sprinkler systems.  Ms McEleney said this was as yet unknown, and Wandsworth Council have voluntarily referred a case to the First Tier Tribunal, as all parties are keen to know the answer to this question.

With regard to Lodges, these are timber-built with indirect access to upper levels.  These are the only general needs blocks with communal fire alarms, as these blocks have an evacuate rather than a ‘stay put’ policy.

New developments - Councillor O’Dea asked about the rules and local authority obligations in relation to new developments in the borough.  It was explained that all new schemes are subject to planning permission and building control.  However, there are private building control agencies, and this is a live debate within the Hackitt Review.  Fire safety in private residential housing is a key area of work for the Selective Licensing & Regulation Team.

Councillor Ali asked about sprinklers in private developments.  It was not possible to provide a comprehensive answer, except to confirm that following changes to Building Regulations some years ago, new developments over a prescribed height must have them in order to meet the requirements.

Fire Risk Assessments – Ms McEleney explained that postponing FRAs for buildings where major works have been scheduled has helped iron out a bottleneck in the process.  The process is currently spreadsheet-driven rather than automated, although every action is recorded, and where the issue requires future improvements these are built into the capital investment programme.  Recent key actions have included restrictions on parking and the installation of bollards at the base of tower blocks where access needs to be restricted.

Governance – the Chair askedwhat oversight there was of the process. It was explained that the detailed work is carried out under the direction of the Head of Building Works with local managers, with a specific Fire  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

RISK MANAGEMENT UPDATE AND RISK MANAGEMENT STRATEGY pdf icon PDF 89 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

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

            Andrea Nitschke introduced the report and provided the Committee with an update on the progress being made to embed risk management within the Council.  

            Strategy – Ms Nitschke presented the Council’s revised risk management strategy and the strategic risk register for review and approval.  In response to a query from Caryle Webb-Ingall, she drew Members’ attention to the scoring mechanisms at Step 3 of the process (page 41).

Register and mitigation – the Chair said it was not immediately apparent what had led to a change in a risk score.  For example, in relation to Risk SRFH0008 No Recourse to Public Funds: Risk of Judicial Review or demand exceeding budget, the score had dropped from the highest to one of the lowest.  Conversely, on Asylum Spend (SRFH0007), the score remained relatively high despite mitigation.  John Turnbull acknowledged this point, and said that risk owners should show the mitigating actions to allow an assessment of their effectiveness,

            Strategic Risk: Brexit – the Chair asked whether Brexit featured specifically enough in the strategic risk assessment, as part of a general risk relating to external factors, financial strategy and resilience (SRFG0001).  Mr Turnbull explained that an officer group had been set up to consider the potential impact but the underlying risk was economic slowdown and further pressure on the Council’s finances, which is a strategic risk area.  There may be other impacts that could affect the Council’s ambitions, such as the supply of construction workers, which could increase costs or reduce the inflow of investment.  He acknowledged the current uncertainty about the type of Brexit and therefore the implications and that councils do not know how the Government will assist local authorities to tackle any negative impact.  He explained that the council could only keep developments under review.   Ms Nitschke added that the Register is regularly reviewed and monitored, taking account of ongoing and changing factors such as Brexit. 

Decision

 

The Committee:

 

(a)  noted the contents of the report;

 

(b)  agreed the revised risk management strategy, detailed in Appendix A to the report;

 

(c)  agreed the strategic risk register, detailed in Appendix B to the report; and

 

(d)  asked that mitigating actions be reported alongside changes in risk scores; or where they have failed to make an impact on the risk.

 

6.

TREASURY MANAGEMENT ANNUAL REPORT 2017-18 pdf icon PDF 130 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

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

 

Vincent Yeboah introduced the report and said it had been prepared in compliance with CIPFA’s Code of Practice on Treasury Management. The Annual Report covered:

·         Capital activity during the year;

·         The impact of this activity on the Council’s underlying indebtedness (the Capital Financing Requirement);

·         The actual prudential and treasury indicators;

·         Overall treasury position identifying how the Council has borrowed in relation to indebtedness, and the impact on investment balances;

·         Summary of interest rate movements in the year;

·         Debt activity;

·         Investment activity;

The Council held £62.8m of investments as at 31st March 2018. The debt portfolio as at 31st March 2018 was £269.7m with an average interest payable of 4.46 pre cent and an average maturity of 27 years.

 

Decision

 

The Committee recommended full Council to agree the Annual Treasury Management review 2017/18.

 

7.

TREASURY MANAGEMENT STRATEGY, MINIMUM REVENUE PROVISION POLICY STATEMENT AND ANNUAL INVESTMENT STRATEGY AMENDMENTS 2018-19 pdf icon PDF 83 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

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

 

Vincent Yeboah introduced the report, recommending amendments to the Treasury Management Strategy, Minimum Revenue Provision (MRP) Strategy and Annual Investment Strategy for 2018-19 and the Treasury Management Policy Statement and Clauses. 

 

The Chair enquired as to the variation between the figures in the 2017/18 review (Minute 6 refers) and the 2018/19 strategy.  It was explained that this was due to the original inclusion of a project in the capital programme that is now being funded as a joint venture.

 

Decision

The Committee recommended Council to:

(a)    agree changes to the Capital program leading  to material changes to the Treasury Management figures as summarised in paragraph 3.5 of the report and as detailed in the Statement at Appendix1 to the report; and

adopt the amended Treasury Management Strategy, MRP Strategy and Annual Investment Strategy for 2018-19 and Treasury Management Policy Statement and Clauses.

8.

ANNUAL GOVERNANCE STATEMENT AND DRAFT CODE OF CORPORATE GOVERNANCE pdf icon PDF 72 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

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

 

            Mark Hynes introduced the report.  He sought the Committee’s approval of the draft Code of Corporate Governance, and asked it to note the Council’s Annual Governance Statement. This would remain a live document up to the point when the audited Financial Statements are signed by the Council. The Statement would be reviewed on a regular basis until that date, and amended if any significant matters arise that relate to 2017/18 that could affect it.

 

Bed and Breakfast Accommodation – In relation to paragraph 17.8, Councillor Fitzgerald was informed that the monitoring of households placed in B&B accommodation is to minimise the use of B&B.

 

Structure of the Statement - The Chair added that the focus on the specifics of particular service areas such as Homelessness or Regeneration tended to detract from the overarching nature of the document.  Officers acknowledged this, and said that while Waltham Forest’s statement stood up well to peer comparison, the introduction of the Code of Corporate Governance would address matters at granular level and smooth the way for more strategic Governance Statements in future.

 

Decision

 

The Committee:

 

(a)  approved the draft Code of Corporate Governance; and

 

(b)  noted the Council’s Annual Governance Statement and delegated to the Director of Governance and Law the authority to make any further amendments to the Annual Governance Statement, prior to its publication with the audited Financial Statements that might arise;

 

(c)  asked that now that Code has been approved, future statements review and reflect strategic governance overview to a greater extent.

 

9.

AUDIT AND ANTI-FRAUD DIVISION - ANNUAL REPORT AND OPINION ON THE COUNCIL'S INTERNAL CONTROL SYSTEM pdf icon PDF 629 KB

Minutes:

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

 

            Gemma Young introduced the report, and provided the Committee with an overview of the assurance work of the Internal Audit team during 2017-18. 

Miss Young said that From the Internal Audit work undertaken in 2017-18, it was her opinion that Reasonable Assurance can be placed on the overall adequacy and effectiveness of the Council’s internal controls, the governance and the risk management arrangements for the areas reviewed during 2017-18, including schools.  She drew the Committee’s attention to the three areas where there had been Substantial Assurance (Empty Property, Schools Place Planning and Section 106), and to the one Nil Assurance audit (Housing Management Files); and emphasised to the Committee the backdrop of Reasonable Assurance across 24 areas.

Housing Management Files – The handover when the Council took Housing in-house from Ascham Homes had revealed that the management of files was not operating effectively.  The Committee had previously been informed of this, but there continue to be repercussions in terms of poor record keeping that are relevant to further audits.

Limited Assurance – that18 areas remain a concern, especially where audits have previously occurred and the assurance remains limited because recommendations have not been implemented, as was the case with Registrars and also Business Continuity. The Chair asked whether Business Continuity had a pan-London dimension.  Miss Young said it did, and elaborated that the audit planned for 208-19 would have a greater focus on emergency planning.

Schools – audit reviews in this area are themed – for example, use or overuse of supply teachers – and findings are compiled into an overall report which is shared with all schools on The Hub, Waltham Forest’s education network.

Benchmarking – the Chair asked to what extent there was benchmarking of boroughs’ audit findings.  Miss Young said a pan-London network existed, and the Head of Internal Audit and Anti-Fraud was also on the East London Heads of Audit Group.  PWC also organises networking days, but it was accepted that there was greater scope for comparison and sharing good practice in this regard.

Decision

 

The Committee:

 

(a)   noted the Head of Internal Audit and Anti-Fraud’s opinion on the Council’s system of internal control;

 

(b)   noted the annual report on the activities of the Internal Audit team in Appendix 1 to the report; and

 

(c)    asked for further consideration to be given to benchmarking and comparators across London boroughs.

 

10.

INTERNAL AUDIT PLAN 2018-19 pdf icon PDF 136 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 proposed Internal Audit plan of activity for 2018-19.  She cautioned that given the level of change that the Council continues to experience, it was likely that the plan would need to be varied during the course of the year.

It was clarified that the incomplete sentence in relations to the key risks associated with Emergency Planning and Business Continuity (page 222) should read: ‘Residents may not be protected.’

Corporate Risk Register – the Chair asked how the audit plan was informed by the risk register.  Miss Young explained that the register is a starting point along with the Insurance Map, from which a workable plan is development and discussed with strategic directors.   She therefore agreed with his suggestion that the links could be referenced more explicitly in the plan presented to the Committee.

Decision

 

The Committee

 

(a)             agreed the Internal Audit Plan 2018-19.

 

asked that the links between the Corporate Risk Register and the version of the Internal Audit Plan be highlighted.

11.

CORPORATE ANTI-FRAUD TEAM PERFORMANCE FOR 2017-18 AND ANTI-FRAUD AND CORRUPTION STRATEGY pdf icon PDF 237 KB

Minutes:

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

 

Gemma Young introduced the report, updating Members of the work carried out by the Internal Audit and Anti-Fraud Division’s Corporate Anti-Fraud Team for 2017-18.

The team worked closely with partners toprevent, detect and investigate allegations of fraud andcorruption occurring within and against the authority.  An Anti-FraudandCorruptionResponse Plan was in place to ensure that Members and employees know what actiontotake should theybecome awareof or suspect fraudor corruption.

The team works on a range of high risk areas that include, but are not limited to:

·           Social Housing Fraud

·           Right to Buy Fraud

·           Council Tax Fraud

·           Corporate Fraud

·           School Admissions Fraud

i-Latch – is a system that allows residents to check advertised properties to see if they are Council or RSL properties.  The iLatch system (at http:///www.ilatch.co.uk) was advertised in Waltham Forest News and 10,000 flyers were distributed around the borough. A number of estate agents were approached to ask them to check addresses before advertising to ensure they are not council tenancies.  Miss Young said it was a shame that only two have signed up: branches of national chains say they have referred the request to their head office, and typically no more is heard about it.

 

Block tenancy check exercises – these tend to reveal fairly lowlevels of subletting.  Despite the checking involved, they are generally popular with most residents, who are opposed to illegal subletting and misuse of social housing.

 

Member involvement – Members expressed interest in how they could become better involved in identifying the signs of fraud.  Officers said that they would always respond to specific concerns, and would give further thought to how they could identify signs of, say subletting, or respond to matters raised with them by residents in their wards.

 

Decision

 

The Committee

 

(a)  noted the report; and

 

asked that further thought be given as to how Members could be better involved in identifying and combating fraud in their communities and the organisation.

12.

REVIEW OF 2018 LOCAL ELECTIONS pdf icon PDF 105 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to a report of the Head of Electoral and Democratic Services.

 

Mark Hynes prefaced the report by making reference to the keen interest the previous Committee and Chair, as well as the Chief Executive as Returning Officer had taken in elections, and especially the lessons to be learned after the 2014 local elections.  Due to a great amount of effort and preparation, Waltham Forest had been the first London borough to declare in 2018 by a considerable margin.

 

Members acknowledged this, and the Chair praised the work of the new Head of Electoral Services and his team for the achievement.  From the perspective of people who had seen numerous elections, the conduct of the recent one was in a different league and a credit to all involved.

 

Ian Buckle introduced the report, and said it was important that the success of the local elections should not give rise to complacency, either in terms of the lessons learned, or of future elections.  Whereas election day and the count had gone smoothly, a few hitches in the preparation process had been identified and would be addressed by the proposed project board.  Furthermore, the GLA and Mayoral elections operate with a high degree of technology over which the Council does not have sole control, and it is important to keep a sense of transparency in the process.

 

The Chair observed that turnout was fairly consistent with standalone local elections in the past.  Mr Buckle agreed, and added that registration had to be constantly monitored, alongside bold steps to address the risk of voter apathy. Elections were even more about the electorate than about candidates, and this would guide the work of the team and its context, especially with the approach of the Boundary Review.

 

In relation to this, Mr Hynes informed the Committee that the Boundary Commission intended to give a presentation to all Members before the meeting of the Council on 19 July 2018, at 6.45 p.m.

 

Decision

 

The Committee:

 

(a)       praised the conduct of the 2018 local elections, and congratulated all who had contributed to their success;

 

(b)       noted the creation of an elections project board chaired by the Head of Elections and Democratic Services to meet in anticipation of any unscheduled elections and in preparation for the 2020 GLA elections; and

 

(c)       noted the improvements identified in Appendix A to the report, to be delivered by the Electoral Services team.

 

 

13.

POLICY ON DEALING WITH UNREASONABLE BEHAVIOUR 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, which sought Members’ approval of the amendments to the Policy on unreasonable behaviour, in order to afford Members the same level of protection and redress as it currently provides to officers from residents who behave in an unreasonable or vexatious manner.

 

Councillor Fitzgerald proposed that Paragraph 11, Definitions, (d) xxi be amended to include Councillors.

 

The Committee expressed a preference for elected Members of the authority to be referred to as ‘councillors’ throughout.

 

With regard to declaration of interest including disclosure of home address, Mr Hynes said that as Monitoring Officer he took a reasonable approach to requests for potentially sensitive matters to be included on the private rather than public register.

 

Generally speaking, the Chair observed that the tone of the document seemed to shift from advice to complainants towards guidance for officers.  Mr Hynes agreed that the sequencing could be better précised, and he would address this though the Governance Board.

 

Decision

 

The Committee

 

(a)          approved the amended Policy on Unreasonable Behaviour, as further amended above;

 

authorised the Director of Governance and Law to amend the wording of the document to improve order and sequencing in consultation with the Governance Board.