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Agenda, decisions 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

20.

APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE AND SUBSTITUTE MEMBERS

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Caryle Webb-Ingall, Independent Co-opted Member; and also from Rita Cattle, Complaints Manager, and John Turnbull, Strategic Director of Finance and Governance.

 

There were no substitute Members.

21.

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.

22.

MINUTES OF THE PREVIOUS MEETING pdf icon PDF 96 KB

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 26 July 2018 were approved as a correct record and signed by the Chair.

23.

INTRODUCTION AND PRESENTATION BY EXTERNAL AUDITORS pdf icon PDF 805 KB

Minutes:

The Committee received a presentation from Debbie Hanson, Associate Partner at EY, the Council’s newly appointed External Auditors.  The presentation slides have been appended to the electronic version of the minutes.

 

Ms Hanson outlined the role of external auditors, and emphasised the values of independence, quality and assurance that the process added to the governance of the Council and the management of its finances.  She outlined the annual audit programme, and also described how the integration of technology into audits, especially though EY’s Canvas, Helix and Atlas programs supported a quality and exceptional client service.

 

The approach was based on ‘no surprises’, with regular meetings with officers and regular attendance meetings of the Committee.

 

The Chair thanked Ms Hanson for a useful and comprehensive presentation, and this was warmly endorsed by Members of the Committee .

24.

ANNUAL REVIEW FROM THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT & SOCIAL CARE OMBUDSMAN (LGSCO) pdf icon PDF 116 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

The Committee noted the following:

 

(a)       the LGSCO’s Annual Review letter and the information provided in respect of complaint investigations carried out by the LGSCO and HOS;

 

(b)       the statistical information being presented with this report (apart from Appendix A and the contents of Appendix E) is based on the  ...  view the full decision text for item 24.

Minutes:

Consideration was given to a report of the Complaints Manager.

 

Reginald Coley introduced the report and highlighted the statistical information contained in it.

 

Councillor Fitzgerald said that she had attended a hearing to support a constituent few years ago and been turned away.  Mr Coley said there were instances where the Local Government Ombudsman might believe that a conflict of interest could arise, in that they regard the complaint as being against the council of which the councillor is a Member.  However, the Director of Governance and Law was not aware of a restriction on a Member wishing to assist a constituent in a ‘McKenzie friend’ capacity, and he would be glad to advice any councillor who encountered difficulty.

 

Councillor Doré was anxious that complainants in temporary accommodation cases should not suffer detriment as a result of living away from the borough.

 

The Chair said the important thing about complaints was to learn from them.  In relation to housing, he asked the Divisional Director what measures there were to ensure this.  Modester Anucha said there was an in-house system to monitor complaints: processes are more developed and the number of complaints has reduced.  Sometimes it was necessary to go beyond the face value of the complaint to address the underlying concerns.

 

It was confirmed that in most instances, complaints about adult social care followed a specific process, unless it related more closely to another service area, such as finance.  Officers were satisfied that the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) or Housing Ombudsman Service were adequately signposted on the Council’s website, and their own websites provided the public with a clear illustration of their processes and escalation rights.

 

The Chair also expressed interest in how learning from complaints is captured and fed into the scrutiny process.  Members also said Sought more detailed data in future reports on benchmarking and how the Council performs against its neighbours, including statistical neighbours.

 

 

 

Decision

 

The Committee noted the following:

 

(a)       the LGSCO’s Annual Review letter and the information provided in respect of complaint investigations carried out by the LGSCO and HOS;

 

(b)       the statistical information being presented with this report (apart from Appendix A and the contents of Appendix E) is based on the way that the Council’s Corporate Complaints Team records information, which differs to the methods applied by both the LGSCO and the HOS;

 

(c)       the statistical information regarding all complaints received by the Council during the financial year 2017-2018, set out in Appendix D;

 

(d)       comparative information for 2016-2017 and 2015-2016 in Appendix B and Appendix C;

 

(e)       Appendix E containing comparative data for Waltham Forest Council and neighbouring London boroughs, which is based on information published by the LGSCO.  There is no comparative data with other London boroughs available for complaints dealt with by the HOS; and

 

(f)        the work that the Corporate Complaints Team does with services to improve services based on learning from complaints;

 

The Committee also:

 

(g)       asked for further work on how learning from complaints  ...  view the full minutes text for item 24.

25.

REVIEW OF THE PROCESS FOR CLOSING THE ACCOUNTS AND PROPERTY VALUATION pdf icon PDF 102 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

The Committee noted the report and the actions being taken by the Council.

 

Minutes:

Consideration was given to a report of the Strategic Director of Finance and Governance, the Director of Asset Management, and the Strategic Finance Advisor – Corporate.

 

Brian Moldon introduced the report and outlined the outstanding priority one recommendation from 2016/17, and the new priority one recommendation from 2017/18 as follows:

·         Accuracy of property, plant and equipment records –ensuring all new and disposed  assets have been accounted for correctly i.e. ensure all new and disposed assets are accounted for correctly.

·         Valuation of land and buildings – relating to an impairment review, and analysis to ascertain the impact of any market increase, between the valuation date and the balance sheet date for all assets.

 

Mr Moldon said officers in Finance, Property, Legal and Housing had held meetings to explore the issues in more detail, and agreed how property will be valued in future.  He confirmed that the proposals for this had been brought forward.

 

Glenn Miller added that the new approach involved retaining external valuers and not using an indexation, as this cannot be applied uniformly.  A wider sample is adopted on a desktop basis in an approach based on good practice elsewhere.  A process using a definite 20 per cent sample would be started shortly.

 

It was explained that the fixed asset register is a continuous process so would not be ‘completed’ as such, but a fixed valuation will be required as at 31 March 2019.

 

The Chair asked why Housing Revenue Account (HRA) valuations were such a challenge.  Mr Miller explained that is was the sheer volume of thirteen thousand units: they could only realistically be valued on a sample basis: for example the notional value of a two-bedroom flat in a certain ward.

 

Decision

 

The Committee noted the report and the actions being taken by the Council.

 

26.

RISK MANAGEMENT UPDATE pdf icon PDF 73 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

The Committee:

 

(a)  noted the contents of the report;

 

(b)  review and agree the strategic risk register, detailed in appendix A;

 

(c)  asked for more detail on the broad themes of Brexit, including no-deal, to be examined by an informal working group of Members if appropriate; and

 

(d)  sought in  ...  view the full decision text for item 26.

Minutes:

Consideration was given to a report of the Insurance and Risk Manager.

 

Andrea Nitschke introduced the report and outlined the progress being made to embed risk management within the Council.  She also presented the strategic risk register for review and approval.

 

Ms Nitschke said that operational risk has now been fully reviewed and reflected at strategic risk level.  Committee Members now have access to the Council’s risk management system.  She outlined the risk challenge workshops taking place across the Council, and referred to the work of the Brexit Risk Management Group, chaired by the Deputy Leader, which would be reported to the next meeting of the Committee.  It is exploring the implications of a deal or no deal for service areas and building this in to corporate and strategic risk.  David Levy added that officers are examining the technical notes produced by the Government and prompting colleagues to think what the consequences of no-deal will be.

 

The Chair expressed interest in referred to the useful training session before the meeting delivered by Elizabeth Humphrey of CIPFA and in particular the suggestion of informal working groups of members to explore key issues such as this.  He also referred to the ‘assurance map’ produced by the Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner, and felt that a similar model could assist Members in understanding the deeper narrative around the risk register, and allow greater scope for exploration with risk owners  

 

Decision

 

The Committee:

 

(a)  noted the contents of the report;

 

(b)  review and agree the strategic risk register, detailed in appendix A;

 

(c)  asked for more detail on the broad themes of Brexit, including no-deal, to be examined by an informal working group of Members if appropriate; and

 

(d)  sought in future a deeper narrative around the risk register allowing greater scope for exploration with risk owners.

 

27.

TREASURY MANAGEMENT STRATEGY STATEMENT AND ANNUAL INVESTMENT STRATEGY MID-YEAR REVIEW 2018-19 pdf icon PDF 88 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

The Committee

(a)  recommended Full Council to:

 

(i)    agree the Treasury Management Strategy Statement and Annual nvestment Strategy Mid -Year Report 2018/19; and

 

(ii)   agree that Strategic Director Finance and Governance may approve the pre-payment of employer and employee Local Government Pension Scheme contributions for a period of up to  ...  view the full decision text for item 27.

Minutes:

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

Vince Yeboah introduced the report, which provided an economic update for the first six months of the current financial year, and a review of the treasury management and investment strategies, the Council’s capital expenditure, investment portfolio and borrowing strategy for 2018/19, and a review of compliance with Treasury and prudential limits.

£23 million of loans is used to manage cashflow, with a maturity strategy of 50 years.

A prepayment of pension contributions for 2019/20 was proposed.  A previous prepayment of £55 million had saved £3 million, and The Chair asked what the proposed amounts this time would be.

Decision

The Committee

(a)  recommended Full Council to:

 

(i)    agree the Treasury Management Strategy Statement and Annual nvestment Strategy Mid -Year Report 2018/19; and

 

(ii)   agree that Strategic Director Finance and Governance may approve the pre-payment of employer and employee Local Government Pension Scheme contributions for a period of up to three years; and

 

(b)  asked for the figures concerning the proposed pension pre-payment when they are known.

 

 

28.

PROGRESS UPDATE ON DELIVERING THE INTERNAL AUDIT PLAN FOR 2018-19 pdf icon PDF 156 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

The Chair authorised the late circulation of the follow-up report on iWorld Housing Management Application Review, as provided for under section 100B(4)(b) of the Local Government Act 1972 as amended.

The Committee

(a)  noted the contents of the report;

 

(b)  expressed concern at the pace of implementing the recommendations  ...  view the full decision text for item 28.

Minutes:

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

On the advice of Democratic Services, the Chair formally authorised the late circulation of the follow-up report on iWorld Housing Management Application Review, as provided for under section 100B(4)(b) of the Local Government Act 1972 as amended.

Gemma Young introduced the report and said that the plan was quite well advanced for the autumn.  She outlined changes to the 2018-19 plan, to include DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) checks, the post room at Cedar Wood House, the use of the Government’s pothole action fund.  The annual audit of the Mayor’s Fund may require an independent view given the potential reputational risk.

29 recommendations are being followed up in the current year.  Miss Young referred to the ones from before 2017-18 that have not been implemented.  In relation to Direct Payments, this is in abeyance as there is currently an investigation  into a charity-based direct payment.

In relation to the ICT Housing Application Review, the Divisional Director, Housing Solutions and the Head of Housing ICT had been invited to the meeting to hear the Committee’s concerns.  These concerned the pace of implementing the recommendations, and specific matters concerning the processes for changing passwords and the interface with the Hornbill system.  The Chair and the Head of Internal Audit and Anti-Fraud questioned officers as to how far the recommendations had been actioned, and were informed that so far this was partial.  The Director said that the situation would have changed by November.

In relation to business continuity in housing, which was last reviewed by Ascham Homes, Members were disappointed to learn that this was overdue and that there was no clear schedule for implementation.   The Committee insisted that the review be brought to completion within a given period.

The Committee

(a)  noted the contents of the report;

 

(b)  expressed concern at the pace of implementing the recommendations of the iWorld Housing Management Application Review and business continuity, and sought assurances that these would be addressed by November 2018, with a further report to the Committee in January 2019.

 

29.

UPDATE ON PROGRESS OF THE CORPORATE ANTI-FRAUD TEAM pdf icon PDF 237 KB

Decision:

The Committee noted the contents of the report.

 

Minutes:

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

 

Gemma Young introduced the report and highlighted the work of the team.  With regard to social housing fraud, 16 Notices to Quit have been issued resulting in a notional saving of £1.1 million.   30 fraudulent right-to-buy applications were prevented and £3 million of falsely claimed discount was saved.

 

Nine corporate fraud investigations were currently underway.

 

Members expressed enthusiasm at the suggestion that the Committee be invited to join officers on a future tenancy fraud check.  Miss Young added that it was also a useful opportunity to learn about anti-social behaviour and other nuisances concerning tenants.

 

Decision

 

The Committee noted the contents of the report.