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Agenda, decisions and draft 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

19.

APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE AND SUBSTITUTE MEMBERS

Minutes:

None.  All Members of the Committee were present.

20.

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.

21.

MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING pdf icon PDF 296 KB

Decision:

Agreed.

Minutes:

The minutes of the special meeting held on 30 July 2019 were approved as a correct record and signed by the Chair.

 

The Chair thanked the Committee for their warm wishes to him and his wife on the birth of their daughter. 

 

22.

ACTION TRACKER pdf icon PDF 313 KB

Decision:

(a)       Confirmed that Fire Risk Assessment Review is in the Forward Plan for January 2020 meeting;

 

(b)       Reasons for the Notes left out of the accounts to be provided when the full audited accounts are submitted;

 

(c)        Progress on recruiting an Independent Member of the Committee noted;

 

(d)       Action Tracker  ...  view the full decision text for item 22.

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the Action Tracker.

 

It was confirmed that Fire Risk Assessment Review is in the Forward Plan for January 2020 meeting.

 

The Committee would like to see the fitting out costs of One Hoe Street.

 

It was noted that the reasons for leaving out certain Notes to the accounts would be provided when the full audited accounts are submitted.

 

The Head of Electoral and Democratic Services updated Members on progress recruiting an Independent Member of the Committee noted.

 

The Action Tracker was noted.

 

23.

PROGRESS UPDATE ON DELIVERING THE INTERNAL AUDIT PLAN FOR 2019-20 pdf icon PDF 688 KB

Decision:

The Committee noted the report and looked forward to a positive result from the follow-up report on Hawkswood.

Minutes:

Consideration was given to a report of the Assistant Director - Internal Audit & Anti-Fraud Shared Service.

 

Gemma Young introduced the report, and said that just two audits from the 2018-19 Internal Audit Plan were at draft stage.  There had been a good start to the current year, with three substantial and two reasonable outcomes.  She outlined the changes to the Plan, and the reasons for them; and confirmed that Travellers’ Sites had not been audited for a long time, and rightly fell under Housing, which has a large number of current audits.

 

Link to Council Priorities - The Chair was anxious that linking audits to the priorities of the Council should be progressed.  Miss Young suggested a working session before the next meeting of the Committee to examine this further, which was welcomed by Members.

 

Outstanding Priority 1 Recommendations - Members also commented on these, four dating back to 2016-17, and felt these were overdue.  Officers agreed that this was a concern, especially as three related to IT, and said they were reordering their work to ensure these were addressed. 

 

 

Hawkswood – The Chairwelcomed Natalie Fitzgerald and Catherine Davies and to the meeting.  The Committee’s concerns about governance and management at the Hawkswood Group were well-known and longstanding.  It appeared that there had been progress over the summer, but Members were not yet fully assured.  They were interested in how the school came to be in this situation, which in many instances was related to very basic and documented governance issues.  Therefore they needed to know what the governance arrangements were, and what assurance the Committee could have.

 

Ms Davies said that she joined Hawkswood in January 2018.  Finance was the first issue to tackle.  At the same time a few significant staff left.  The situation was quite challenging to unpick, including £150k of unpaid bills, and £600k removed from the budget by the Council.

 

There was a lack of controls between the school and the local authority.  These are now much tighter, as well as internally, where they exist at all levels, and Ms Davies said that all head teacher approvals come through her.

 

On this point, Ms Davies explained that Hawkswood is a group of five provisions including physical schools, each with its own management.  As it is a federation, it has a Management Committee, which is the governing body, rather than a traditional Board of Governors.  It has committees which meet regularly to scrutinise finance, staffing and provision.

 

In terms of explanation, the deterioration was due a poor leadership culture, a leadership and staff who did not follow procedures, check or document properly, and Governors who were not challenging enough.

 

Ms Fitzgerald added that the membership of the Management Committee has completely changed, and has been strengthened by new governors with legal and financial experience. 

 

There is now a three-level accounting process, and everyone has been made aware of their responsibility for financial accountability, to class level, with children learning about cost, price and value.

 

A  ...  view the full minutes text for item 23.

24.

UPDATE ON EXTERNAL AUDIT OF ACCOUNTS 2018/19 pdf icon PDF 208 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

The Committee:

 

(a)  noted that Ernst and Young LLP (EY) commenced the audit of the Council and Pension Fund accounts in August 2019; and

 

(b)  with regard to the accounting issues raised by EY contributing to the delay in approving the accounts, sought an explanation as to the extent to  ...  view the full decision text for item 24.

Minutes:

Consideration was given to a report of the Strategic Director of Finance and Governance and Chief Accountant, and reports by Ernst and Young LLP, the external auditors, on their progress in auditing the accounts 2018/19.

 

The Chair voiced the Committee’s and Council’s concern that the audited accounts had not materialised, despite a report to the last meeting (a special meeting convened for the purposes of approving the accounts) on 30 July, where the Committee were advised that the audit would begin in August and be reported to this meeting.  This meant that ‘the third line of defence’ that external audit was supposed to provide was not there.

 

He acknowledged that this was a wider sectoral issue, and other local authorities had experienced similar problems of different external audit staff arriving and asking for information that had already been provided, and auditors being brought in from overseas.  However, Waltham Forest needed a fuller explanation as to its own situation, how this would affect next year’s audit, and what the plan was for the current year.

 

Liton Rehman introduced the report and said officers were not in a position to present the accounts, which were overdue from the end of July, and had been further delayed by a shortage of local government auditors in the field, the summer holidays, and also to queries on some historic issues dating back to 2011/12.  He did not believe the bottom line was affected, but the requirement that the accounts present a ‘true and fair’ view of the authority’s finances was hampered.

 

It was acknowledged that as new auditors, EY could not be held to account for historic errors, but the Committee was bound to ask why these were not picked up earlier.  Debbie Hanson said they appeared to have flowed through from accounting changes that were made in 2007 and lay in the complexity of certain transactions, especially but the previous auditors KPMG had a different methodology.  Mr Rehman and Mr Bacchus added that the systems used did not always allow the trail to go back that far: the key issue was fixed assets, and the matter should be resolved this year.

Ms Hanson said that EY had a timeline for completing the task.  They had the resources in place but new issues had emerged, and others had taken longer to resolve than expected, or were unfamiliar.

 

A conflict of interest involving a Member of the Council had held up the start of the audit. The Head of Electoral and Democratic Services clarified that the conflict lay within EY where he worked, not the Council, and was ultimately resolved when he found new employment and left the organisation.  The delay was compounded by the summer recess and the audit did not start until December. 

 

As EY was the new auditor, the settling-in period inevitably takes longer.  System issues caused the Council problems in producing ledger data, and the analytical tools used by EY were unfamiliar to the Council and led to a great deal of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 24.

25.

ANNUAL REVIEW FROM THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT & SOCIAL CARE OMBUDSMAN (LGSCO) pdf icon PDF 258 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)  that the statistical information being presented with this report, apart from that set out in Appendices B and G, is based on  ...  view the full decision text for item 25.

Minutes:

Consideration was given to a report of the Complaints Manager, including the annual review letter from the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO), outlining the complaints and enquiries they have dealt with during the year in relation to Waltham Forest Council. 

Housing Ombudsman Service (HOS) does not provide a letter, Additional information is provided in this report in respect of complaints that fall within their jurisdiction.

 

Rita Cattle introduced the report and explained the Council’s two-stage internal complaints process, and the circumstances in which people who are still dissatisfied may go to the Ombudsman, and how they deal with complaints.  There are separate statutory processes in relation to Social Care which must be exhausted before the Ombudsman is involved.

 

In response to Members’ questions, Mrs Cattle assured the Committee that complainants are directed to the relevant Ombudsman when they are told the outcome of their grievance, and there are links on the Council’s website.  She said she could provide more detail on the reasons for complaints, and whether any themes emerged that might indicate service weaknesses or failures, and undertook to circulate the ‘Top Ten’ issues identified by her team.

 

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)  that the statistical information being presented with this report, apart from that set out in Appendices B and G, 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 2018-2019, set out in Appendix E;

 

(d)  comparative information for 2017-2018 and 2016-2017 in Appendices C and D;

 

(e)  that Appendix G contains comparative data for Waltham Forest Council and neighbouring London boroughs, which is based on information published by the LGSCO, there being no comparative data with other London boroughs available for complaints dealt with by the HOS; and

 

(f)    service improvement as a result of recommendations for remedy made by the LGSCO and some information on learning from complaints work undertaken by the Complaints Team; and

 

(g)  that the ‘Top Ten’ issues reported through the Stage 1 and Stage 2 processes would be circulated to Members of the Committee.

 

 

26.

RISK MANAGEMENT UPDATE pdf icon PDF 130 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

The Committee

 

(a)  noted the report; and

 

(b)  asked that if Brexit does not take place on 31 October 2019, a working group be convened to examine the associated risks.

Minutes:

Consideration was given to a report of the Insurance and Risk Manager, providing the Committee with an update in relation to risk management, and presenting the strategic risk register for review.

 

Andrea Nitschke introduced the report and said that the second risk review panel would meet in November to look at Housing.  All risks are being reviewed against the risk of a no-deal Brexit.  The strategic risk that the Care Quality Commission would withdraw the Council’s registration to deliver the Reablement Service has now disappeared.  Two risks: asylum spend and repairs and maintenance dispute claims – remain ‘red’ despite mitigation.

 

The Chair said that if the UK’s membership of the EU is extended, there should be a special risk review panel to review this.

 

Decision

 

The Committee

 

(a)  noted the report; and

 

(b)  asked that if Brexit does not take place on 31 October 2019, a working group be convened to examine the associated risks.

 

27.

UPDATE ON PROGRESS OF THE CORPORATE ANTI-FRAUD TEAM, INCLUDING THE PROACTIVE PLAN 2019-20; AND ANTI-FRAUD AND CORRUPTION STRATEGY pdf icon PDF 770 KB

Decision:

The Committee;

 

(a)  noted the report and the proactive plan; and

 

(b)  asked that the Strategy be considered further and submitted to the special meeting to be arranged in November 2019.

Minutes:

Consideration was given to a report of the Assistant Director - Internal Audit & Anti-Fraud Shared Service.  A printed version showing the tracked changes to the revised Anti-Fraud and Corruption Strategy was circulated.

 

Gemma Young briefly introduced the report and drew Members’ attention particularly to Proceeds of Crime confiscations, of which there are currently five cases.  An employee of a charity that administered a fundholding service on behalf of the Council pleased guilty to fraud after it was discovered that he had stolen over £½ million from 95 direct payments accounts.

 

The Chair asked if proceeds were returned to the local authority.  Miss Young said there were technicalities as to how it was apportioned, and it was ringfenced for community use.  He also asked about International Fraud Awareness Week from 18th November to 22nd November and how widely this would be publicised.  12 ‘Lunch and Learn’ sessions had been arranged, and Miss Young agreed that Communications should be asked to spread the message as widely as possible.

 

It was suggested that Members take away the tracked version of the revised strategy for further consideration in advance of the special meeting in November where it will be brought back.

 

Decision 

 

The Committee;

 

(a)  noted the report and the proactive plan; and

 

(b)  asked that the Strategy be considered further and submitted to the special meeting to be arranged in November 2019.

 

28.

ANNUAL TREASURY MANAGEMENT REVIEW 2018-19 pdf icon PDF 582 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

The Committee recommended Council to agree the Annual Treasury Management Review 2018-19.

Minutes:

Consideration was given to a report of the Pensions and Treasury Manager and Senior Accountant, covering:

·              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.

Vince Yeboah introduced the report, and confirmed that this was a revised version of the report submitted to the meeting of the Committee on 3 July 2019, with the inconsistencies identified now addressed.

Decision

The Committee recommended Council to agree the Annual Treasury Management Review 2018-19.

 

29.

TREASURY MANAGEMENT MID-YEAR REVIEW 2019-20 pdf icon PDF 169 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

The Committee recommended Council to:

(a)  agree the Treasury Management Strategy Statement and Annual Investment Strategy Mid -Year Report 2019/20; and

 

(b)  approve 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.  ...  view the full decision text for item 29.

Minutes:

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

Vince Yeboah introduced the report, and covering:

·        An economic update for the first six months of the current financial year

·        A review of the Treasury Management Strategy and Annual Investment Strategy

·        The Council’s capital expenditure

·        A review of the Council’s investment portfolio for 2019/20

·        A review of the Council’s borrowing strategy for 2019/20

·        A review of any debt rescheduling undertaken during 2019/20

·        A review of compliance with Treasury and Prudential Limits for 2019/20

The Chair asked why there had been no debt rescheduling.  Mr Yeboah explained that the majority of debts are currently fixed due to the structure of interest rates the effect on Public Works Loan Board new borrowing rates. 

The Chair also noted significant upward adjustments in capital expenditure estimates, for example in Commercial from £3.3 million to £12.3 million.  Mr Bacchus said that a more detailed breakdown could be provided in future reports.

Officers were asked to what extent capital expenditure could be funded by increased capital receipts.  It was explained that at present there was no additional borrowing.  This is a key driver in terms of treasury management, which includes internal borrowing.  At some point there will be external borrowing to finance capital projects.

Decision

The Committee recommended Council to:

(a)  agree the Treasury Management Strategy Statement and Annual Investment Strategy Mid -Year Report 2019/20; and

approve 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.

30.

REVIEW OF THE CONSTITUTION (PART 2) pdf icon PDF 285 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

The Committee recommended Council to:

(a)  adopt the Protocol for Freedom of the Borough as an amendment to the Constitution;

 

(b)  adopt the revised Petition Scheme;

 

(c)  agree revised Terms of Reference of the Health and Wellbeing Board; and

 

(d)  agree Terms of Reference of Public Transport Liaison Group.

 

 

Minutes:

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

John Williams introduced the report and drew Members’ attention to the recommendations of the Constitution Working Group.  The Protocol for Freedom of the Borough provided a nomination-based process based on the Civic Awards Scheme for awarding this honour.  The revised Petition Scheme is more substantial than the existing one, introduces a new provision for debate at Scrutiny, and clearer guidance on e-petitions. 

Revised Terms of Reference for the Health and Wellbeing Board reflect practice that has evolved since its inception in 2012 with stronger procedure rules; and for the Public Transport Liaison Group, greater emphasis on public transport and resident participation.

Councillor Fitzgerald proposed an amendment to the petition scheme that members of organisations based in Waltham Forest who do not live in the borough may only submit or sign petitions where the petition relates to their organisation.  This was welcomed and agreed by the Committee.

 

The Committee recommended Council to:

(a)  adopt the Protocol for Freedom of the Borough as an amendment to the Constitution;

 

(b)  adopt the revised Petition Scheme, subject to the amendment above;

 

(c)  agree revised Terms of Reference of the Health and Wellbeing Board; and

 

(d)  agree Terms of Reference of Public Transport Liaison Group.

 

31.

APPG DEFINITION OF ISLAMOPHOBIA pdf icon PDF 293 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

The Committee recommended Council to:

 

(a)  adopt the APPG definition of Islamophobia, including the working examples, into the Council’s codes of conduct for Members and officers; and

 

(b)  delegate authority to the Director of Governance and Law, in consultation with the Constitution Working Group, to make any arising amendments to  ...  view the full decision text for item 31.

Minutes:

Consideration was given to a report of the Head of Electoral and Democratic Services, providing background information on the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims (APPG) definition of Islamophobia.

 

Ian Buckle introduced the report, which followed the Council’s agreement of its definition of antisemitism, and which proposed a definition based on a thorough examination of Muslimness and the experiences of Muslim communities.  It has been adopted by the Mayor of London, political parties, councils and some national organisations.  The Chair noted that it had been considered and approved by the Constitution Working Group.

 

The Committee recommended Council to:

 

(a)        adopt the APPG definition of Islamophobia, including the working examples, into the Council’s codes of conduct for Members and officers; and

 

(b)        delegate authority to the Director of Governance and Law, in consultation with the Constitution Working Group, to make any arising amendments to Part 9 of the constitution: Councillors’ Code of Conduct.

 

32.

POLLING PLACES REVIEW pdf icon PDF 165 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

The Committee recommend that Council:

(a)  agree the situation of polling places and districts as set out in Appendix 1 and as amended in Appendix 2 for a five-year period from 1st December 2019, or until it is superseded by a subsequent review as discussed at 1.3 above; and  ...  view the full decision text for item 32.

Minutes:

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

Ian Buckle introduced the report, setting out the requirement of Representation of the People Act 1983 that a full review of polling districts and polling places be carried out at least every five years, within a set timeframe. A review has therefore duly been carried out over the last eight months, and seventy polling places were proposed for Waltham Forest, as set out in Appendix 1 to the report.

Mr Buckle added that the review was specifically for Parliamentary elections, but in practice were used for all polls.  Officers had tried to avoid a major redrawing of boundaries.  However, there was a trend towards fewer public buildings being available, and the Council tried to avoid using schools as this caused disruption to education and for parents. Buildings that were not generally accessible for people with disabilities could sometimes be suitably adapted for polling day.

Decision 

The Committee recommended that Council:

(a)  agree the situation of polling places and districts as set out in Appendix 1 and as amended in Appendix 2 for a five-year period from 1st December 2019, or until it is superseded by a subsequent review as discussed at 1.3 above; and

agree to continue to delegate to the Director of Governance and Law any ongoing review or change of polling places during this period, to ensure that polling arrangements in Waltham Forest remain fit for purpose for each election called.