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Agenda and minutes

Venue: Committee Room - Swale House. View directions

Contact: Democratic Services, 01795 417330 

Note: Moved from 27 November 2019 

Items
No. Item

463.

Emergency Evacuation Procedure

The Chairman will advise the meeting of the evacuation procedures to follow in the event of an emergency. This is particularly important for visitors and members of the public who will be unfamiliar with the building and procedures.

 

The Chairman will inform the meeting whether there is a planned evacuation drill due to take place, what the alarm sounds like (i.e. ringing bells), where the closest emergency exit route is, and where the second closest emergency exit route is, in the event that the closest exit or route is blocked.

 

The Chairman will inform the meeting that:

 

(a) in the event of the alarm sounding, everybody must leave the building via the nearest safe available exit and gather at the Assembly points at the far side of the Car Park.  Nobody must leave the assembly point until everybody can be accounted for and nobody must return to the building until the Chairman has informed them that it is safe to do so; and

 

(b) the lifts must not be used in the event of an evacuation.

 

Any officers present at the meeting will aid with the evacuation.

 

It is important that the Chairman is informed of any person attending who is disabled or unable to use the stairs, so that suitable arrangements may be made in the event of an emergency.

 

Minutes:

The Chairman drew attention to the emergency evacuation procedure.

464.

Minutes

To approve the Minutes of the Meeting held on 18 September 2019 (Minute Nos. 230 - 235) as a correct record.

 

Minutes:

The Minutes of the Meeting held on 18 September 2019 (Minute Nos. 230 – 235) were taken as read, approved and signed by the Chairman as a correct record.

465.

Declarations of Interest

Councillors should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves or their spouse, civil partner or person with whom they are living with as a spouse or civil partner.  They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.

 

The Chairman will ask Members if they have any interests to declare in respect of items on this agenda, under the following headings:

 

(a)          Disclosable Pecuniary Interests (DPI) under the Localism Act 2011.  The nature as well as the existence of any such interest must be declared.  After declaring a DPI, the Member must leave the meeting and not take part in the discussion or vote.  This applies even if there is provision for public speaking.

 

(b)          Disclosable Non Pecuniary (DNPI) under the Code of Conduct adopted by the Council in May 2012.  The nature as well as the existence of any such interest must be declared.  After declaring a DNPI interest, the Member may stay, speak and vote on the matter.

 

Advice to Members:  If any Councillor has any doubt about the existence or nature of any DPI or DNPI which he/she may have in any item on this agenda, he/she should seek advice from the Monitoring Officer, the Head of Legal or from other Solicitors in Legal Services as early as possible, and in advance of the Meeting.

 

Minutes:

No interests were declared.

Part A Minute for recommendation to Council

466.

Mid-Year Treasury Management Review for 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 120 KB

Minutes:

The Chief Financial Officer introduced the report which set-out the mid-year outturn position on treasury management transactions for 2019/20, including compliance with treasury limits and Prudential and Treasury Performance Indicators.  The report would be submitted to Full Council on 26 February 2020.

 

The Chief Financial Officer reported that from October 2019 the Government had increased the Public Works Loan Board loan rates by 1%, but this had not impacted on Swale Borough Council (SBC).  He drew attention to the Investments and Borrowings as at 30 September 2019 set-out on page 7 of the report, and advised that the Council had now paid-off one loan and taken out two new loans.  He considered that short-term borrowing was the way forward.

 

In response to queries from a Member, the Chief Financial Officer advised that leaving the Church, Charities and Local Authorities Property Fund would not be straight forward.  With regard to concerns raised in respect of sale of Council owned land in Minster, the Chief Financial Officer explained that legal were currently considering those issues. 

 

A Member asked if there was a limit on the amount the Council could borrow?  The Chief Financial Officer explained that there was not, as long as a sound business case could be provided and you could demonstrate the base costs could be paid.  The Chief Financial Officer stated that he would not support buying any assets outside of the borough.

 

Recommendations:

(1)      That the performance information for 2019/20 be noted.

(2)      That the prudential and treasury management indicators be approved.

 

 

 

 

Part B Minutes for Information

467.

Fraud and Compliance Team Annual Report for 2018/19 pdf icon PDF 60 KB

Minutes:

The Chief Financial Officer introduced the report which provided an update on the shared fraud and compliance team for Council Tax, business rates and other council services.

 

The Chief Financial Officer drew attention to Table 1 on page 16 of the report which provided a summary of revenue generated from 2018/19 totalling £240,784 and Table 2 on page 17 of the report which provided a summary of revenue generated from 2019/20 totalling £298,169.  The Chief Financial Officer welcomed the positive outcomes provided by the team, but was concerned that most of the income generated was from the New Homes Bonus government grant.

 

Members asked the following questions:

 

·         What was the initial cost to SBC in setting-up the team?; and 

·         Query the wording under ‘Financial, Resource and Property’ on page 18 of the report, as this seemed to imply that if successful funding would be lost?

 

The Chief Financial Officer agreed to forward these questions to the Revenues and Benefits Manager for a response.  Responses would be forwarded to Committee Members via Democratic Services.

 

Post Meeting Note:  Responses were forwarded to Members on 27 January 2020.

 

Resolved:

 

(1)          That the report be noted.

468.

Internal Audit Interim Report for 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 62 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Head of Audit Partnership introduced the report which updated Members on progress completing the 2019/20 Internal Audit and Assurance Plan.  It also provided the update information required by Audit Standards, including an assessment of available audit time, results of audit work and commentary on performance of the audit service.

 

The Head of Audit Partnership reminded members that internal audit worked completely independently of both officers and members.  He stated that if there were any inappropriate risks being taken by management, this would be reported. The Head of Audit Partnership reported that a couple of members of staff had left the team, he welcomed the return of Russell Heppelston who had been working on secondment at another authority, and Alison Blake who had recently returned from maternity leave. 

 

The Head of Audit Partnership went through the report, highlighting the following:

 

·         Page 27 – this provided details of completed assurance projects since the annual report in June 2019.  All projects had been given a sound assurance rating;

·         Page 35 – this showed agreed action follow-up results.  It was noted that a high number of these had been quickly acted upon by officers;

·         Pages 36 and 37 – provided an update on risk management and update on counter-fraud.  A new strategic risk register was being prepared relating to the new Corporate Plan.  The National Fraud Initiative had identified persons on the housing waiting list that should not have been there.  The estimated saving for this was £3,240; and

·         Page 38 – showed that the audit team remained compliant with the Code of Ethics.  The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy would begin a review of the audit team commencing February 2020 to ensure that they conformed to the public sector internal audit standards and external quality assessment.  A report on their findings would be considered at the July committee meeting.

 

In response to a query from a Member, the Head of Audit Partnership explained that if the Council were deemed to be over-cautious this would be examined in the same way as if the Council were deemed to be taking too many risks.  If the Council were spending too much time and money on unnecessary controls, this would be identified as a risk.

 

A Member spoke about how the Council wished to be more carbon neutral and how was a suitable framework could be worked-on to allow officers to be more creative in achieving this?  The Head of Audit Partnership stated that that was a question for management.

 

A Member raised concern that not all interview panels had an officer that had received recruitment and selection training.  The Head of Audit Partnership reported that this was being reviewed by Human Resources; he explained that there were already mitigating procedures in place.

 

A Member was pleased to note that controls for parking enforcement were properly managed and commended all staff involved in achieving this.

 

In response to a query from a Member, the Head of Audit Partnership stated that they assessed all  ...  view the full minutes text for item 468.

469.

External Audit Update Report for 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 475 KB

Minutes:

Mr Greenlee (Grant Thornton)  introduced the external audit update for 2019/20 which reported on progress in delivering Grant Thornton’s responsibilities as the Council’s external auditors, including a summary of emerging national issues and developments.  Mr Greenlee advised that they were currently reviewing the Council’s 2018/19 Housing Benefit Subsidy but he was not aware of any issues.  A full report of their findings would be presented to the Audit Committee at their meeting on 11 March 2020. 

 

Mr Greenlee reported that due to changes and improvements within the audit service their fees would be increasing and details of these were set-out in the Annual Audit Letter which was to be considered under Agenda item no. 9 of the Agenda.  Mr Greenlee advised that the proposed fee variation would need to be approved by the Public Sector Audit Appointments.

 

The Chief Financial Officer thanked Mr Greenlee for the report and noted that Mr Darren Wells was the new Engagement Lead.  He spoke about the importance of having the continuity of Grant Thornton and considered the proposed increase in audit fees was justified.

 

A Member referred to the annual audit letter and welcomed the statements provided in relation to the work of Grant Thornton and congratulated both SBC staff and Grant Thornton.

 

Resolved:

 

(1)          That the External Audit Update Report for 2019/20 be noted.

470.

2018-19 Annual Audit Letter Swale Borough Council October 2019 pdf icon PDF 310 KB

Minutes:

Mr Greenlee introduced the Annual Audit Letter which summarised key findings from the work carried out by Grant Thornton for the Council for the year ended 31 March 2019, and a proposed increase in audit fees.

 

Resolved:

 

That the Annual Audit Letter 2018/19 be noted.

 

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