Agenda and draft minutes

Audit Committee - Wednesday, 3rd February, 2021 7.00 pm

Venue: Virtually

Contact: Madeleine Shopland  Democratic & Electoral Services Specialist

Media

Items
No. Item

36.

Apologies

To receive any apologies for absence

Minutes:

There were no apologies for absence.

37.

Minutes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 395 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the Meeting held on 23 November 2020.

 

Minutes:

The Minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 23 November 2020 were confirmed as a correct record and will be signed by the Chairman at the next available opportunity.

 

Councillor Shepherd-DuBey questioned why the Treasury Management Report that had been considered by the Audit Committee at its November meeting had been changed prior to its consideration by the Executive.  The Assistant Director Finance explained that the report presented to Executive was the same as that presented to Audit Committee and was attached as Appendix A to a covering report.  The covering report of the Council’s Section 151 officer had included additional information as the Executive needed to be kept updated on the Council’s latest position.  Councillor Gee was of the view that the report agreed by the Audit Committee was not the same as that considered by the Executive.  She stated that an extra £1million had been offset against the finance costs which was a big change and the cost of debt per household would go from £7.52 to a benefit of £7.20.  She went on to say that that the Treasury Management report was usually presented in February and did not come with a covering report.  Councillor Shepherd-DuBey commented that part of the remit of the Audit Committee was to make recommendations about Treasury Management and that she felt that there had been a breach of the Constitution.  The Assistant Director Governance clarified the Audit Committee’s remit, referring to 4.4.3.1 j) and k) of the Constitution.  He confirmed that the Constitution had been complied with.  Councillor King suggested that the process could be looked at for the future.

 

Councillors Gee and Shepherd-DuBey believed the report considered by the Executive had been amended and therefore should be presented to the Audit Committee again.  The Assistant Director Governance commented that the Audit Committee had needed to seek assurance about whether the prudential indicators had been complied with or not.  The Committee were considering the Treasury Management Strategy 2021/24 that evening and recommending it for consideration at the February Council meeting.

 

Councillor Gee emphasised that the Committee had recommended that a particular version of the report be recommended to the Executive and this had not happened.  The Assistant Director Finance reiterated that the report agreed by Audit Committee in November 2020 had been presented unamended to the Executive. He went on to explain why, in addition to the information approved by the Audit Committee, the covering report had contained more information around the Council’s financial position. The Assistant Director Governance confirmed that it was entirely in accordance with the duties of the Council’s Section 151 officer, that he brought relevant financial information to the attention of the Executive. Councillor Shepherd-DuBey stated that section 12.1.13.5 of the Constitution stated that ‘…the Chief Finance Officer shall provide a mid-year and annual report to the Audit Committee prior to being approved by Council, on the exercise of the treasury management powers delegated, treasury management performance and on any material departure from the code  ...  view the full minutes text for item 37.

38.

Declaration of Interest

To receive any declarations of interest

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest submitted.

39.

Public Question Time

To answer any public questions

 

A period of 30 minutes will be allowed for members of the public to ask questions submitted under notice.

 

The Council welcomes questions from members of the public about the work of this committee.

 

Subject to meeting certain timescales, questions can relate to general issues concerned with the work of the Committee or an item which is on the Agenda for this meeting.  For full details of the procedure for submitting questions please contact the Democratic Services Section on the numbers given below or go to www.wokingham.gov.uk/publicquestions

Minutes:

There were no Public questions.

 

40.

Member Question Time

To answer any member questions

Minutes:

There were no Member questions.

41.

Formal Complaints - Quarter 3 Summary pdf icon PDF 818 KB

To receive a presentation on formal complaints – Quarter 3 Summary.

Minutes:

The Committee received the Formal Complaints – Quarter 3 Summary.

 

During the discussion of this item, the following points were made:

 

·       The establishment of the Complaints Focus Group was starting to show results:

Ø  Early intervention and resolution of complaints, preventing unnecessary escalation.

Ø  Better reporting - resulting in a rise of early resolution cases reported, 52 in Q3 compared to 4 in Q2.

Ø  Directorate reps taking ownership to input into their services.

Ø  Progressing actions to address the insight.

·       The Complaints Focus Group had established some of the key reasons that people complained; a lack of clear and accessible information about process and procedure and how this resulted in transparency issues around how decisions are made and; impact of social distancing rules and a knock-on effect on cold weather related complaints such as heating and other maintenance issues.

·       The number of complaints received had increased by 32% compared with Q2.  The rise in complaints for Q3 compared to Q2, was partly due to demand for Housing repairs over the winter.   Covid restrictions and social distancing meant that contractors had not been able to complete as many maintenance calls per day, which had led to some customer dissatisfaction.

·       Actions produced from the Complaints Focus Group were

Ø  to ensure that there was clear guidance on what was considered a complaint and how this might differ from unhappiness with a decision;

Ø  Tenant Services to request regular updates from contractors on maintenance call outs and for any delays to be communicated early to manage tenant expectations more effectively;

Ø  A log had been developed in Children’s Services so that learning from complaints could be recorded.

·       Lockdown had had an effect on complaint numbers and services had been affected differently.  Complaint numbers had steadily increased with the easing of the first lockdown, despite the second and third lockdowns.

·       Complaints relating to services within Resources and Assets, Place and Growth and Children’s Services made up a third of all complaints received.

·       The Children's Services Complaints Manager informed the Committee of complaints received under the Children’s Act under Q3.  12 complaints had been received under the Children’s Act statutory Children’s Services complaints process.  3 of these were considered to be out of scope, 4 complaints were resolved following discussions with service users and 5 received formal Stage 1 responses.  During Q3 there had been 3 Stage 2 complaints and 3 Stage 3 panels.  22 formally received compliments had been received during the period, an increase on Q2.

·       The Service Manager Customer Services Operations indicated that the Complaints Focus Group was progressing actions to address the insight highlighted under 4 headings:

Ø  Current environment;

Ø  Poor behaviours;

Ø  Lack of customer connection;

Ø  Lack of process management.

·       The priorities for the next quarter were as follows:

Ø  Better recording of complaints, for both formal and early resolution cases.

Ø  Rebranding of complaints ethos and information into a 'Voice of the Customer' theme – internal and external.

Ø  Redrafting and branding of the complaints policy,  ...  view the full minutes text for item 41.

42.

Treasury Management Strategy 2021/24 pdf icon PDF 840 KB

To receive the Treasury Management Stratey 2021/24.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Assistant Director Finance presented the Treasury Management Strategy 2021/24.

 

During the discussion of this item, the following points were made:

 

·       The report formed part of the Council’s budget setting process and was forward looking.

·       In the prudential limits it was the Council’s parameters for borrowing and investing by the Finance Treasury Team that the Committee was asked to review.

·       The style of presentation had changed to make the report less technical and more easy to read.

·       Members were informed that an addendum of some additional changes had been circulated. 

·       He commented that the series of ratios of financing costs to net revenue streams detailed on page 59 of the agenda has also been amended.  They were now 1.03%, 0.36% and 0.30%.  The first one (1.03%) was based on a firm recommended budget to Council and the other two were based on the indicative budget and would be revised and reviewed prior to the following year’s Medium Term Financial Plan.

·       The Assistant Director Finance highlighted the following key changes to the Strategy which were to enhance the options available to the treasury team for daily management of cash funds, short term investing and borrowing.

Ø  The option to be able to open a deposit account, with our transactional bank provider which will increase capacity to invest money in the short term (increase liquidity), particularly during current times of cashflow uncertainty.

Ø  To increase the money market (liquid funds) limit from £5million to £10million which will increase capacity to invest money in the short term (increase liquidity), particularly during current times of cashflow uncertainty.

Ø  The option to issue a local authority bond to raise borrowing as an alternative to traditional markets such as PWLB.

·       Councillor Burgess asked about the net benefit from borrowing figure, which represented a change in Treasury Management reporting.  At previous Committee meetings Members had been told that the net cost of borrowing was £7.52 per taxpayer, but now the cost of borrowing created a net benefit of £13.64.  She questioned what relevance the treasury investment income had to the cost of borrowing.  The Assistant Director Finance commented that it had moved to £13.64 because when the Treasury Management Mid Year report had been produced it was only taking out the cost of borrowing and the cost of borrowing was based on the budgeted costs of debt finance within the budget.  The amount that had come in from the invest to save and income generation projects had been extracted.  The whole impact effects of those projects had not been included.  A more realistic position would be to show not just the amount of money that the projects had generated to offset the debt financing cost, but the whole benefit to the Council.  Providing more information provided a fuller, more transparent picture of the Council’s situation.

·       It was prudent to offset the treasury investments because there were two potential budget lines within the Treasury department: the cost of borrowing and the return on investment.  When establishing the net  ...  view the full minutes text for item 42.