Agenda and minutes

Audit Committee - Wednesday, 19th July, 2023 7.00 pm

Venue: David Hicks 1 - Civic Offices, Shute End, Wokingham RG40 1BN

Contact: Madeleine Shopland  Democratic & Electoral Services Specialist


No. Item



To receive any apologies for absence


There were no apologies for absence.


Councillor Stephen Newton attended the meeting online.


Minutes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 116 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the Meeting held on 7 June 2023.



The Minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 7 June 2023 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chair.


Members were reminded that the actions list had been circulated to the Committee via email.


Councillor Harper commented that he had had a briefing session with the Assistant Director Finance on the Medium Term Financial Plan and how it fitted together. He had raised a concern as to whether it could be considered a control for the primary risk on the Corporate Risk Register.  He still had concerns about how Council had a full view of revenue and capital spending.  The MTFP referenced spend for the current year and possible future years, but that not spent in the previous year which was transferred to the current year was referenced in later reports.  Councillor Harper suggested further training for Members on this financial control.


Declaration of Interest

To receive any declarations of interest


Councillor Newton declared a Personal interest in Item 19 Director of Children's Services - verbal overview of directorate risks on the grounds that he was a foster carer.


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


There were no Public questions.



Member Question Time

To answer any member questions


There were no Member questions.




Wokingham Borough Council Audit Progress update pdf icon PDF 2 MB

To receive a Wokingham Borough Council Audit Progress update.


The Committee received the Wokingham Borough Council Audit Progress Update.


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


·       In terms of 20/21 a set of financial statements, the final audit result report and other documents including the letter of management representation, had been provided to the Chair and the Section 151 Officer.  A meeting would be held with the Chair on Friday to ensure that she was content to sign the statements.  Once signed and completed the statements would be published on the website.

·       The audit of 2021/22 was progressing and a full draft set of accounts, including the Group information, had now been provided.

·       The Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) had the day before, issued a letter to Council leaders, S151 Officers, Chief Executives, and audit firms, regarding its current proposals to address the backlog of audits.  This letter provided a proposed outline of the way forwards and the actions that would be required.  Information on the statutory deadlines that would be set for each of the financial years involved, was still awaited.  Once this was received a clearer picture of the implications for the Council would be possible.  In the interim the 2021/22 audit continued to be progressed.

·       The Assistant Director Finance commented that around 27% of Councils had completed their 2021/22 audits.  There was still a lot of detail to come on how to further progress.  There was still a lot of discussion and consultation to come, and the approach might not be finalised until December.

·       Mike Drake sought an update on cash and cash equivalents and asked what the adjustment had been in 2020/21.  Helen Thompson commented that the prior year adjustment was a classification difference and did not have an impact on the bottom line.  There were no changes between general reserves and restricted reserves other than that previously reported.  Helen Thompson went on to state that the reclassification of short term investment for the current year was a £95million reclassification between cash and short term investment.  The prior year equivalent value was £28million.

·       With regards to ongoing audits, Mike Drake noted that there would not be a site visit and questioned the reason for this, including how existence testing would be performed.  Helen Thompson indicated that many Councils were still working largely away from the office.   The auditors were looking to move more to face to face and this was being kept under review.

·       Mike Drake asked whether transaction testing had been considered for the 2021/22 accounts, at the same time as the 2022/23 accounts, on the basis of efficiency.  Helen Thompson stated that there was still uncertainty around what would be audited and when, for 2022/23.  There were proposals in the letter from DLUHC about changing the scope of the audit.  Until this becomes clearer, there would be a risk that unnecessary work might be completed, and so this was not something being considered at this point.

·       Mike Drake sought an explanation around the group structure of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 18.


Director of Children's Services - verbal overview of directorate risks

To receive a verbal overview of directorate risks from the Director of Children’s Services.


The Committee received an update on the Children’s Services risks from Helen Watson, Director of Children’s Services.


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


·       The Director Children’s Services updated the Committee on SEN and the Safety Valve programme which related to risk 5 on the Corporate Risk Register.

·       The Safety Valve programme was a national programme which targeted the 20 local authorities with the highest dedicated schools grant deficit, particularly in relation to the High Needs Block.  The Council had secured an agreement with the Department for Education in January 2023, coming in during the second wave of the programme.

·       Since the 2014 SEN reforms there had been a significant increase in those requiring assistance for Special Educational Needs.

·       A whole system approach was being taken and the Council was working with its partners in health and schools.  Through the programme the Council had to demonstrate that, through the Safety Valve programme, it would reduce the in year deficit by the end of the programme.  A balance had to be reached by the end of the 2028/29 financial year, which would be challenging.

·       Work undertaken via the Safety Valve programme was monitored by the Department for Education and the Council had to submit detailed quarterly returns on activity and financial data.  There was strong accountability and governance around the programme.

·       Members were informed that the Chief Executive chaired a weekly Safety Valve Gold meeting which was attended by officers including the Deputy Chief Executive and the Director of Children’s Services.  The risk register was considered, and weekly updates received.

·       Linked to the Safety Valve proposal, additional capital funding had been brought in.  Two new SEND free schools would hopefully be opening in September 2026.  This additional investment in the Borough would help with some of the existing challenges of some children having to be educated outside of the local authority area.

·       Members were informed of other governance arrangements.  The Director Children’s Services indicated that she chaired the monthly Safety Valve Board.  She also chaired the SEND Sufficiency Board which oversaw the development of the free schools, and also the Local Authority SEND Partnership. 

·       There were four main workstreams in the Safety Valve Programme and 15 individual projects, each of which had its own work programme.

·       Schools Forum were involved in the process and school leaders had signed up to the principles of Safety Valve.  Significant work was being undertaken with the schools around what needed to be done with the Dedicated Schools Grant in terms of a 1% block transfer to the High Needs Block in autumn.

·       Councillor Davies asked about the expected trajectory of the risk score over the next three years.  The Director Children’s Services commented that the trajectory of the risk needed to shift and that the building of the new free school and additional units such as SEND resource units, would be key to this.  Earlier intervention and supporting families at the earliest opportunity would also be vital.  In the next few  ...  view the full minutes text for item 19.


Risk Management Policy and Guidance pdf icon PDF 100 KB

To consider the Risk Management Policy and Guidance.

Additional documents:


The Committee considered the Risk Management Policy and Guidance.


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


·       The Chair highlighted an updated recommendation which reflected the Committee’s amended role following the change to its terms of reference.

·       The Governance and Risk Manager highlighted that a review had been undertaken of the Risk Management Policy and Guidance.  The review had found that the Policy and Guidance was sound.  Her Majesty’s Orange Book on Risk Management, a code of practice on risk management in the public sector, had been used.

·       Minor enhancements around clarity and consistency had been identified.

·       The Policy set out the Council’s strategic objectives for risk management and described how this was delivered in terms of roles and responsibilities for Members and Officers.  The Guidance was the more detailed operational application of these principles.

·       Councillor Davies asked that there be more consistency in the reference to Directors and Managers.

·       Members highlighted a number of instances where the Committee was still identified as undertaking its previous role.  Officers agreed to review the documents and make amendments as necessary.

·       Councillor Smith was of the opinion that the verification process around risk management could be better explained in the policy.  The Governance and Risk Manager outlined the challenge process and indicated that he would review the Guidance to ascertain how this could best be reflected.

·       The Chair suggested that the word ‘challenge’ be used in the documents.  She went on to suggest that reference be made to the Risk Management Group receiving feedback from the Audit Committee.

·       With regards to Appendix 2 examples of risk categories, Councillor Harper questioned why reputational risk was not referred to in this section.  He went on to suggest that the impact on residents be further emphasised under the impact scores section.

·       Councillor Newton referred to the Audit Committee document which had been previously circulated to the Committee, and questioned whether a review of the Committee to understand its level of compliance would be carried out.  The Governance and Risk Manager explained that an annual review of the Committee’s effectiveness was taken to the February meeting and an action plan detailing how progress against the CIPFA code would be made.

·       Councillor Newton went on to comment that the relevant Executive Member was made aware of key risks in their area.  He stated that risks were a corporate responsibility and suggested that the Audit Committee and relevant Overview and Scrutiny Committees also be made aware of significant risks so that they could be satisfied that it was being addressed.  The Assistant Director Governance indicated that Officers would look at the suggestion around risk management.  Councillor Davies was of the view that the existing risk management escalation process was sufficient.

·       An assurance framework detailing the whole system of assurance in a local authority would be taken to the Committee’s February meeting. 

·       Mike Drake questioned whether it was highlighted at an early stage when a riskier project was being undertaken, and if so, if mitigating actions were  ...  view the full minutes text for item 20.


Senior Information Risk Owner (SIRO) Annual Report 2022/23 pdf icon PDF 87 KB

To receive the Senior Information Risk Owner Annual Report 2022/23.

Additional documents:


The Committee considered the Senior Information Risk Owner (SIRO) Annual Report 2022/23.


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


·       The Assistant Director Governance took Members through the report.  The report provided Audit Committee Members with an update relating to the responsibilities of the Wokingham Borough Council Senior Information Risk Owner (SIRO) and outlines activity and performance related to information governance for the period 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023.

·       CLT had received a half day briefing on cyber security recently, which had helped to raise the prominence of this issue to senior officers. 

·       It was noted that Internal Audit were due to report internally on information governance.

·       With regards to data breach management and reporting, there had been one reportable breach which had been reported immediately.  It had related to physical information which had been lost but then swiftly recovered.  The Information Commissioner had been complimentary regarding the speed of the reporting (within 24 hours) and had taken no further action.  An internal reporting culture was encouraged and over 100 reports had been made internally.  This would help to target training and identify any knowledge gaps. 

·       It was noted that over a thousand requests for information were received each year.  There was a target of responding to Freedom of Information requests within a certain timeframe of 90%.  Last year 89.4% had been achieved.

·       Councillor Harper asked whether information regarding right to be forgotten requests could be provided in future reports.  The Assistant Director Governance indicated that it could.  The number of requests received had been small.

·       A number of typos were identified which would be amended.

·       Mike Drake praised the report and asked about benchmarking with similar councils.  The Assistant Director Governance indicated that he would provide this information for the next meeting.  More comprehensive information could be included in the next report.

·       The Chair questioned whether information regarding requests received also included those requests which had been rejected due to the level of resources that would be required to respond.  The Assistant Director Governance did not believe that any requests had been rejected.  The Chair suggested that this information be added to the report.

·       Councillor Smith again expressed surprise that Internal Audit were not due to audit cyber security earlier, given its vital importance.  The Chair commented that it would be audited twice over three years. 

·       Councillor Smith asked for more information on the type of data breaches.  The Assistant Director Governance agreed to provide more information.

·       With regards to fostering a culture of self reporting, Councillor Davies questioned how a balance could be created.  The Assistant Director of Governance agreed that a balance was important.  However, if a pattern of conduct was identified it would be picked up through the disciplinary process or capability process if it related to a significant one off matter.

·       Councillor Newton noted that the number of Freedom of Information requests had decreased, and that this may have helped to raise the percentage of achievement.   The number of hours  ...  view the full minutes text for item 21.


Forward programme 2023-24 pdf icon PDF 112 KB

To consider the forward programme for the remainder of 2023-24.


The Committee considered the forward programme for the remainder of the municipal year.


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


·       Members questioned whether any of the November items could move to the September meeting.  The Assistant Director Governance commented that the Annual Governance Statement could potentially be taken to the September meeting.

·       It was noted that an update on the 2020/21 audit was no longer required.


RESOLVED:  That the forward programme for the remainder of the municipal year be noted.





JUNE MEETING - Councillor Harper referred to Risk 14 Children’s Safeguarding and the fact that a recent Ofsted inspection had scored Requires Improvement.  He questioned whether there should be a separate risk around Children’s Services.  He felt that Risk 14 was overly narrow.  The Chief Executive stated that within the detail of the report more detail had been included around some of the improvements made.  When a judgement of Requires of Improvement was made it was a journey of improvement.  Councillor Harper suggested that that the mitigating actions be amended to highlight some of the improvements made.

Governance and Risk Manager / Director Childrens Services



Actions will be addressed in next iteration of Corporate Risk Register to be considered by Committee on 27 September.

JUNE MEETING - Councillor Newton suggested that it would be helpful to include an explanation as to why a risk had not been mitigated.

Governance and Risk Manager



Actions will be addressed in next iteration of Corporate Risk Register to be considered by Committee on 27 September. 

 JUNE MEETING - Councillor Newton questioned whether all the mitigations listed could have a month as well as a year target.  He also suggested that an additional column could be included after the dates of the mitigating actions column, to show whether mitigating actions were on track or not.  Councillor Newton went on to state that some of the dates had passed, and questioned whether this was the result of timing, or other issues.  The Governance and Risk Manager responded that the suggested format changes could be made.

Governance and Risk Manager



Actions will be addressed in next iteration of Corporate Risk Register to be considered by Committee on 27 September.

JUNE MEETING - With regards to Risk 2 Corporate Governance, Mike Drake suggested that the review of the Corporate Risk Register by the Audit Committee be included as control. 


With regards to Risk 8 Cyber Security, Mike Drake asked whether the Council’s cyber security measures were tested and if so if they should be included as a control.

Governance and Risk Manager



Actions will be addressed in next iteration of Corporate Risk Register to be considered by Committee on 27 September.

JUNE MEETING - Review rating of Risk 9 Deliver Council’s Climate Emergency Action Plan.

Governance and Risk Manager/CLT



Actions will be addressed in next iteration of Corporate Risk Register to be considered by Committee on 27 September.

JUNE MEETING - The Assistant Director Governance indicated  ...  view the full minutes text for item 22.