Venue: The Council Chamber - City Hall, College Green, Bristol, BS1 5TR. View directions
Contact: Allison Taylor 0117 92 22237
The Chair welcomed all parties to the meeting. The Committee noted the emergency evacuation procedure for the Council Chamber if required.
Apologies for absence.
Apologies for absence were received from Councillor John Geater (Councillor Geoff Gollop substituting), Councillor Farah Hussain and Councillor Marley Bennett.
Declarations of Interest
To note any declarations of interest from the Councillors. They are asked to indicate the relevant agenda item, the nature of the interest and in particular whether it is a disclosable pecuniary interest.
Any declarations of interest made at the meeting which is not on the register of interests should be notified to the Monitoring Officer for inclusion.
Councillor Geoff Gollop declared an interest in relation to Agenda Item 8 (Report Concerning Governance Arrangements for Bristol Energy). He indicated that he had been a member of the Cabinet from 2012 to 2016.
To agree the minutes of the previous meeting as a correct record.
RESOLVED – that the minutes of the above meeting be approved as a correct record and signed by the Chair.
The Committee noted that Alison Hurley and Ann James had not yet provided updates in relation to Minute Number 17 External Inspections of Council Services (Action from 24th June 2021 Meeting).
ACTION: Oliver Harrison to request updates provided for next meeting
Up to 30 minutes is allowed for this item.
Any member of the public or Councillor may participate in Public Forum. The detailed arrangements for so doing are set out in the Public Information Sheet at the back of this agenda. Public Forum items should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org and please note that the following deadlines will apply in relation to this meeting:-
Questions - Written questions must be received 3 clear working days prior to the meeting. For this meeting, this means that your question(s) must be received in this office at the latest by 5 pm on Tuesday 21 September.
Petitions and Statements - Petitions and statements must be received on the working day prior to the meeting. For this meeting this means that your submission must be received in this office at the latest by 12.00 noon on Friday 24 September.
It was noted that Public Forum Statements and Questions would be considered at the beginning of the respective item to which they related.
To note the work programme.
The Committee noted the Work Programme for future meetings.
The Committee considered a report concerning Governance arrangements for Bristol Energy.
The Committee received questions and answers from each of the following members of the public and Committee Members. Details of supplementary questions to the Chair and answers provided by him and other attendees are set out in each case:
Q2 – Councillor Jonathan Hucker
Q: Since there seems to have been an inadequate cash flow provision for Bristol Energy Company, was there any previous analysis of when the company would run out of cash? Why was there no cash flow statement.
A: Jon Roberts – Grant Thornton UK
Information had been provided on the technical arrangements. Cash flow information had been provided as part of the analysis of the investment into the company.
The Chair commented that it appeared cabinet was fully aware of the situation and it would have been helpful if it had been. Whilst future forecasting may have been known to some officers in Management, the governance requirements may not have been.
Q4 – Councillor Geoff Gollop
Q: Do you agree that the total loss which had occurred as a result of the situation with Bristol Energy should be relevant to stakeholders?
A – Chair: Yes they are. In addition, details of CEO staffing costs should be included.
Q: Do you agree that the full write off costs should be included in 2021 accounts?
A – Chair: Whilst the auditor costs were not currently included, they should be if they are not debarred from doing so.
Q: Will you let members of Audit Committee ask if there is certain information not inserted in the accounts before they are finalised?
A – Chair: Yes. The additional recommendations contained in the auditor’s report should be put before Full Council for approval, together with a feedback mechanism to ensure that the recommendations are adhered to?
Q5 – Clive Stevens
Q: In view of the importance of scrutiny operating properly with appropriate checks and balances, did Bristol have a good enough scrutiny system prior to the mayoral model?
A: It largely depended on what the relationship was like between the Cabinet (including the Leader) and Scrutiny. It was noted that scrutiny only worked if the information was available to it.
The Committee also noted the following statements concerning this Agenda Item:
Statement Number 1 - Clive Stevens
Statement Number 2 – Councillor Geoff Gollop
The Chair then asked Jon Roberts and Jeannette Beale (Grant Thornton) to present the report.
Jon Roberts made the following comments:
· Grant Thornton might have considered that the report should be a PIR (Public Interest Report) if they did not believe the issues had been sufficiently addressed
· The report had reflected on a number of key areas and had provided recommendations for follow up work
· The recommendations had already been considered by Full Council and there would be an update on proposed recommendations when this item was reconsidered at future meetings
· We had taken advice early in the process and had made the following findings (1) ... view the full minutes text for item 8.
The Committee considered the Treasury Management Annual Report 2020/21.
Members noted the following Public Forum supplementary question:
Q3 – Jonathan Hucker
Q: Although it was encouraging to see that processes had been tightened, can officers confirm his is the case?
A: There had been £30 Million in prudential borrowing. Page 63 of the report sets out the additional £33 Million capital expenditure.
Mike Pilcher introduced this report and made the following points:
· There was revenue provision of £13 Million of PFI schemes and £584 Million external debt
· Also, there was £207 Million in investments with further detail provided in the breakdown
· There were options to reprofile the debt with the portfolio extending for the next 50 years
· The report contains indicators for benchmarking
In response to members’ questions, officers made the following responses:
· Further green financing options were being considered to reach the carbon zero target. A new prudential code had been issued and this could be used subject to the necessary flexibility
· The figures set out on page 55 of the report include £37 Million of treasury and non-treasury management
RESOLVED – that the Committee notes the Treasury Management Report 2020/21 as set out in Appendix A of the report.
The Committee noted the officer recommendation contained in the report for appointing an external auditor for 2023/24 and going forward. It was noted that the officer recommendation set out in the report would need to be carried out by 11th March 2022.
RESOLVED – that Full Council be recommended to opt into a sector led arrangement provided by Public Sector Audit Appointments (PSAA) Ltd.
Oliver Harrison - - to refer to Full Council
Glenn Hammons introduced this report and made the following points:
· Appendix 1 set out the actions taken to help deliver best practice and strengthen capital governance
· Further work had taken place concerning the establishment of the capital investment board
· Management was being strengthened at individual scheme level which would also include movements of staff across Bristol City Council
· Updates to the capital strategy would clarify whether schemes were in early development or in the delivery phase
· The Bristol City Council update would be refreshed in November/December 2021 and submitted to Cabinet and Full Council
· Following a review workshop, nine recommendations had been identified and factored into Improvement Team which would include a range of enhancements to the way capital assets have been made
· Close work was taking place with the Property Services Department to improve the quality of information and to digitise in the form of a Fixed Asset Register to operate from 1st April 2022. A cultural change was required to achieve this
Committee Members made the following comments:
· It was surprising that an extra £7,500 cost had been identified following the review of the schedule of external audit fees and that the fixed asset register did not reconcile to the accounts. It was pleasing to see that reconciliation had now taken place
· Most actions had either ben implemented or were ongoing with targets identified for March 2022
· There needed to be scope for Resources Scrutiny to undertake case studies to supplement the work carried out by Audit Committee. Every year Bristol City Council failed to spend its budget. System approaches were required to deal with the different budget level options. A particular concern was whether or not capital spending could be delivered on time in view of possible inflation increases
· Looking at Appendix 2, a feedback loop was required to Resources Scrutiny or to Audit Committee ACTION: Glenn Hammons to incorporate
In response to members’ questions, officers made the following comments:
· A robust assessment of the timing of expenditure was required
· Many Local Authorities operated a system whereby most of the spending took place in months 11 and 12. A different approach needed to be adopted for the capital programme in Bristol City Council and a cultural change was requited to achieve that. An in-depth improvement programme on this would be reported back to committee in future
· Climate Emergency capital spend would be considered in February and then the usual monitoring and scrutiny process would follow
· Each piece of land will be identified in the bespoke Asset Register from April 2022
RESOLVED – that the Audit Committee notes the progress to date in implementing improvements to capital programme delivery, governance and accounting.
The Chief Internal Auditor presented this report, in conjunction with Melanie Watson, Phil Eames, Tim O’Gara, Mark Kempt, Fiona Lester, Mark Williams and Christina Czarkowski-Crouch.
The Committee noted the following supplementary Public Forum questions relating to Appendix 4 – Cyber Security.
Q1 – Councillor David Wilcox
Q: In situations where items on the IT Risk Register remained amber for 3 or 4 periods, they should be upgraded to red. Can cyber security issues be resolved to include these?
A: Officers would investigate this and report back. Action: Tim O’Gara
Q: The date of completion had not been provided in relation to question 7.
A: Officers would follow up and answer this. Action: Tim O’Gara
Q: Please can answers provided for each question be attributed to each officer. Action: Oliver Harrison to ensure that an officer point of contact is provided for each answer given
Appendix 4 – Cyber Security
Melanie Watson introduced the appendix on Cyber Security and, together with Tim O’Gara, made the following comments:
· The review had been carried out a few months ago and had examined data risk management controls.
· There had been limited assurances provided but there was some room for improvement
· There had been no information provided concerning a cyber security strategy and governance at the time of the review
· In terms of risk management, there was no defined security risk
· Targeted training was required and a large number of actions had been implemented
Tim O’Gara made the following points:
· The recommendations provided by Audit had been accepted and enhanced work had taken place concerning cyber security
· The Council was committed to robust procedures which would be put in place to deal with an ever changing situation
The Chief Internal Auditor stressed the importance of mitigating risk as events could not always be predicted.
Appendix 1 – Risk Management Summary Report
Phil Eames made the following points concerning this report:
· The summary of risk management showed that progress was being made in embedding it across Bristol City Council
· There were not clear governance arrangements around risk management which were both manual and complex.
· This issue was a recurring problem as seen in instances such as Bristol Energy. Therefore, a risk assessment was extremely important
· Forms and records had originally been incomplete. Since the review, new systems had been rolled out and training sessions provided to staff which if successful should address the key issues. A review of the success of this would be provided in the coming year
Officers responded to Committee Members’ questions as follows:
· The new software was externally hosted
· Assessments were being made at corporate level in terms of how the risk assessment fits into decision-making. A need to strengthen the alignment of risk management had been made and may need to be included in the Improvement Plan
· A new system of peer review mechanism was being embedded which was more likely to ensure risks were properly captured
· Details of the way corporate risk assessment was made were provided
Appendix 2 ... view the full minutes text for item 12.
Tim O’Gara introduced this report and made the following points:
· The committee’s attention was drawn to the key roles and responsibilities and actions taken
· It was noted that Section 6 referred to the six lines of defence to manage risk
· Training was an area of continuous improvement. More and better training could be provided. This report looks at wider issues including risk management and supports the work of internal audit. This was a difficult and neglected agenda
In response to members’ questions, he made the following points:
· IT assurance was in his team but was subject to expertise from an external partner
· Whilst it may not be appropriate to provide the names of individual officers below a certain level, these could be identified from Service Manager level upwards Action: Tim O’Gara
RESOLVED – that the report is noted.
The Committee noted the improvement in the risk management approach in the organisation.
RESOLVED – that the report be noted and actions taken and plans acknowledged for 2021/22 to improve the effectiveness of risk management across the organisation.
Mike Pilcher introduced this report and drew members attention to the three critical risks set out in the report.
Committee members made the following comments:
· Whilst progress had been made, further improvements were required since only one risk was tracking positively this quarter.
· Work was required to obtain a positive trend over all areas rather than simply managing a series of risks
· It was interesting to note that cyber security had improved in Quarter 1
· It was important to ensure that risks continued to be identified beyond the end period on 30th June 2021 so that events impacting the situation from July onwards were not brought into the Corporate Risk Register (CRR) until the next reporting period in December 2021 ie the HGV Driver crisis and its impact on Bristol Waste, the September 2021 departure of the Director of Infrastructure in WECA
· The top three risks currently identified as red were of crucial long term importance to improve for the city
In response to members’ questions, Mike Pilcher made the following comments:
· Details would be brought forward showing the measures being put in place to address risks. These would need to be built into service and business plans, as well as into the decision-making process
· It had previously been agreed at Audit Committee that as and when risks are reached, they are added in as an alert and to flag a mechanism to immediately add these in to the CRR. This mechanism would shortly be put in place
RESOLVED – that the Quarter 1 2021/22 Corporate Risk Register be noted.
Case 20 003 080: It was noted that this complaint followed a long-term set of problems obtaining an adequate waste service at a set each time each week.
RESOLVED – that the report be noted and be referred to Full Council.
ACTION: Oliver Harrison to refer to Full Council
Date of Next Meeting
The next meeting is scheduled to be held at 2pm on Tuesday 23rd November 2021.