The committee considered a report of the Interim Chief Internal Auditor setting out a proposed, revised Code of Corporate Governance.
The Interim Chief Internal Auditor presented the report, highlighting the following:
a. The Code of Corporate Governance was designed to support the leadership of the Council by developing and maintaining robust governance arrangements.
b. The Code was based upon the CIPFA/SOLACE “Delivering Good Governance in Local Government Framework 2016” which set out 7 core principles as follows:
· Behaving with integrity
· Ensuring openness
· Defining outcomes
· Determining effective interventions
· Developing capacity
· Managing risks and performance
· Transparency and effective accountability
c. The Code included details of how Bristol ensures good governance, together with details of how Bristol complies with the above 7 core principles.
Main points raised/clarified/noted in discussion:
a. It was suggested that any failings in the Council’s decision pathway process needed to be seen as risks to compliance with the proposed code. It was therefore critical to ensure that the decision pathway process was robust and effective.
b. The following points were specifically raised in relation to the governance of Council owned companies:
· Bristol Waste Company Limited (BWC) was established as a Teckal company. A query was raised about whether, in legal terms, it should in effect be treated in the same way as a Council directorate for audit purposes. It was noted that following the recent independent review of the governance of Council owned companies, BWC was being required to establish its own audit committee. Bristol Energy had already established an audit committee.
· It was noted that the business performance of BWC and Bristol Energy was monitored by the Shareholder group and that, due to interests of commercial confidentiality, this meeting was held in private session and was not a public meeting. Currently, the Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board was permitted to attend this meeting as an observer, but, due to the commercial sensitivity of the matters discussed, was not permitted to share these matters more widely with scrutiny members. Whilst fully acknowledging the commercial sensitivities, it was suggested that it was perhaps too limiting to maintain a situation whereby only one non-executive Council member was given access to this information. There was a need to find an appropriate balance between maintaining commercial confidentiality and keeping scrutiny members appropriately informed about these matters.
· It was noted that the Annual Governance Statement required assurance statements from both BWC and Bristol Energy.
c. In relation to the sub-principle of “Respecting the rule of law” (under principle A – Behaving with integrity), it would be important to ensure that the “whistleblowing” policy continued to provide sufficient protection to officers who report any concerns under this policy.
d. In relation to the sub-principle of “Sustainable economic, social and environmental benefits” (under principle C – Defining outcomes), it was suggested that in terms of ensuring fair access to services, full account was taken of the access needs of disabled and vulnerable people.
e. In relation to the sub-principle of “Developing the capability of the entity’s leadership and other individuals” (under principle E – Developing capacity), the importance of identifying and developing talent within the Council’s workforce, and associated succession planning was stressed.
f. Councillor Stevens drew attention to the following statement included within the “Behaving with integrity” section: “Ensuring members and officers behave with integrity and lead a culture where acting in the public interest is visibly and consistently demonstrated, thereby protecting the reputation of the organisation.” He expressed concern that in certain circumstances, this may inhibit or prevent a councillor from speaking about or raising a legitimate issue because disclosure of this might be interpreted as threatening the reputation of the organisation. The Head of Legal Service and Deputy Monitoring Officer advised that this specific point needed to be seen in the context of the revised code of conduct for councillors (which formed part of the revised constitutional changes currently being developed) – this point was more related to how a councillor should behave in raising a point of concern. She would be happy to discuss this point in greater detail with Councillor Stevens outside of the meeting. It was emphasised that the Code of Corporate Governance itself had been developed following CIPFA guidance.
RESOLVED (note: Councillor Radford and Councillor Stevens abstained)
That the revised Code of Corporate Governance be recommended for approval.
(Note: The meeting was adjourned at this point (3.35 p.m.) and reconvened at 3.45 p.m.