Agenda item

Public Forum

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 (we recommend that you read this document if you

intend to submit Public Forum to this meeting).

Public Forum items should be emailed to democratic.services@bristol.gov.uk 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 at

the latest by 5pm on 26th May.

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 29th

May.

Minutes:

The following Public Forum business was received

Suzanne Audrey, Question 1:

Question : It is my understanding that the Audit Committee is responsible for oversight of the Council's accounts, financial performance and governance arrangements. I was, therefore, very concerned to learn that the Audit Committee on March 16 discussed the governance of council-owned Bristol Energy but members had not been told that a new managing director of the firm had been appointed that same day.

Why was this important fact about governance of Bristol Energy not provided for the Audit Committee?

Written Answer: The Council’s Audit Committee is responsible for oversight of the Council's accounts, financial performance and governance arrangements and as agreed with the Audit Committee the Committee would monitor the governance, risk management and financial controls of the Councils subsidiary companies by means of reports from the Group Audit & Risk Committee, the Annual Governance Statement and reports produced by the Councils Internal and External Auditors. It is understood that they can at any point request additional information should matters arise requiring further detail.

At the Audit Committee meeting on 16 March 2020 following exclusion of the press and public the Committee was provided with a verbal update by the External Auditors Grant Thornton on Bristol City Council’s Statement of Accounts in relation to Bristol Energy and a wider discussion ensued.

It is not the duty of the Council’s Audit Committee to carry out fnctions that properly belong to others, such as the company’s management or to undermine the responsibility of the Board, Auditors and Company own Audit & Risk Committee. 

The respective Company Board is responsible to direct the strategic & operational delivery of the company, which includes selecting, appointing, supporting and reviewing the performance of the Manging Director (subject to any reserved matters within the articles of association). In relation to the new appointment being made on the 16 March 2020,  the appropriate decision making process was followed and underway on the day in question and the relevant information will be incorporated in the scheduled and or requested reports to the Council’s own Audit Committee.

Supplementary: The questioner clarified that they were not suggesting that it was the Audit Committee function was to appoint or manage roles, but it was still unclear why they were not informed that this process was in place on the date in question.

Response: The Director for Finance responded that there was a clear process for shareholder decisions that did not involve the Audit Committee, so reporting to the Audit Committee would not have been standard practice.

 

Suzanne Audrey, Question 2:

Question: With reference to Q1, the failure to give the Audit Committee this important piece of advice seems to undermine the role of the Committee.

What measures are in place to ensure that the Audit Committee are provided with the information they need to do their job properly?

Answer: The Council’s Audit Committee is not being given advice in relation to strategic & operational company matters, but will be provided with an assurance report from the Group Audit & Risk Committee, Annual Governance Statement which explains the processes and procedures in place to enable the subsidiary companies to carry out their functions effectively, reports produced by the Council’s internal and external auditors and any other subsequent reports requested. These reports are intended to provide oversight of the companies and enable the Council’s Audit Committee to consider key matters of their own initiative which may lead to the request for more detailed work, if there are areas of concern.

The Council ensures that there is adequate cooperation within the group (and individual companies within the group) and with external auditors to enable the Council’s Audit Committee to discharge its responsibilities effectively.

Supplementary Question: The questioner asked about the timing of reports, and whether Scrutiny received these in the most timely way.

Response: The Director of Finance stated that timing was based on when decisions needed to be made. A Member of OSMB who is also the Chair of the Audit Committee added that the role of the Audit Committee was  not to review the day to day working and he would not have expected to have been informed at this point.

 

Cllr Clive Stevens, Question 3:

 Question: The Performance Outturn Report shows that the affordable housing target has been missed. That’s a real tragedy for the hundreds of people who will be affected. My point on this is that we need a higher target, it was 400/year (p49) BCP425, “Increase the number of affordable homes delivered in Bristol” I calculate we need more like 1,000 a year In Bristol to satisfy needs by 2035. My question to OSMB members is a more general one: do you feel you scrutinise adequately the choice of Key Performance Indicators and targets that are used to measure and judge success?  (My supplementary Q will be on affordable housing targets).

Answer: Members receive the performance reports to assist in developing the work programme for scrutiny, the indicators are those identified as priorities by officers and cabinet. We can only scrutinise what we are allowed to see.

Supplementary Question: Has OSMB been consulted to consider new targets on affordable housing?

Response: The Cabinet Member for Housing stated that concern was known over the impact of Covid on availability, particularly private builds with elements of affordable housing. BCC were reviewing the options to help to meet the relevant targets.

 

Cllr Clive Stevens, Question 4:

Question: The Corporate Risk Report to OSMB is dated 21/1/20. But Cabinet’s (for tomorrow) is bang up to date. As I feel that Scrutiny is still hindered by this administration and I want to know why. My question is why wasn’t the latest risk report supplied to OSMB?

Answer: The Q4 report was not ready for OSMB on 1 June as it was planned to be brought to Cabinet on the 2 June. It was agreed therefore that Q3 would be published for information and Q4 would be ready for a full item on the next OSMB agenda.

Supplementary Question: Cllr Stevens was surprised that the decision to only bring the Q3 Corporate Risk Report to OSMB was made.

Response: The Chair clarified that he had made this decision as Chair that it was preferable to wait until the full report was prepared, particularly in light of current officer pressures. The Q3 Report was ‘for information’ at this meeting and when the Board next meets the Q4 will be available and will be discussed by Members. 

 

Statement 1, David Redgewell: See published document for statement.

Response and discussion: Mr Redgewell was thanked for his statement, demonstrating what may be the ‘new normal’, post Covid.

 

Statement 2, Cllr Clive Stevens:

Response and discussion: Cllr Stevens was thanked for his statement

 

Statement 3, Cllr Weston: See published document for redacted statement. Part of this statement was discussed in the exempt session.

Response and discussion: This statement was also sent to Cabinet, and was submitted here for noting.