Background
Background

Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: The Bainbridge Room, The Copeland Centre, Catherine Street, Whitehaven. CA28 7SJ

Contact: Clive Willoughby  Tel: 07385 362806

Items
No. Item

AU 21/54

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

Apologies for absence received from Councillor Russell Studholme.

AU 21/55

Declarations of Interests in Agenda Items:

Minutes:

No declarations of interest were made.

 

AU 21/56

Minutes of the meeting held on 16 September 2021 pdf icon PDF 378 KB

RESOLVED – That the minutes of the meeting held on xxxx be signed by the Chair as a correct record.

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the Minutes of the meeting held on 16 September 2021.

 

RESOLVED – That the minutes of the meeting held on 16 September 2021 be agreed as a correct record and signed by the Chair subject to the formatting error being resolved.

 

AU 21/57

Governance Update pdf icon PDF 369 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Head of Legal and Governance (Monitoring Officer) presented the report to the committee, giving an overview of the changes recommended to the Local Code of Corporate Governance (2022).

 

Councillor Hully asked if only officers had been consulted in reviewing the internal audit function. The Director of Financial Resources informed the Committee that the review comes as a result of the CIPFHA Review, Local Government Reorganisation (LGR) and an increase in working with other councils. But that the result of the review, a shared management agreement with Allerdale and Carlisle, has resulted in a new shared Internal Audit Manager being appointed and expected to be in post from April. The Director of Financial Resources confirmed the appointment following a question from Councillor Weir.

 

RESOLVED – that, the refreshed Local Code of Corporate Governance (2022) be approved.

 

 

 

[The Head of Legal and Governance (Monitoring Officer) left the meeting]

 

AU 21/58

Outstanding Financial Statements pdf icon PDF 505 KB

Minutes:

The Director of Financial Resources gave an overview of the report, with an update being given regarding the complications and issues which the team have experienced, along with the steps being taken to move forward, before inviting the Committee to ask questions.

 

The Chair took the opportunity to highlight a typing error within the report. The Chair also asked for confirmation on what is covered under the term “fixed assets”. The Director of Financial Resources highlighted that fixed assets here focused on buildings (such as the Copeland Centre, the Beacon, Market Hall and Moresby etc.), noting that the Copeland Centre is the main focus of concern regarding the revaluation. But, the revaluations won’t impact the general reserves, they are only being done to make sure the balance sheet is correct.

 

Councillor Bowman asked if the present financial state of the country will impact the valuations being carried out and what would happen if the revaluations were lower than the original. The Director of Financial Resources highlighted that the valuations are balanced at a point in time but that aspects out of the council’s control (such as Covid etc.) are considered. He then noted that if the revaluations are lower than expected, there will be an effect on the financial statements, with a need to adjust them accordingly, but that there will be no effect on stability.

 

Councillor Weir asked if the valuation of the Copeland Centre had changed. The Director of Financial Resources replied that yes, it had changed and required a revaluation, especially following the exit from the PFI scheme with the capital grant.

 

Councillor Hully wondered if the dates within the report were practical, especially as some were after LGR, and what the implications were of not meeting the deadlines. The Director of Financial Resources noted that the dates were a challenge to meet but that the new authority would assume the responsibility to close the financial statements of all the district councils, not just Copeland. It was also noted that there are conditions from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) which need to be met. Stephen Nixon (Grant Thornton) commented that the deadlines can be met but that there needs to be clean accounts.

 

Councillor Higgins asked if the new authority would have difficulties completing the financial statements on a timely basis in the future. The Director of Financial Resources noted that there would be some difficulties as the new authority will have to bring all assets together, so that materially it will be a bigger authority, but that such things happen in large organisations and as long as arrangements are in place and done in advance, despite being complex, it will be possible. Gareth Kelly (Grant Thornton) commented that, although there will be challenges, a larger entity with financial term requirements will be less challenging.

 

RESOLVED – that the timetable for the production and audit of the outstanding financial statements for 2018/19, 2019/20 and 2020/21 be agreed.

 

AU 21/59

Effectiveness of the Audit Committee pdf icon PDF 532 KB

Minutes:

The Director of Financial Resources gave an overview of the report and explained some of the comments within the report before inviting the Committee to ask questions.

 

Comments were made by multiple members of the Committee as to the questionnaire that they received. Councillor Higgins noted that he took advice to not complete the questionnaire due to being new to Audit, which would affect the percentages within paragraph 3.3 of the review. Others noted issues with the questions within the questionnaire, highlighting that they would have preferred to be able to speak to someone. The Director of Financial Resources noted that the report was not just based on the questionnaires but also responses from officers, the external auditors and historic documents.

 

Councillor Bowman queried the recommendation for key papers being available online noting that not everyone had access and there needed to be alternative ways to access the information. The Director of Financial Resources compromised with organising a discussion to explain all the documents and allow members the option to choose what papers needed printing, not wanting to print off large documents unnecessarily.

 

[A ten minute break was taken]

 

The Committee had a discussion around the previous Audit Committee minutes being discussed within the review and the note that the report writer was used to London Boroughs rather than semi-rural councils which have different requirements. The representatives noted that it was interesting that the reviewer did not attend an Audit Committee meeting, commenting that the best way to learn is to review others and recommended that the Committee consider organising to observe other Audit Committees to see how they are run. The representatives also noted that having an independent chair on Audit is great but hard to come by and that there are ways to improve the effectiveness of the committee which should be considered.

 

Taking note of the timescales within the action plan, the Director of Financial Resources agreed to speak to Grant Thornton and seek approval of the Chair once those have been reviewed.

 

The Chair also noted that the proposal for an annual report from the Audit Committee to highlight the work being done would be useful and agreed to attend the appropriate Full Council when the report is being presented going forward.

 

RESOLVED – that,

 

a)     the comments of the review in Appendix A be noted and the proposed actions in response to the recommendations, set out in Appendix B, have the timetable review by the Director of Financial Resources.

b)      the proposed actions in response to the recommendations, set out in Appendix B, have the timetable reviewed by the Director of Financial Resources and Grant Thornton before being approved by the Chair.

 

AU 21/60

Grant Thornton Progress Report pdf icon PDF 5 MB

Minutes:

Gareth Kelly and Stephen Nixon, the Grant Thornton representatives, gave the Committee an introduction and overview of the report. 

 

Councillor Bowman asked if the valuation began from March 2018 and if the new valuers had a timetable to keep and a penalty should that not be met. Mr Nixon noted that the valuation began from March 2018 and each valuation would be from that point each year. The Director of Financial Resources noted that the council have a three-year contract with the new valuers who have already completed the 2021 valuation and are beginning the 2022 valuation. It is only if the appropriate standards are not met should there be a discussion around the contract.

 

The Chair asked if the valuations could all be given at once for 2018, 2019 and 2020. Mr Kelly noted that, yes, the valuations for each year can all be given at once and previous experience has noted that receiving all valuations at once has been good. Mr Kelly also noted that there was an ongoing discussion with the officers required to see if that is the approach to be taken. The Director of Financial Resources noted that the council are still seeking a valuer to undertake the 2018, 2019 and 2020 valuations.

 

Councillor Weir asked if there was a duplication of work, with the Director of Financial Resources noting that there was some due to the need for a revaluation because of poor standards from the previous valuer which had already been paid for.

 

Councillor Higgins noted that the report mentioned infrastructure and requested further information. Mr Nixon noted that they are currently waiting on further information themselves before they could provide any further information. The Director of Financial Resources highlighted that, although it was unclear as to the nature of the assets he assured the committee that Copeland would have maintained them accordingly. It was suggested by the Chair that the Property and Estates Manager be invited to the next Audit Committee meeting once the issues had been settled to discuss the challenges.

 

Mr Kelly explained in further detail the Section 24 recommendations issued in March 2022. A discussion followed by the Committee as to when Full Council needed to respond to the recommendations, noting that Purdah (the pre-election period) is due to start the following week. It was noted by Mr Kelly that it is up to the Council as to when to respond, with the auditors making allowances due to Purdah.

 

Councillors thanked the officers and the Grant Thornton representatives for their reports and time.

 

RESOLVED – that the Property and Estates Manager be invited to the next appropriate Audit Committee meeting.

 

AU 21/61

Date and Time of Next Meeting:

Minutes:

The next meeting of Audit Committee, due to be held on Thursday 14th April at 2:00pm, will no longer go ahead due to the lack of reports. The next Audit Committee meeting will be held in June 2022, subject to the Meetings Calendar being approved by Full Council at the Annual General Meeting in May 2022.

 

 

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