Agenda and draft minutes

Audit & Governance Committee - Monday, 20 September 2021 2.00 pm

Venue: Surrey County Council, Woodhatch Place, 11 Cockshot Hill, Reigate, Surrey, RH2 8EF

Contact: Angela Guest  Email: angela.guest@surreycc.gov.uk

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Items
No. Item

8/21

APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE AND SUBSTITUTIONS

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    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    There were none.

     

9/21

MINUTES OF THE PREVIOUS MEETING [23 March 2021] pdf icon PDF 212 KB

10/21

DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST

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    All Members present are required to declare, at this point in the meeting or as soon as possible thereafter

    (i)            Any disclosable pecuniary interests and / or

    (ii)           Other interests arising under the Code of Conduct in respect of any item(s) of business being considered at this meeting

    NOTES:

    ·         Members are reminded that they must not participate in any item where they have a disclosable pecuniary interest

    ·         As well as an interest of the Member, this includes any interest, of which the Member is aware, that relates to the Member’s spouse or civil partner (or any person with whom the Member is living as a spouse or civil partner)

    ·         Members with a significant personal interest may participate in the discussion and vote on that matter unless that interest could be reasonably regarded as prejudicial.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    There were none.

11/21

QUESTIONS AND PETITIONS

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    To receive any questions or petitions.

     

    Notes:

    1.  The deadline for Member’s questions is 12.00pm four working days before the meeting (15/09/2021).

    2.  The deadline for public questions is seven days before the meeting (13/09/2021).

    3.  The deadline for petitions was 14 days before the meeting, and no petitions have been received.

     

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    There were none.

12/21

RECOMMENDATIONS TRACKER pdf icon PDF 120 KB

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    To review the Committee’s recommendations tracker.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Speakers:

    Mark Hak-Sanders – Strategic Finance Business Partner

     

    Key points raised during the discussion:

    1. Tracker item A1/21 - The Committee had been emailed the narrative for the Statement of Accounts for any final comments by 30 September.

     

    Action/Further information to note:

    None.

     

    RESOLVED:

    That the tracker be noted.

     

13/21

EXTERNAL AUDIT: ANNUAL AUDIT LETTER

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    The Council’s external auditors will give a verbal update.

     

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Speakers:

    Ciaran McLaughlin, Grant Thornton

     

    Key points raised during the discussion:

     

    1. The Committee received a verbal update from Grant Thornton and were informed that the target date of 30 September for auditing the accounts would not be met.  There were various reasons for this including increased workload, changes to National Audit Office Code and impact of Covid.  However, the Committee were assured that the accounts could be published on 30 September, but the audit would take a little longer.  There were a small number of minor amendments to be made but nothing to bring to the Committee’s attention.
    2. Grant Thornton gave an update on the current progress of each stage of the audit process.  He explained that the pension audit was 80% complete and that there were a few things being considered but nothing of concern.
    3. In response to a Member query regarding delays for other local authorities, Grant Thornton reported that last year the deadline was 30November, and it was thought that approximately 50% of local authorities would reach the 30 September deadline.

     

    Actions/ further information to be provided:

    None.

     

    Resolved:

    That the update be noted.

     

14/21

COUNCIL COMPLAINTS pdf icon PDF 756 KB

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    To give the Audit & Governance Committee an overview of the Council’s complaint handling performance in 2020/21 and to demonstrate how feedback from customers has been used to improve services.

     

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Speakers:

    Sarah Bogunovic, Head of Customer Strategy and Futures

    Jo Lang, Head of Customer Engagement

     

    Key points raised during the discussion:

     

    1.    The Head of Customer Strategy introduced her report and highlighted the following:

    a)    That there were three different complaints procedures managed by three different teams (adult social care, corporate and children’s social care). There were different statutory requirements for each, which was why adult social care only had one stage, corporate two stages and children’s had a three stage process.

    b)    That it was important not to just look at the numbers when considering complaints handling performance, because low numbers might mean that a council was not open to receiving complaints or customer feedback.  However, the overall number of complaints had increased in the last year due to an increase of 49% in complaints about education and children’s services. Numbers had fallen in other areas.

    c)    There had been a general dip in performance with response timescales, with the exception of adult social care. The Covid-19 pandemic and complexity of complaints received, particularly about education & children’s services, had been factors.

    d)    The Children’s Customer Relations team were adopting an early resolution model, in line with the corporate approach.

    e)    There was a significant increase in the amount of financial redress paid in the last year. The majority of this related to education & children’s services.  Payments over £1,000 were agreed in conjunction with the Cabinet Member.

    f)     Pension complaints were included within the report but were managed through a different process.

    g)    She drew the Committee’s attention to information included within the report about Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) complaints.

    h)    That the report highlighted what had been done well last year and where improvement was needed.  It was pointed out that more compliments than complaints were received and that it was important to present a balanced view of services.

     

    2.    Member questions and responses:

     

    a)    Why the response times were not being met in 24% of cases and what was being done to improve this?

    The Head of Customer Strategy responded that this was reliant on service areas having capacity to respond to complaints and that a number of staff had been redirected for Covid. 

    The Head of Customer Engagement stated that children’s services needed to do more, that cases could be very complex dealing with different agencies and the numbers of complaints in this area had doubled in the last five years. She went on to explain the early resolution process being brought in this year and that staff training was underway. She also highlighted the importance of building relationships with families, which could take time.

     

    b)    What was the total cost of complaints including other costs such as staffing?

    The Head of Customer Strategy responded that an exercise was done a few years ago to establish this but that it was complex to calculate. The previous estimate of the cost of an Ombudsman complaint to the organisation was approx. £1,500 per complaint (not taking into  ...  view the full minutes text for item 14/21

15/21

INTERNAL AUDIT PROGRESS - Q1 pdf icon PDF 322 KB

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    The purpose of this progress report is to inform Members of the work completed by Internal Audit during Quarter 1.

     

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Speakers:

    David John, Audit Manager

    Russell Banks, Chief Internal Auditor

    David Mody, Strategic Risk Business Partner

     

    Key points raised during the discussion:

     

    1. The Audit Manager gave a full precis of the submitted report and highlighted areas of interest.
    2. In response to questions around audit work on unclaimed grants and pension fund investment returns the Audit Manager stated that not all grants needed certification by Orbis Internal Audit and that finance managed this.  He also confirmed that Internal Audit did not look at returns on pension fund investments, though the system was audited as part of annual Key Financial Systems work. 
    3. The Committee were reminded that it would be appropriate to request updates directly from service managers.
    4. There was some discussion around the connectivity between audit and the risk register. The Strategic Risk Partner stated that he was sighted on all audit findings and was working to ensure risks flagged by Internal Audit reconciled with information he had from services.  Whilst pensions was not in the top 20 corporate risks he was also meeting with Finance and Pensions to discuss issues.
    5. The Chief Internal Auditor explained that each high-priority action arising in an audit was assigned an action owner in MKI (Internal Audit’s electronic working paper database) who was required to confirmed to Internal Audit that the action had been implemented as agreed. It was also explained that if deadlines for agreed actions were delayed, then the service would need to raise this with Internal Audit and agree with us a revised date of implementation.  If there was a delay on a high-priority agreed action then a mitigating control would have to be in place.

     

    Actions/ further information to be provided:

    None.

     

    Resolved:

    That the report be noted.

     

16/21

Risk Management pdf icon PDF 393 KB

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    To receive an update on the current corporate risks and approve the risk strategy.

     

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Speakers:

    David Mody, Strategic Risk Business Partner

     

    Key points raised during the discussion:

     

    1. Committee Members raised concerns about whether or not the new risk (ST26) of SCC not being chosen for the Government’s County Deal Pilot was indeed a risk or just a missed opportunity. Only two counties were to be selected so the chances of not being selected were high.  Also, there was now a new Secretary of State and would they continue with this.  Even if the Council were chosen it was thought that this would be the start of a range of discussions, and it would be much further down the line for it to become a risk.
    2. The Committee discussed and queried a few of the risks on the register and were informed that relevant officers were to be invited to future meetings to discuss risks in depth. The Committee agreed to discuss, outside of the meeting, the order in which risks were to be looked at in-depth.

     

    Actions/ further information to be provided:

    1. That the Committee’s thoughts on the strategic risk ST26 be relayed back to Corporate Management Team for consideration.
    2. That the Committee Manager arrange a virtual informal meeting for Committee to discuss forward planning of risks.

     

    Resolved:

    1.        That the strategic risks were noted and that comments regarding ST26 be relayed back to the Corporate Leadership Team.

    2.        That the Risk Management Strategy be approved.

    3.        That the Committee Manager arrange a virtual informal meeting for Committee to discuss forward planning of in-depth consideration of risks.

     

17/21

DATE OF NEXT MEETING

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    The next meeting of Audit & Governance Committee will be on 29 November 2021.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    The date of the meeting was NOTED.