Councillors and committees

Agenda and minutes

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

Contact: Amelia Christopher  Email: amelia.christopher@surreycc.gov.uk

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Items
No. Item

26/23

APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE AND SUBSTITUTIONS

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    To receive any apologies for absence and substitutions.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    None received.

     

27/23

MINUTES OF THE PREVIOUS MEETING - 8 MARCH 2023 pdf icon PDF 153 KB

    To agree the minutes as a true record of the meeting.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    The Minutes were approved as an accurate record of the previous meeting.

     

28/23

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.

29/23

QUESTIONS AND PETITIONS pdf icon PDF 263 KB

    To receive any questions or petitions.

     

    One public question has been received in advance of the deadline and a written response has been provided - Annex A.

     

    Notes:

    1.  The deadline for Member’s questions is 12.00pm four working days before the meeting (30 May 2023).

    2.  The deadline for public questions is seven days before the meeting (29 May 2023).

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

     

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    There were no Members' questions or petitions.

    One public question was received from Brian Edmonds. The question and response were published in the agenda.

    The following supplementary question was asked by Brian Edmonds and the response can be found below:

    He noted that the Council’s Gifts and Hospitality Register was sparsely populated in terms of hospitality offered, he asked whether consideration had been given to positive feedback of nil return. The Director of Law and Governance acknowledged that the return was low for both Members and officers, confirmation of a nil return from councils would be unusual. He noted that the Council carried out a communications exercise annually ensuring that both Members and officers were regularly reminded of their obligations regarding updating their register of interests and declaring gifts and hospitality. The Committee would be receiving a report later in the year concerning Members’ and officers’ declarations of gifts and hospitality, and he noted that the member of the public’s suggestion would be noted and considered at that time.

     

    Actions/further information to be provided:

     

    1.    A6/23 - The Director of Law and Governance will note the member of the public’s suggestion of consideration to be given to positive feedback of nil return, as part of the report to be received later in the year concerning Members’ and officers’ declarations of gifts and hospitality.

     

30/23

RECOMMENDATIONS TRACKER AND WORK PLAN pdf icon PDF 122 KB

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    To review the Committee’s recommendations tracker and work plan.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Witnesses:

    Anna D’Alessandro - Director of Corporate Finance and Commercial

    Ciaran McLaughlin - Grant Thornton

    Key points raised during the discussion:

    1.    A Committee member highlighted the External Audit – Audit Plan item scheduled for 12 July on the Work Plan which had been deferred from March and June, noting concern in the delay and sought assurance that it would be received in July. The Vice-Chairman noted that the external audit had been delayed as was the case for many other councils. The Director of Corporate Finance and Commercial confirmed that the external audit plan was scheduled for July’s meeting, and the Grant Thornton representative explained that Grant Thornton’s current proposal was to complete the planning work over the next few weeks and would issue the external audit plan for July’s meeting.

    RESOLVED:

    1.    Monitored progress on the implementation of recommendations from previous meetings (Annex A).

    2.    Noted the work plan and any changes to it (Annex B).           

    Actions/further information to be provided:

     

    None.

     

31/23

2022/23 TREASURY MANAGEMENT OUTTURN REPORT pdf icon PDF 222 KB

    This report summarises the Council’s treasury management activities during 2022/23, as required, to ensure compliance with the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy’s Treasury Management in the Public Services: Code of Practice (the CIPFA Code) which requires the Authority to approve a treasury management annual report after the end of each financial year.

     

     

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

     

    Witnesses:

     

    Rishi Sharma - Strategic Capital Accountant

    Nikki O’Connor - Strategic Finance Business Partner

    Anna D’Alessandro - Director of Corporate Finance and Commercial

     

    Key points raised during the discussion:

    1.      The Strategic Capital Accountant introduced the report and noted that the Council's net external borrowing position had reduced by £30 million over the 12 month period to 31 March 2023. The main driver for this was the continuation of the internal borrowing strategy of the Council, with internal borrowing increasing as a result of increases in reserve and working capital balances. The Treasury Management Advisors, Arlingclose, provided advice to the Council to inform decisions around borrowing and there was an expectation of further increases to interest rates before a forecast of them beginning to reduce by the end of the year. The Council continued to invest temporary cash surpluses in Money Market Funds and those returns had reacted to the increases in the Bank Rate, enabling positive variances on the interest received to offset increased costs relating to interest payable. The Council was compliant with all limits in the Treasury Management Strategy and the Prudential Indicators. The Council had set aside an interest rate reserve to mitigate its future exposure to interest rate fluctuations.

    2.    A Committee member queried how internal borrowing was managed, presuming that it was to fund different services in the annual Council budget and she asked whether the Council operated nominal interest on that to discourage overspend. The Strategic Finance Business Partner clarified that the borrowing requirement was to fund the capital programme and internal borrowing was not borrowing from one service to fund another, it was the Council temporarily using short-term cash surpluses due to the levels of reserves and working capital which reduced the need to be tied into higher long-term interest rates externally.

    3.    A Committee member referred to the Minimum Revenue Provision (MRP) asking whether that was a prescribed amount or whether that amount was a value judgement as to the amount that the Council needed to set aside. The Strategic Capital Accountant explained that whilst there were different methods to calculate MRP, the underlying requirement for the MRP was that it sets aside a prudent provision for the Council’s historic borrowing in relation to the capital programme, investment properties and loans, in line with the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) code requirements. The Director of Corporate Finance and Commercial explained that any change to the Council’s MRP approach was always discussed and agreed with the external auditors, a change was made three years ago as the MRP approach was overly prudent. The Strategic Finance Business Partner explained that the MRP Policy Statement was approved at the Council Budget meeting in February.

     

    RESOLVED:

     

    Noted the content of the Treasury Management Outturn Report for 2022/23 and compliance with all Prudential Indicators.

    Actions/further information to be provided:

     

    None.

32/23

ANNUAL COMPLAINTS PERFORMANCE REPORT pdf icon PDF 544 KB

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    To give the Audit & Governance Committee an overview of the Council’s complaint handling performance in 2022/23 and to demonstrate how feedback from customers has been used to improve services.

     

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Witnesses:

     

    Jessica Brooke - Customer Relations Manager

    Sam Reynolds - Head of Customer Engagement and System Development

     

    Key points raised during the discussion:

    1.    The Customer Relations Manager introduced the report and clarified that the report covered the period from 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023, it focused on concerns from residents dealt with by the formal complaints process not for example correspondence received by Members and the ‘Corporate’ complaints category related to services that were not social care or education related.

    2.    The Customer Relations Manager highlighted key figures detailed in the report relating to the 30% increase in complaints across the board and noted the breakdown for the three categories and the reasons for the increases. She noted the escalation rates and reasons for the increase in Education Services. She outlined the breakdown of the figure of the total remedies paid by the Council.

    3.    The Customer Relations Manager noted that the importance of having a complaints process was to identify where the Council could be doing things differently or better. In Children’s Services there had been policy changes around Direct Payment and the Home to School Transport policies, in Adult Social Care (ASC) there were regular meetings to review delivery concerning care home practitioners, and in the Corporate Customer Relations Team the Early Resolution model continued to be working well. That model was being introduced within the admissions and the Home to School Transport services in Education Services, with complaint leads in those areas in the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities quadrants who could liaise directly with families.

    4.    The Customer Relations Manager concluded that following the publication of the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s (LGSCO) Annual Letter in July, the Committee would receive a report in November providing analysis.

    5.    A Committee member noted that the 30% increase in overall complaints was worrying and noted concern in the decline in response times. He noted that comparative figures with other similar authorities were missing from the report despite being provided in previous years. The Customer Relations Manager clarified that comparative figures with other local authorities would be provided in the report scheduled in November as the benchmarking data would be included in the LGSCO’s Annual Letter. She noted the need to focus on why complainants were escalating their complaints and that unnecessary escalations were being reviewed, focusing on the Early Resolution model and Alternative Dispute Resolution. She noted that the complaints teams monitor and chase for responses from the busy frontline services, it was hoped that the quadrant leads would have a positive impact on the timeliness of responses.  

    6.    As a supplementary question, the Committee member asked whether staffing levels were part of the problem. The Head of Customer Engagement and System Development noted that before getting to that Early Resolution stage there were proactive and clear communications that could be undertaken and the Children’s Services customer services steering group looked at the key themes of the complaints and issued proactive communications. He noted  ...  view the full minutes text for item 32/23

33/23

CONSTITUTION REVIEW 2023 pdf icon PDF 134 KB

    For Audit & Governance Committee Members to consider and provide the Committee’s view on the current proposals of the Constitution Review Group prior to any submission to Council.

     

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Witnesses:

     

    Paul Evans - Director of Law and Governance

    Key points raised during the discussion:

    1.    The Director of Law and Governance introduced the report and noted that the feedback from the political groups and the Committee would be captured in a report to July’s Council meeting. The Committee was asked to indicate whether it thought there were any governance issues concerning the proposals and whether there were any areas of general agreement.

    2.    A Committee member highlighted that she chaired the cross-party Constitution Review Group (CRG) and noted that there had been lively debate and a difference of opinions, she reiterated that the Council would be asked to approve the final proposals. She noted that the standard of Members’ debating, awareness and training was high, and the proposals were small adjustments reflecting the significant change that had occurred since the last review.

    3.    A Committee member supported the route of approval of the Risk Management Strategy as that would give greater clarity concerning its approval, leading to better governance. He noted that the other nine proposals were all sensible and he could not identify any governance issues, noting that there might be debate on the length of speeches at Council meetings for example. 

    4.    The Director of Law and Governance summarised that the Committee did not think there was anything that would compromise governance or audit, it was supportive of its role in approving the Risk Management Strategy, it noted that a few of the proposals were political and it was sensible that the proposals were being considered by the political groups, and it noted that the process was transparent.

     

    RESOLVED:

     

    The Audit & Governance Committee considered the proposals of the Constitution Review Group (Annex 1) and provided the Committee’s view on the current proposals.

    Actions/further information to be provided:

     

    None.

34/23

DATE OF NEXT MEETING

    The next meeting of the Audit and Governance Committee will be on 12 July 2023.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    The date of the next meeting of the Committee was noted as 12 July 2023.