Agenda and draft minutes

Orbis Joint Committee - Friday, 22nd January, 2021 2.00 pm

Contact: Simon Bailey  Democratic Services Officer


No. Item


Apologies for absence

To receive apologies for absence.

Additional documents:


There were no apologies for absence.


Declarations of interest

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

  1. Any disclosable pecuniary interests and / or
  2. Other interests arising under the Code of Conduct in respect of any item(s) of business being considered at this meeting


  • 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:


There were none.


Minutes of the previous meeting (16 October 2020) pdf icon PDF 138 KB

To approve the minutes of the last meeting as a correct record

Additional documents:


The minutes of the previous meeting were agreed as a correct record.


Procedural matters

4a        Members’ Questions

            The deadline for Members’ questions is 12pm four working days before the meeting (18/01/2021).

4b        Public Questions

            The deadline for public questions is seven days before the meeting (15/01/2021).


Additional documents:


a. Members’ questions [Item 4a]

There were none


b. Public questions [Item 4b]

There were none.


Orbis Performance Monitoring pdf icon PDF 547 KB

To provide an update on key performance metrics across the partnership

Additional documents:



Nikki Neal - Head of Strategy, Performance and Change

Leigh Whitehouse - Executive Director of Resources (SCC)

Phil Hall - Acting Chief Operating Officer (ESCC)


Key points raised in the discussion:

1.    The Head of Strategy, Performance and Change introduced the report and highlighted that there were amendments to section seven of the report ‘People insight’ which had been circulated with the Committee and is attached as Annex A showing tracked changes.

2.    The Head of Strategy, Performance and Change summarised that:

a)    There were a number of changes to the services within the Orbis Partnership last year, relating to the disaggregation of services and resulting contribution ratios. The two main changes were: the full disaggregation of the Property service from 1 April 2020 reverting to sovereign control in all partner locations; HROD and Finance services reverted to sovereign control (with the exception of some centres of expertise CoE) in SCC but remained integrated across BHCC and ESCC; and the agreement on 30 June 2020 to transfer the Pensions Administration service from Business Operations to ESCC and SCC finance functions to allow greater strategic capacity and alignment.

b)    Regarding each of the services’ three-year savings profile, IT&D and Procurement were on plan to achieve their individual savings targets taking over just £800k, but it was unlikely that the £750k savings target for Business Operations would be met. Plans for improvement had been paused due to Covid-19 and the service was working to close the gap through greater alignment between the three sovereign authorities -discussions were underway at the joint management board.

c)    The ERP replacement projects in SCC: Digital Business & Insights (DB&I) programme and ESCC: Modernising Back Office Systems (MBOS) programme were at different stages. In SCC, Unit 4 had been awarded the contract and would manage critical processes, with a proposed go-live date of 1 December 2021. In ESCC, the main objective was to implement a modern system across the critical processes and was at the final stage of procurement with planned implementation in April 2023.

d)    The Performance and Change team was delivering change programmes such as the Developing Partnering Excellence Programme and staff-based initiatives across the Partnership with over twenty-one unique sessions for staff last year and eighty-five digital events - which had higher attendance and so a ‘virtual first’ approach including e-learning was prioritised, a demonstration of the intranet site Orbis Home was provided which collated resources for staff. 

e)    The spending on agency staff for Orbis overall decreased slightly compared to Q1 2020/21, BHCC and ESCC FTE had remained stable with a reduction in FTE in SCC due to the transfer in June of Pensions Administration staff from Business Operations into the Finance service.

  1. A Joint Committee member queried the disaggregation of services which contradicted the founding principle of the Orbis Partnership of integration across the sovereign authorities.

a)    In response, the Executive Director of Resources (SCC) noted that over the last few years there had been a refinement of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Service Spotlight - Internal Audit pdf icon PDF 433 KB

This spotlight report provides the Orbis Joint Committee with an overview of the activities and achievements by the Orbis Internal Audit and Counter Fraud Service (Orbis IA)

Additional documents:



Russell Banks - Orbis Chief Internal Auditor

Key points raised in the discussion:

1.    The Orbis Chief Internal Auditorintroduced the report andsummarised that:

a)    The Internal Audit (IA) service was an integrated Orbis Partnership function led by a single Chief Internal Auditor appointed in April 2017, with a new integrated structure in effect from April 2018.

b)    IA was a statutory service in the context of the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015, which must comply with the Public Sector Internal Audit Standards (PSIAS).

c)    At the time of establishing IA, the service was restructured which saved 25% of the then net budget. Part of rationale for integration was to keep locally based services in each of the sovereign authorities but to also maximise the opportunity to utilise shared knowledge. Three smaller sovereign based teams were created along with two specialist teams in the areas of ICT Audit and Counter Fraud which operated across the Partnership.

d)    Streamlining was undertaken during the integration, with a new electronic audit management system implemented as well as a range of efficiencies as staff across the Partnership operated in a standardised way using same systems, report templates and format of audit opinions.

e)    There were a range of external clients such as Horsham District Council since 2018, which involved a TUPE transfer of a small number of staff -reducing resource risk - and external client work made a contribution to overall service overheads.

f)     Historically, recruiting experienced IA staff was a challenge, so there was a recent shift to recruit entry level staff, invest heavily in professional training and reduce spending on agency staff. As a result, for the first time since the creation of the Partnership, the number of audit days across the three sovereign authorities would be increased without a budget increase for 2021/22.

g)    As part of the approach to core service delivery, there was regular reporting throughout the year on the delivery of work and performance of IA service through the respective senior leadership teams and audit committees. Those reports were on a quarterly basis and tracked the performance indicators, with an annual report and IA opinion, as well as self-assessments and a full independent external assessment of the service at least once every five years - the last was commissioned in 2018 in the first year and received the highest level of performance against those standards; noting confidence though self-assessments that level of professional compliance was maintained.

h)    IA reacted quickly to Covid-19, such as by suspending audit activity in frontline service delivery, as well as providing advice to services in recognising that normal systems and processes needed to be delivered in a different way.

i)      Despite the change of activity, the service remained confident that it would deliver sufficient coverage across all three sovereign authorities in order to give the annual opinion for 2021, with plans underway for 21/22 with built-in flexibility.

2.    A Joint Committee membernoted concern with the 90% target for Productivity  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.


Orbis Budget Monitoring report pdf icon PDF 407 KB

This report provides an update to the Joint Committee on the financial position of Orbis

Additional documents:



Thomas Alty - Head of Finance

Key points raised in the discussion:

1.    The Head of Finance introduced the report and summarised that:

a)    It reflected the new Orbis operating model from 2020/21 with “Fully integrated”, “Partially integrated” or “Centres of Expertise”.

b)    As a result of services being withdrawn under the new operating model, the 2020/21 budget was £39.3mn, compared to £60mn last year.

c)    As at Q2 the forecast year-end outturn was a £769k overspend due to the slippage of the savings delivery in Business Operations. With smaller underspends projected in Finance and HR due to lower levels of staffing turnover and an underspend in the CoE budget.

d)    The overspend in staffing was offset by underspends in non-staffing due to lower levels of training and travel expenses; and there was a slight over recovery of income due to more staff than was budgeted for.

e)    The highest amounts of agency spend were in IT&D and Management.

f)     Business Operations had a red rating in efficiency targets as savings were not on track to be delivered.

g)    Under the new operating model there were separate contribution ratios for the separate elements/level of integration in the partnership.

h)    The agreed percentages of contribution rates determined the net contribution per partner, with Surrey taking on the largest proportion.

2.    In response to the Chairman’s query on the variance at Q2 for the Orbis Operating Budget, the Head of Finance explained that the projected year-end variance could decrease from £770k.

3.    A Joint Committee membernoted concern with the current £750k savingsdeficit in Business Operations for 2020/21, as the three sovereign authorities would have to pay that deficit. 

4.    The Chairman recognised the above concern and noted concerns about budget preparations, suggesting that they be shared as early as possible such as in Q3.



The Orbis Joint Committee noted the report.

Actions/further information to be provided:

Budget preparations for all three authorities will be shared as early as possible, aiming for Q3.



Date of the next meeting

The next meeting of the Orbis joint Committee will be held on 3 June 2021

Additional documents:


The Committee noted that its next meeting would be held on 3 June 2021 and will be hosted by East Sussex County Council.