Report by the Assistant Chief Executive.
6.1 The Democratic Services Manager introduced the report. This item relates to the annual review of the Corporate Governance Framework. Each Chief Officer has reviewed the framework and confirmed that all management actions for the 2018/19 year have been undertaken. The management actions for the coming year are listed in Annex A of Appendix 3 of the Governance Committee report. The Governance Committee report also notes that in the most recent Annual Audit Letter the External Auditors confirmed that Annual Governance Statement (AGS) was consistent with their understanding of the Council’s governance arrangements and did not identify any issues.
6.2 The Committee discussed the contents of the report to the Governance Committee and the appendices. A summary of the Committee’s comments is given below.
Governance Committee report
6.3 It was confirmed that the External Auditors still examine the Council’s governance arrangements through the Annual Governance Statement (AGS), since the formal responsibility to assess them was removed when the Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA) was abolished. Grant Thornton will look at Council’s governance arrangements and will comment on them in the Audit Findings report. It was clarified that the former CAA function was the responsibility of Audit Commission and not the External Auditors.
6.4 All Chief Officers sign the assurance statements for their departments to confirm that there are proper governance arrangements in place, and there are effective risk assessment and internal control arrangements. The statements are not standard, as the requirements for each department varies with the nature of work of the department. This is a self-assessment process, but Internal Audit also checks these arrangements are in place through their audit work.
Local Code of Corporate Governance (Appendix 1)
6.5 Appendix 1 of the Governance Committee report contains a list of key policies and processes on which corporate governance framework sits. Each row in the table relates to the statutory items that the Council has to consider. The Committee commented that it was hard to interpret the information in this appendix and understand why some items are ticked and others not, without a narrative.
6.6 It was explained that the information contained in the table in appendix 1 aims to highlight the key elements of each policy or process, and how they contribute to the corporate governance framework. The Committee was informed that the contribution of each policy against the seven headings has previously been reviewed by the Governance Committee. The Committee agreed that it would be helpful to include a narrative in future reports.
Actions to Strengthen Governance (Annex A)
6.7 The Committee noted that the number of actions listed under each department varied, with two listed for Adult Social Care and Health. It questioned whether two actions were sufficient given the scale and scope of the work being undertaken by the Adult Social Care and Health department. The Chief Operating Officer clarified the actions listed in Annex A are a statement about where the focus of work will be for the coming year, which is over and above the other governance arrangements that are already in place. It is not meant to represent everything that is being undertaken by each of the departments. Each Director can specify what actions are highlighted for the coming year, which reflects the nature of work that each department undertakes.
6.8 It was clarified that the first bullet point action under Adult Social Care and Health regarding a revised approach to system governance for managing NHS financial recovery, reflects the changed environment of the Sustainability and Transformation Plan arrangements. The local NHS Healthcare Trusts are in state of financial recovery and this item reflects the Council’s role in this as the system moves towards more financial sustainability. The Committee agreed to recommend that the current description of this action should be amended in the report to make it easier to understand.
6.9 It was clarified that there is already an Inter Authority Agreement (IAA) in place for the Orbis Partnership, and a revised IAA will be introduced from April 2020 (Business Services actions, first bullet point). The revision is more about reframing that agreement rather than changing or adding partners.
6.10 The Committee RESOLVED to:
1) Note the report;
2) Request that a narrative to explain the table in Appendix 1 is circulated to the Committee and included in future years reports; and
3) Recommend that the Governance Committee amends the text of the Adult Social Care and Health bullet point action regarding system governance for managing NHS financial recovery (Annex A) to make it easier to understand.