Agenda item

Annual Governance Statement 2020/21


The Chief Executive presented a report that summarised the impact of the serious and pervasive governance and cultural concerns that had been articulated by EY, the External Auditors, on the finalisation of the 2020/21 Annual Governance Statement (AGS) and the planned way forward.


Having considered the evidence base, the statutory Chief Officers were in agreement with the EY judgement and were also in agreement with the actions that were required to deal with those concerns.


As part of steps to ensure full understanding of the issues identified and the change required, significant correspondence and discussion had taken place between the three statutory Chief Officers, the Elected Mayor and Deputy Mayor, the Chair of Corporate Affairs and Audit Committee and Ernst Young.


The improvement required would only be achieved through a very rapid and widespread change in the political culture of the Council and a fundamental change in the way that Elected Members behaved.   Following careful consideration of discussions that had taken place and other evidence available to them outside of the audit period, it was the view of the Head of Paid Service and the Section 151 Officer that there were significant risks that must be acknowledged and addressed fully, in order to afford the best opportunity for improvement.


In summary these related to:


           The sheer size and scale of cultural change required.  Wholescale understanding of the concerns raised; full acceptance of them; an acknowledgement of the individual and collective contribution to failings and a demonstrable willingness to change behaviour was not yet evident.

           a belief that since April 2021 relationships between Elected Members and officers had deteriorated further and that as a result there now existed a more pervasive culture than that evidenced in 2020/21.


The Head of Paid Service and the Section 151 Officer were unable sign the AGS as was required, until such time that these risks were fully acknowledged and reflected within the document.


The Head of Paid Service and Section 151 Officer were intent on securing the required revisions and having the Statement agreed and signed by the relevant parties, as soon as these points could be properly documented and agreed by all signatories.


Members were advised that the 2021/22 Annual Governance Statement (AGS), due to be published in draft form once the 2020/21 AGS had been finalised, would confirm that these issues continued to exist.   The report at Agenda Item 11 entitled ‘Commencing a Corporate Governance Improvement Journey’ set out in more detail the planned actions to engage all stakeholders further, develop a consensus of opinion on the fundamental issues and development of a way forward.


Committee Members and other Councillors present at the meeting were given the opportunity to ask questions, to which the Head of Paid Service and Section 151 Officer responded.


AGREED that the current position was noted and the planned approach to address the issues outlined was supported by the Corporate Affairs and Audit Committee.


In accordance with Council Procedure Rule No 61 – Motions without Notice – and with the Committee’s agreement, the meeting was adjourned for five minutes for the purpose of a comfort break.

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