Agenda item

Annual Governance Statement 2020/2021


A joint report of the Chief Executive, Director of Legal and Governance Services and the Director of Finance was presented.  The purpose of the report was to present the finalised Annual Governance Statement (AGS) 2020/21 which had been agreed by the Mayor, Chief Executive and Section 151 Officer.  A copy of the AGS was included in the submitted report.


As set out to the Committee in July 2022, the Council’s Auditor, EY, identified serious and pervasive governance and culture concerns with the operation of the Council, in their Value for Money judgement.  As a result of work required to ensure the scale and seriousness of that challenge were accurately reflected within the AGS, it was not able to be finalised in July when the audited Statement of Accounts 2020/21 were submitted for decision at Committee.


The Mayor, Chief Executive and the Section 151 Officer had worked together, alongside other senior members and the Monitoring Officer to agree the AGS. It was explained that the Chief Executive’s previous concern was that the AGS did not fully articulate the risks that were associated with the current position.  Extensive discussions had taken place to ensure that the wording accurately reflected the scale of the situation and the challenge that existed.


A Member highlighted that the AGS had been signed on 6 September 2022 and raised concerns regarding a motion passed at a Council meeting held on 7 September 2022 in relation to a Standards Committee recommendation.      It was confirmed that when the Audit Opinion was signed by the External Auditor, and the Audit was closed, the AGS would need to be resigned.   Therefore there would be an opportunity for additional information to be added or reflected in the AGS, if appropriate.


In relation to the implementation of actions from the 2019/2020 AGS, the action to implement a case management tool for those Councillors who wished to use it was marked as completed.    It was noted that following completion of training on the new tool, no Councillor was willing to progress and therefore a new system was not introduced and the action was marked as completed.  It was suggested that this action should be revisited and an Officer confirmed that it could be brought forward in the 2021/2022 AGS.  It was also anticipated that CIPFA might do this also.


A query was also raised in relation to an action to establish an approach to reviewing delivery models to identify changes required to delivery models. The Officer stated that this was in relation to operational models and agreed to forward further clarification via email following the meeting.


It was highlighted that as a result of the issues identified within the AGS and the range and varied nature of them, the Council would launch a Corporate Governance Improvement Plan (CGIP).  The CGIP would be overseen by a multi-disciplinary Officer Board using the Council’s Project Management Framework, with robust scrutiny of action delivery and reporting to Corporate Affairs and Audit Committee, Overview and Scrutiny Board and Executive on a regular basis to demonstrate delivery of actions and also to assess the impact of those actions.   This would provide assurance to Members on action being taken and ensure that if control weaknesses continued to exist even after action, further actions could be identified to address those.   It would also include engagement with Internal and External Audit to provide assurance around delivery.  It was suggested that the milestones, timescales, actions and outcomes needed to be included in detail.   An Officer commented that this would be developed with Members.


AGREED that the Corporate Affairs and Audit Committee noted that the Annual Governance Statement 2020/2021 had been finalised and agreed by the Mayor, Chief Executive and the Section 151 Officer.


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