Agenda and minutes

Governance & Audit Committee - Council Offices & virtually via Zoom, Governance and Audit Committee - Thursday, 21st September, 2023 2.00 pm

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Venue: Committee Room 1 - Council Offices and virtually via Zoom

Contact: Ann Holmes 01248 752518 

No. Item

The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting and extended a particular welcome to Elizabeth Humphrey from CIPFA who was present in her capacity as independent assessor of the effectiveness of the Committee. The Chair also referred to Councillor Trefor Lloyd Hughes, MBE and Mrs Sharon Warnes, Lay Member who were absent due to indisposition and on behalf of the Committee he wished both well for a speedy recovery.



Declaration of Interest

To receive any declaration of interest by any Member or Officer in respect of any item of business.


No declaration of interest was received.



Minutes of the Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 237 KB

To present the minutes of the previous meeting of the Governance and Audit Committee held on 27 July, 2023.


The minutes of the previous meeting of the Governance and Audit Committee held on 27 July, 2023 were presented and were confirmed as correct.


Arising thereon – the Chair enquired whether there had been any feedback on the suggestion made at the last meeting that a dedicated programme management office be established to oversee the delivery of the Council’s capital projects.


The Director of Function (Resources)/Section 151 Officer advised that he confirm with the Programme, Business Planning and Performance Manager whether the suggestion had been taken back to the Senior Leadership Team and update the Committee at its next meeting.



Annual Concerns, Complaints and Whistleblowing Report 2022/23 pdf icon PDF 629 KB

To present the report of the Director of Function (Council Business)/ Monitoring Officer.


The report of the Director of Function (Council Business)/Monitoring Officer setting out issues arising under the Council’s Concerns and Complaints Policy along with the number of whistleblowing disclosures made under the Council’s Whistleblowing Policy for the period 1 April, 2022 to 31 March, 2023 was presented for the Committee’s consideration. The report included Social Services complaints but only those where the complainant was not a service user. Social Services user complaints are dealt with separately under the Social Services Policy – Representations and Complaints Procedure for Children and Adults which are reported annually to the Corporate Scrutiny Committee.


The Director of Function (Council Business)/Monitoring Officer presented the report which provided an overview of the way complaints and concerns were dealt with by the Council’s services under its formal Concerns and Complaints Policy during 2022/23. The report covered the number of concerns and complaints received during the year  compared to the previous year, an analysis of concerns and complaints by service including the services with the highest number of concerns and complaints and how those were accounted for, the timeliness of the response to complaints by services, complaints to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales and their outcome and the lessons learnt from the concerns and complaints received and how those are contributing to improved practice and customer satisfaction.


The Director of Function (Council Business)/Monitoring Officer guided the Committee through the main sections of the report and highlighted the standout messages from the data collected. Overall it can be concluded that complaints regarding Elected Members, the Welsh Language (within the Concerns and Complaints Policy) and Whistleblowing are not a cause for concern and require no further specific action. The number of concerns received during the period has increased from 189 in 2021/222 to 321 in 2022/23 partly attributable to overzealous reporting by the Housing Service during the first six months of 2022/23 which included day to day requests as well as concerns as defined by the PSOW. Had the data been reported correctly it is estimated that a more accurate figure would be an increase from 189 to 236. The number of complaints has decreased from 54 in 2021/22 to 40 in 2022/23 with the highest number of complaints being in Resources (11) and Housing (10). No complaints were investigated by the PSOW during the reporting period. The time for responding to complaints continues to be an issue with performance having dropped by 5.2% compared with that in 2021/22. The information gathered for both complaints and concerns also shows a pattern of customer care / customer service deficiencies especially with regard to ongoing communications over timescales and delays.


The Committee considered the report and the following points were noted –


·      That only 74.4% of complaints were answered within the required period in 2022/23 and that many of the concerns/complaints received indicate that communication has been an issue and that better communication may have prevented a concern being raised. The Committee sought assurance that lessons are being learnt and that the learning  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.


Annual Letter of Public Services Ombudsman for Wales 2022/23 pdf icon PDF 602 KB

To present the report of the Director of Function (Council Business)/ Monitoring Officer.


The report of the Director of Function (Council Business)/Monitoring Officer incorporating the Annual Letter from the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales (PSOW) 2022/23 was presented for the Committee’s consideration. Since 2006, the PSOW has published an annual report on the work undertaken by her office over the previous twelve months. The PSOW also publishes a separate annual summary of performance for each council under the cover of an annual letter.


The Director of Function (Council Business)/Monitoring Officer presented the report confirming that the Annual Letter relates only to service complaints against the Council which were lodged with the PSOW during 2022/23. The Letter also contains a section on complaints made under the Code of Conduct for Members. The key messages show that 25 service complaints were lodged with the PSOW in the year down from 29 complaints the previous year. Of those, 20 did not require an investigation by the PSOW’s Office and 5 of the complaints were dealt with by way of early resolution. One Code of Conduct complaint was made against a member of the County Council but was not investigated and one complaint was also made against a Town/Community Councillor during 2022/23, but the investigation was discontinued. As a council, Anglesey’s performance compares satisfactorily with that of other councils in Wales with regard to complaints and remains constant as shown in the table at Appendix A to the Letter.


In addition to requesting that the Letter be presented to the Governance and Audit Committee and the Executive and the outcome of both is shared with the PSOW’s Office, the PSOW asks that the Council continues to engage with her Office’s complaints standards work, accessing training for the Council’s staff, fully implementing the model policy and providing accurate and timely complaints data. The Director of Function (Council Business)/Monitoring Officer confirmed that those actions are in the process of being implemented as detailed within the report.


The Committee noted that while the number of complaints is relatively low, 24% of those complaints relate to the Council’s complaints handling for which it sought an explanation.


The Director of Function (Council Business)/Monitoring Officer advised that in order to address issues with the way the Council deals with complaints and the complaints handling process itself it is proposed that a training strategy is developed and the training needs of staff and Elected Members are assessed and identified as outlined within the report. The issues with complaints handling can be about a late response, an insufficient response, not addressing all aspects of a complaint and/or a failure to fully understand a complaint hence the recommended training programme.


It was resolved –


·      To note and accept the Annual Letter from the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales (PSOW) 2022/23.

·      To support the implementation of the PSOW’s Model Policy.

·      To support the development of a training strategy.

·      To support the development of a training needs assessment and the rollout of suitable training as required.

·      To authorise the Director of Function (Council Business)/Monitoring Officer to write to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.


External Audit: Review of Development Control and Planning Enforcement - Isle of Anglesey County Council pdf icon PDF 2 MB

·      To present the national report of Audit Wales (for information)


·      To present the local report of Audit Wales in relation to the Isle of Anglesey County Council


·      To present the organisational response

Additional documents:


The following documentation was presented for the Committee’s consideration -


  • The report of Audit Wales on the Effectiveness of Local Planning Authorities in Wales was presented for information. The national review looked at all aspects of local planning authorities and assessed progress in implementing the Planning (Wales) Act 2014 and it provided context for the local review report below.
  • The report of Audit Wales on its review of Development Control and Planning Enforcement at the Isle of Anglesey County Council.
  • The organisational response to the recommendations of the review report by Audit Wales.


The report of Audit Wales was presented by Mr Euros Lake who advised that the national report highlights some of the challenges facing local planning authorities with regard to overstretched capacity and reducing resources that are having an impact on performance and resilience, and that these themes are replicated at local level. The review of the development control and planning service in Anglesey sought to assess how the Council is addressing these challenges within the service and whether it has an effective and resilient development control and planning enforcement service. Overall the review concluded that the Council has strengthened the capacity and culture of its planning service but needs greater resilience to overcome future uncertainty. The review found that –


Ø   The Council has well-established corporate arrangements to monitor and learn from past experiences and has invested in the planning service to address poor performance.

Ø   The Council has improved capacity and morale within the service but needs to develop and retain its workforce in order to maintain this progress.

Ø   Significant challenges risk undermining the service’s resilience in the medium and long-term.


The report makes four recommendations for further improving the service including improving the Council’s ability to mitigate and respond to risks, improving how it considers risks in resource planning, as well as building skills and experience within the planning service which will also help strengthen the Council’s business continuity arrangements and improve resilience. 


The Head of Regulation and Economic Development provided the service’s response to the report and he welcomed the review as timely in light of the historical and current pressures on the service. The challenges faced by Anglesey’s planning and enforcement service in relation to resources, capacity and workload are not dissimilar to those facing other planning authorities in Wales. Overall it is felt the report provides a positive evaluation of the progress being made by the planning service in Anglesey albeit that improvement journey has only begun and the service is aware that more work needs to be done. However, it is considered that the service now has robust management and leadership and has set clear priorities for the medium-term. The service accepts the recommendations of the Audit Wales review and an action plan has been agreed. The current service improvement plan will be reviewed to identify outstanding areas and priorities and a revised plan to address those areas will be produced. Work on the current plan is continuing following the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


External Audit: Audit Wales Work Programme and Timetable Quarterly Update pdf icon PDF 281 KB

To present the report of Audit Wales.


The report of Audit Wales on its Work Programme and Timetable as of 30 June, 2023 was presented for the Committee’s information. The report provided an update on the progress and status of Audit Wales’s financial and performance audit work comprising of both planned and published studies and included the work of Estyn and Care Inspectorate Wales.


Yvonne Thomas Audit Wales Financial Audit Manager provided an overview of the progress of the financial audit work confirming that the fieldwork in respect of the audit of the Council’s 2022/23 statement of accounts is still in progress and that the aim remains to complete that process by the end of November and to report back on the outcome to this Committee in early December 2023. The grant certification process has undergone change with the work on certifying the Teachers’ Pension Contributions and Non-Domestic Rates grant claims now being undertaken by a central rather than local team. The fieldwork for certifying the 2022/23 Non-Domestic Rates grants return is underway and the return for Teachers’ Pension Contributions for 2022/23 has now been received with the timeline being to complete both audits by the 17 and 30 November, respectively. The audit of the Housing Benefit Subsidy grant return 2020/21 is nearing completion and the draft qualification letter is with the Council for review. Once that work has been finalised any additional testing required in order to be able to complete the 2021/22 Housing Benefit Subsidy grant claim can be identified and the work progressed. 


Mr Alan Hughes, Performance Audit Lead reported on the progress of the Performance Audit programme confirming that the completion of the 2022/23 programme is being prioritised along with key pieces of work from the 2023/24 programme. With regard to 2022/23 assurance and risk assessment work, the report on the use of performance information has been drafted and shared for management comment and the interviews in relation to the setting of well-being objectives audit review have been scheduled. The draft local report with regard to the Digital Thematic review is being reviewed.  The 2023/24 performance audit reviews are being scoped as outlined in the report and work has begun on the assurance and risk assessment review.


The Director of Function (Resources) confirmed that the draft 2022/23 Statement of the Accounts was completed by the end of June target date which allowed the audit to commence promptly. No issues have been raised hitherto that would put the end of November completion date in doubt.


In response to a query by the Committee about the impact of the revised ISA 315 on the auditors’ workload, Yvonne Thomas advised that whilst the revisions to the standard have entailed more work for auditors, additional resources have been put into the process and it is not envisaged that it will be a barrier to the planned completion of the audit at the end of November.


It was resolved to note Audit Wales’s Quarter 1 2023/24 Update on its Work Programme and Timetable.



Annual Treasury Management Review 2022/23 pdf icon PDF 314 KB

To present the report of the Director of Function (Resources)/Section 151 Officer.


The report of the Director of Function (Resources)/Section 151 Officer incorporating a review of treasury management activity in 2022/23 was presented for the Committee’s consideration. The Council is required by regulations issued under the Local Government Act 2003 to produce an annual treasury management review of activities and the actual prudential and treasury indicators for 2022/23.


The report set out the following financial outcomes in the 2022/23 financial year –


·      External factors including the economic context, interest rate performance and the impact of Covid-19.

·      Internal factors including the performance of capital expenditure, the impact on the reserves and cash balances, risk appetite to investments, the borrowing taken by the Council and the impact on the Capital Financing Requirement.

·      The Treasury Management Strategy in 2022/23 including debt management, the implementation of the new MRP policy and the Council’s borrowing and investments during the year.

·      Controlling Treasury Management through Prudential Indicators and how these are managed.

·      Comparison of actual Prudential Indicators with the forecast at the beginning of the year

·      Prospects for 2023/24 and beyond.


The Director of Function (Resources)/Section 151 Officer referred to the table at paragraph 3.1 of the report which showed the Council’s actual capital expenditure for the year – one of the required prudential indicators and how this was financed. The budget was underspent by £14m which is a much-reduced slippage compared to that in previous years with the projects listed in the paragraph accounting for the underspend. The Council’s reserves and cash balances are set out at paragraph 3.2 of the report and show useable reserves totalling £59.779m. There was no externalisation of borrowing in the 2022/23 financial year, instead the Council has continued to apply its internal borrowing strategy as investment rates have been below long-term borrowing rates meaning that value for money considerations would indicate that value could best be obtained by avoiding new external borrowing and using cash balances to finance new capital expenditure, or to replace maturing external debt. The table at paragraph 3.3.2 of the report show that the Council’s internal borrowing position on 31 March, 2023 was £20.3m. During the year, the Council did not enter into any other short-term borrowings. An interest free loan of £1.123m was received in the year to fund capital expenditure on energy saving projects and will be repaid in instalments.


The expected investment strategy was to keep to shorter term deposits although the ability to invest out to longer periods was retained. Investments returns picked up throughout the course of 2022/23 as interest rates rose. The interest budget of £5k that was set for 2022/23 was based on the previous year’s interest received. However rising interest rates provided more opportunities for investing surplus cash with average balances of £55.8m returning £0.863m at an average interest rate of 1.55%. The downside to higher interest rates is that borrowing has become more expensive. Details of all new investments in the year with their respective interest rates were provided in the table at paragraph 3.6 of the report.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.


Internal Audit Update pdf icon PDF 377 KB

To present the report of the Head of Audit and Risk.


The report of the Head of Audit and Risk providing an update as at 3 September, 2023 on the audits completed since the previous update as at 31 March 2023 was presented for the Committee’s consideration. The report also set out the current workload of Internal Audit and its priorities for the short to medium term going forward. Members of the Committee were provided under separate cover with copies of the following six pieces of assurance work completed in the period in relation to IT Service Continuity – Phishing (Follow Up) (Reasonable Assurance); IT Software Licence Management (Follow Up) (Reasonable Assurance); Fuel Cards (Reasonable Assurance); Modernising Learning Communities Programme (Strategic Risk YM5) (Reasonable Assurance);  and Recovery of Council Tax, NNDR and Sundry Debs (Limited Assurance).


The Head of Audit and Risk provided an overview of the report and referred to a seventh piece of work which had been undertaken in the period in relation to the North Wales Regeneration Grant which as an investigative piece of work prompted by a referral from a member of the public, did not carry an assurance opinion. The report outlines the scope and outcome of the investigation. Regarding the Limited Assurance report in respect of the Recovery of Council Tax, NNDR and Sundry Debts, 8 issues /risks have been raised and an action plan agreed with management. Assurance has been provided that there are plans to address the issues/risks identified by January 2024. Internal Audit currently has in progress, 12 pieces of work as listed in the table at paragraph 35 of the report and is making good progress with the Annual Audit Strategy for 2023/24 along with the Counter Fraud, Bribery and Corruption Strategy for 2022-2025. A recent successful recruitment exercise means that the service is now only carrying one vacant post at Senior Auditor level due to a long-term secondment. The resulting budget savings are being used to commission additional external support.


The Director of Function (Resources)/Section 151 Officer set out the context to the Council’s approach to debt management and recovery highlighting that the covid pandemic and now the cost-of-living crisis had exacerbated the situation and added to the debt burden and backlog. He described the processes available to the Council in seeking to recover Council Tax, NND and sundry debts and the limitations on those especially in the case of Council Tax where the sanction of imprisonment for non-payment has been removed or in cases of hardship or where vulnerable individuals are concerned such as with social care debts, the need to be sensitive in pursuing such cases.   The Revenue Team has been re-structured to clarify debt recovery responsibilities and a review of debt recovery processes has taken place to ascertain how the service can make more effective use of information in terms of extrapolating data from the system and in better establishing the status of debts so that dormant ageing debts which are unlikely to be recovered do not remain on the system for a length of time and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.


Outstanding Issues and Risks pdf icon PDF 267 KB

To present the report of the Head of Audit and Risk.


The report of the Head of Audit and Risk providing an update on the status of outstanding issues/risks that Internal Audit has raised was presented for the Committee’s consideration.


The report was presented by the Principal Internal Auditor who confirmed that as of 31 August 2023, 47 outstanding actions were being tracked by Internal Audi six of which were rated as major (amber) and 41 moderate (yellow) in risk priority. No red or critical issues/risks were raised during the year and none are outstanding. There are currently 5 actions that have reached their implementation date and are now overdue. Four of these (2 major and 2 moderate) relate to an audit of Teachers’ Pensions which is now being revisited by Internal Audit as part of a formal follow up. The other action is rated moderate in risk priority and relates to an audit of Supplier Maintenance and Duplicate Payments an update on which is provided in paragraph 12 of the report.


In terms of all outstanding actions irrespective of their due date, Graph 3 shows that 77% have been addressed by management and 75% verified by Internal Audit. The remaining 2% relate to an audit of Galw Gofal which will be formally followed up in December 2023. Where all actions have reached their target date (Graph 4 refers) 97% have been addressed.


Whilst the majority of outstanding actions relate to the current and last two financial years, three issues/risks date back to 2018/19 and 2019/20 all of which are rated moderate or yellow in risk priority. An update on their status and progress is provided in paragraphs 21 and 22. There are no major rated issues/risks dating back further than 2021/22. Where a major rated issue/risk remains unresolved 12 months after the original completion date has passed action owners are asked to attend the Governance and Audit Committee to explain the delay in addressing the issue/risk. There are currently no major rated issues/risks to which this applies.


It was resolved to note the Council’s progress in addressing the outstanding Internal Audit Issues/Risks.



Review of Forward Work Programme 2023/24 pdf icon PDF 119 KB

To present the report of the Head of Audit and Risk.


The report of the Head of Audit and Risk incorporating the Committee’s Forward Work Programme and Training Programme for 2023/24 was presented for the Committee’s consideration.


The Head of Audit and Risk highlighted the items that had been re-scheduled on the work programme which included the Committee’s self-assessment now to be considered at the December 2023 meeting.


It was resolved –


·      To accept the Forward Work Programme 2023/24 as meeting the Committee’s responsibilities in accordance with its terms of reference and

·      To note the changes to the dates on which reports will be submitted.