Agenda and draft minutes

Special - Statement of Accounts, SWT Audit and Governance Committee
Monday, 27th September, 2021 6.15 pm

Venue: The John Meikle Room - The Deane House. View directions

Contact: Email: governance@somersetwestandtaunton.gov.uk 

Webcast: View the webcast

Items
No. Item

33.

Apologies

34.

Declarations of Interest

    To receive and note any declarations of disclosable pecuniary or prejudicial or personal interests in respect of any matters included on the agenda for consideration at this meeting.

    (The personal interests of Councillors and Clerks of Somerset County Council, Town or Parish Councils and other Local Authorities will automatically be recorded in the minutes.)

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Members present at the meeting declared the following personal interests in their capacity as a Councillor or Clerk of a County, Town or Parish Council or any other Local Authority:-

     

    Name

    Minute No.

    Description of Interest

    Reason

    Action Taken

    Cllr L Baker

    All Items

    Cheddon Fitzpaine & Taunton Charter Trustee

    Personal

    Spoke and Voted

    Cllr S Coles

    All Items

    SCC & Taunton Charter Trustee

    Personal

    Spoke and Voted

    Cllr H Davies

    All Items

    SCC

    Personal

    Spoke and Voted

    Cllr A Milne

    All Items

    Porlock

    Personal

    Spoke and Voted

    Cllr M Peters

    All Items

    Taunton Charter Trustee

    Personal

    Spoke and Voted

    Cllr T Venner

    All Items

    Minehead

    Personal

    Spoke and Voted

     

35.

Public Participation

    The Chair to advise the Committee of any items on which members of the public have requested to speak and advise those members of the public present of the details of the Council’s public participation scheme.

     

    For those members of the public who have submitted any questions or statements, please note, a three minute time limit applies to each speaker and you will be asked to speak before Councillors debate the issue.

     

    Temporary measures during the Coronavirus Pandemic

    Due to the temporary legislation (within the Coronavirus Act 2020, which allowed for use of virtual meetings) coming to an end on 6 May 2021, the council’s committee meetings will now take place in the office buildings within the John Meikle Meeting Room at the Deane House, Belvedere Road, Taunton. Unfortunately due to capacity requirements, the Chamber at West Somerset House is not able to be used at this current moment.  

     

    Following the Government guidance on measures to reduce the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19), the council meeting rooms will have very limited capacity.  With this in mind, we will only be allowing those members of the public who have registered to speak to attend the meetings in person in the office buildings, if they wish (we will still be offering to those members of the public that are not comfortable in attending, for their statements to be read out by a Governance and Democracy Case Manager).  Please can we urge all members of the public who are only interested in listening to the debate to view our live webcasts from the safety of their own home to help prevent the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19). 

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    No members of the public had requested to speak on any item on the agenda.

36.

Financial Management Code Compliance and Self-Assessment pdf icon PDF 198 KB

    This matter is the responsibility of the Executive Councillor for Corporate Resources, Councillor Ross Henley.

     

    Report Author:  Sian Hedger – Interim Strategic Finance Advisor 

     

    The following report contains an assessment of the Councilcompliance against the 17 Financial Management Standards within the Financial Management Code. 

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    During the discussion, the following points were raised:-

    ·       Councillors queried whether a yearly update would be added to the Forward Plan.

    Officers advised that the report would be added to the Forward Plan.

    ·       Councillors requested clarification on some of the wording used within the report.

    The Interim Strategic Finance Advisor stated that the wording used was guidance from the Prudential Code which was published by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) and that the document set out good practice for public body activities and that if the Council decided to disregard any guidance, a statement would have to be made with the reasons why.

     

    Resolved that the Audit and Governance Committee noted: 

    a)    The requirement to implement the Financial Management Code from 1st April 2021. 

    b)    The findings of the Financial Code Self-Assessment as compliant. 

    c)    The findings and evidence provided in the assessment and future enhancements proposed.  

37.

Annual Governance Statement 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 305 KB

    This matter is the responsibility of the Leader of the Council, Councillor Federica Smith-Roberts.

     

    Report Author:  Amy Tregellas, Governance Manager 

     

    The purpose of the report is to present the Committee with the finalised Annual Governance Statement 2020/21 (Appendix A) and accompanying Action Plan (Appendix B). 

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    During the discussion, the following points were raised:-

    ·       Councillors queried why the new Standards Committee had not held a meeting yet.

    The Monitoring Officer advised that there had not been any need to hold a meeting of the Standards Committee.  However, a meeting would be needed in the New Year, as there were some constitutional issues that required debate.

    ·       Councillors queried what progress had been made on implementing a committee structure, as debated at the Special Full Council meeting on 29 April 2021.

    The Monitoring Officer advised that the resolution was to recommend that a committee structure would be suggested to the Shadow Council.

    ·       Concern was raised on the outstanding action for data quality and councillors wanted reassurance that this was not related to General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and that action was being taken.

    The Monitoring Officer advised that the action was on data quality and not GDPR.  The data related to committee reports and that the quality levels were upheld.

     

    Resolved that the Audit and Governance Committee approved the Annual Governance Statement and Action Plan for 2020/21. 

38.

Somerset West and Taunton Council Audit Findings Report 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 223 KB

    This matter is the responsibility of Executive Councillor for Corporate Resources, Councillor Ross Henley.

     

    Report Author: John Dyson, Corporate Finance Manager (Interim) and Jackson Murray, Grant Thornton 

     

    This covering report introduces the annual report of our external auditor Grant Thornton UK LLP outlining their findings from the audit of the 2020/21 Statement of Accounts for Somerset West and Taunton Council (SWTC), and of the arrangements in place to secure Value for Money.  

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    During the discussion, the following points were raised:-

    ·       The External Auditor updated the Committee on several points that had changed since the publication of the agenda and an addendum would be distributed along with the Statement of Accounts for councillors.

    ·       Councillors queried the list of assets included within the report and that there were potentially some missing.

    The External Auditor advised that officers were carrying out checks on old leases and that some information was not clear on the assets that were owned by the predecessor councils, which were then transferred to the SWT.

    ·       Councillors queried if the amount levels that had been set for asset checks could be challenged, as £99,000 seemed quite high.

    The External Auditor advised that it was a national standard but understood their concern.

    ·       Concern was raised on missing forms for register of interest which was mentioned in the report.

    The Monitoring Officer advised that the missing forms were for related party transactions and not register of interests.

    ·       Councillors requested clarification on the part constructed builds which had been included within the accounts.

    The Section 151 Officer explained that the costs had been included in the last years accounts under construction and not inventory.

    ·       Councillors queried who chose the valuers.

    The Section 151 Officer advised that the decision should have gone through the procurement process.

     

    Resolved that the Audit and Governance Committee:-

    2.1Noted the Audit Findings Report in respect of Somerset West and Taunton Council’s Statement of Accounts 2020/21 

    2.2Approved management’s proposed treatment of unadjusted misstatements, as set out in Appendix C of the Audit Findings Report. 

    2.3Noted the Auditor’s Opinion in relation to the Statement of Accounts and interim findings in respect of Value for Money arrangements. 

39.

Assessment of Going Concern for 2020/21 Accounts pdf icon PDF 347 KB

    This matter is the responsibility of Executive Councillor for Corporate Resources, Councillor Ross Henley.

     

    Report Author:  Paul Fitzgerald, Assistant Director – Finance (S151 Officer) 

      

    The purpose of the report is to inform the Audit and Governance Committee of the Assistant Director Finance (S151 Officer)’s assessment of Somerset West and Taunton Council as a “going concern” for the purposes of producing the Statement of Accounts for 2020/21. 

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Resolved that the Audit and Governance Committee reviewed and noted the assessment made of the Council’s status as a “going concern” as a basis for preparing their 2020/21 Statement of Accounts. 

40.

Somerset West and Taunton Council Statement of Accounts 2020-21 pdf icon PDF 241 KB

    This matter is the responsibility of Executive Councillor for Corporate Resources, Councillor Ross Henley.

     

    Report Author: John Dyson, Corporate Finance Manager (Interim)  

     

    The Statement of Accounts for 2020/21 is required to be approved by the Audit and Governance Committee prior to being signed by the Council’s Assistant Director – Finance (s151 Officer) and the Chair of the Audit and Governance Committee.     

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    During the discussion, the following points were raised:-

    ·       Concern was raised on whether SWT had enough reserves in case  another Non-Domestic Rates challenge was submitted by Hinkley Point.

    The Section 151 Officer advised that yes there were enough reserves to cover that type of risk, as he was aware that this had happened in the past.

    ·       Councillors queried why there had been an increase in members expenses during a time of lockdown.

    The Finance Specialist would need to check the figures.

    ·       Councillors queried why there were no bonds or deposits included in the accounts.

    The Finance Specialist advised that on page 77, for Strategic Investments, the deposit fund had been reclassified elsewhere.

    ·       Councillors queried the deficit for Non-Domestic Rates and how it was going to be off set.

    The Finance Specialist advised that it related to timings and the differences between rate reliefs, non-domestic rate refunds and covid grants.  The Government were liable for 50% and that the figures should be corrected in the following financial year.

    ·       Councillors queried why the total financial liability had increased.

    The Finance Specialist advised that it related to the long-term and short-term borrowing and that there were more external loans in the commercial investment.

    ·       Councillors queried what other checks were carried out on the Council’s borrowing.

    The Section 151 Officer advised that information was provided in other reports that went through the democratic pathway.

    ·       Councillors reminded their colleagues to complete their related party transaction forms.

    ·       Councillors thanked officers for all their hard work.

     

    Resolved that the Audit and Governance Committee:-

    a)    Noted the Auditor’s unqualified opinion on the Statement of Accounts.  

    b)    Approved the 2020/21 Statement of Accounts as attached to this report.  

    c)    Endorsed the Chairman of the Committee to sign the Management Letter of Representation in respect of the financial statements for the year ended 31 March 2021