Agenda item

Annual Governance Statement

(Report of the Head of Finance & Procurement)


Mr Anthony Thomas (Head of Finance & Procurement) delivered a presentation on the key points of the final draft version of the Annual Governance Statement for 2020/21 and consideration was given by members.  Mr Thomas explained that any relevant authority must each financial year conduct a review of the effectiveness of the system of internal control and prepare and approve an Annual Governance Statement.  He explained that the Annual Governance Statement enables the council to explain to the community, service users, tax payers and other stakeholders its governance arrangements and how the controls it has in place manages risks of failure in delivering its outcomes. He stated the current committee were best placed to endorse the Statement as it related to the year 2020/21 and the committee had received all relevant information on internal control and governance throughout the financial year.  Mr Thomas stated that the figures relating to the gender pay gap were not yet available for 2020/21 and so the AGS would need to be updated when these figures were available and the final version will be included in the Statement of Accounts.  He explained that this Annual Governance Statement would then be signed by the Leader and Chief Executive and will ultimately form part of the 2020/21 Statement of Accounts.


Mr Thomas said that current best practice required a Local Code of Corporate Governance for 2021/22 to be produced also based on the seven core principles.  Mr Thomas summarised and discussed the principles and explained that the drafting of the Annual Governance Statement takes place over the whole financial year and involves his team gathering and assessing the implications of the views of Internal Audit, an annual review of the effectiveness of Internal Audit, the views of the External Auditors, the views of the Head of Paid Service (Chief Executive), Monitoring Officer and himself as Section 151 Officer.


For 2020/21 the only one significant weakness on governance or internal control was highlighted in relation to the proposed disposal of an area of public open space.  He said the findings and proposed actions from the independent investigation would be reported to this committee in due course.  He was happy to report there had been no additional significant weaknesses in governance or internal controls highlighted.


It was noted that due to team pressures the Leader had not been provided with a draft of the Annual Governance Statement prior to its consideration by the committee, however, this had since been rectified.


Members asked questions and highlighted additional information for inclusion in relation to the approach to safeguarding in contracted-out services such as leisure centres, engagement as part of the sustainable physical activity and sports opportunities for the district options appraisal, the number of responses to the budget consultation, reference to the public open space weakness in the consultation section and the number of members that attended the Member Training Event.  Mr Thomas agreed to provide answers to the questions raised and to update the draft Annual Governance Statement to take account of the committee’s feedback.


In the Code of Corporate Governance at Appendix B, members commented that some of the outcomes were aspirational rather than reflecting the current position.  It was agreed to update the narrative in relation to confidential reports to reflect that in addition to justification, reasons should also be provided. 


Councillor Grange believed that the Annual Governance Statement portrayed the position as overly positive and did not take into account a number of known significant governance weaknesses.  However, Councillor White highlighted that although there were a couple of well documented issues these should not detract from the overall strong governance position of the Council.


Members raised the issue that the delegation was to the current Chair of the committee and the Chair and membership of the committee could change at Annual Council.  It was noted that the changes to the Annual Governance Statement (excluding the Gender Pay Gap information for 2020/21) and Local Code of Corporate Governance were to be agreed prior to Annual Council.


RESOLVED:  (1) The Committee reviewed and approved the draft Annual

Governance Statement that will form part of the 2020/21 Statement of Accounts at Appendix A;

(2) The Committee agreed to delegate authority to the Chair of the Committee and the Head of Finance & Procurement to make further minor amendments to the Annual Governance Statement prior to the inclusion of the final version in the 2020/21 Statement of Accounts;

(3) The Committee reviewed and approved the Local Code of Corporate Governance 2021/22 at Appendix B.




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