Report of the Chief Executive to be presented with the Leader of the Council, Councillor Mary Green attached.
The Committee received a report of the Chief Executive that provided an update on progress made on the recommendations from the LGA Peer Review from 2017 and recent revisit in March 2018. The report also addressed the recommendations recently made by the Council’s External Auditors, Grant Thornton PLC, which was contained within the Annual Audit of the Statement of Accounts for 2017/18.
The External Auditors had issued a statutory recommendation for the Council that set out progress made against the LGA findings and under the relevant regulation, the Council was required to submit a formal response within prescribed timelines.
The Leader of the Council, Councillor Mary Green attended the meeting along with the Chief Executive, Heather McManus to present the report. They considered that the findings made by the External Auditor was largely out of date and reported that nearly all the recommendations made by the Peer Review had been completed or were well in hand. The recruitment process for the senior management positions was currently underway and the Council were confident that they would be appointing to the two Deputy Chief Executive posts the day after this meeting.
The Leader explained, that after a slow start to proceedings, actions to progress the Shared Services arrangements with Chorley was also now moving at pace and advancing well. At a meeting of the Improvement Reference Group (IRG) in July, Members had agreed an action plan, with most tasks already showing as completed with Peer representatives of the Local Government Association being satisfied with the measures put in place.
Clear leadership could now be evidenced by the Council and it was disappointing that the Auditor had not taken a more positive forward view of the current situation.
The Chair of Scrutiny, Councillor Matthew Tomlinson expressed his concern that Members had not been informed of the Peer Review revisit and asked if communications of this nature could be improved upon in future.
The Committee also expressed their concern at the slow pace of tackling the recommendations in the Peer Review at the very start of the process particularly in relation to the management restructure and felt that the Council would not be in this position had things been progressed quicker. It was their understanding that the IRG had only met more recently to progress things and the Chair questioned that the actions, being implemented were merely in implementation stage and not necessarily complete. There was also an understanding that the review on the roles and responsibilities of the Governance Committee had not yet started.
In response to Members concerns about the possible repercussions for the Council were in relation to the issuing of the Section 24 letter and their disappointment at receiving an unqualified opinion for the third year running, it was explained that South Ribble Council were the only Council to have received such a notice for issues that did not relate to financial matters. The Auditors were content to receive the Council reply at its next scheduled meeting and had amended its original Audit Findings letter to better reflect the Councils current status in implementing its management structure.
There would be no interim audit taking place, with the next audit being the scheduled Annual audit on the Statement of Accounts for the 2018/19 financial year. There was an admittance that the Shared Services process was not progressing as quickly mainly down to the added encumbrance of working across two authorities.
In response to concerns from the Committee, the Chief Executive commented that staff were now starting to feel valued, (evidenced by the recent cultural mapping exercise and IIP assessment) and that the new ways of blended working would enhance service delivery and address the growth agenda that the Council would face in the future.
1. That the Scrutiny Committee explores how it scrutinises the work and outcomes of the Improvement Reference Group.
2. That the Scrutiny Committee looks forward to the Shared Services appointments being in place in eight months’ time.
3. That a progress report detailing an accurate position on the recommendations from the Peer Review and External Audit Finding Report be provided to the next meeting of the Committee.
4. That the External Audit Finding Report be attached to the report to be presented to Cabinet and Council.
5. That the Scrutiny Committee expresses concern at the slow pace of tackling the recommendations in the Peer Review and Audit Findings.
6. That a report on the outcomes of the Cultural Mapping work, Investors in People and Customer Service Excellence Assessments be brought to a future Committee meeting.