[To receive the latest summary of the Council’s risk register]
Hayley Reid, Senior Auditor, outlined the salient points of the report on the key risks the Council faced and how it could gain assurance that the risks are being mitigated.
Cllr Christine Mills commented that there had not been any movement in the score and RAG rating for risk 2 – ‘Skills to Work’ during the quarter August to November 2016 yet it was anticipated that the risk score would be reduced by March 2017. She sought assurance that the anticipated reduction in the risk score would be justified and not merely achieved following a proposed combining of the risk with risk area 10 - Economic Inclusion. She requested a full account on how the two risks would be merged and the position of the risk scores pre and post-merger.
Mike Ager, Independent Member also commented that Adult Social Care was a high-profile area nationally. He asked the Senor Auditor whether she was satisfied that Amber was a correct reflection as to where the Council was for risk 21 – Transforming Adult Social Care programme. The Senior Auditor advised that the programme was meeting its targets. Peter Farrow, Head of Audit suggested that the Risk Owner be invited to attend a future meeting of the Committee to report in detail on this risk area and the work taking place to mitigate the risk.
Responding to the Chair’s questions, the Head of Audit confirmed that the Audit team continued to monitor the Equal Pay risk via the operational risk register. The risk could be transferred back onto to the strategic risk register if the position changed. The Head of Audit also explained how target dates were set for each risk area and reported that where targets scores and dates were not met, a reason would be given in the risk register.
Mark Taylor, Director of Finance gave a brief overview in respect of strategic risk 4 - Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) and how the risk was being managed. Responding to the Committee’s questions he reported that:
· The period of the Local Government Association (LGA) Finance Peer Review was a positive experience and the outcome was what the Council had hoped for. The recommendations from the Peer Review were included in an action plan which had been scrutinised by the Council’s Confident, Capable Council Scrutiny Panel and approved by Cabinet. An update on progress with the action plan would be made for the Corporate Peer Review Challenge in 2017 and would be shared with the Committee.
· One of the recommendations from the Finance Peer Review related to making the Council’s approach to capital programming more robust. Generally there tended to be slippage in capital programmes. The profile of expenditure was the issue as the Council’s figures in the capital programme did not tie up with the programme delivery. Measures to respond to the recommendation were included in the review action plan which included bringing finance and project management information together.
· The Public Health (PH) grant was a separate grant which the Council received. It was part of the Council’s MTFS. The PH grant does not feature in the Council’s four year financial settlement from Central Government so the Council was not aware at this stage how much PH grant it would receive over the next four years. The grant was ring fenced and protected. It had to be spent on public health and public health outcomes.
· It is anticipated that the Council’s Financial Settlement letter would be received from the Government earlier than in previous years and was expected within the next few weeks.
· The Council has recently undergone the LGA Finance Peer Review and two years prior to that also undergone external evaluation. On average the Council had undertaken some form of external assurance work every two/three years. In terms of external assurance moving forward it was most likely that with this would come from the Peer Challenge in 2017 and the Council’s External Auditors Grant Thornton. If further assurance was required it would be obtained.In addition, probably within the next 12 to 18 months the Peer Review team would be invited back to review progress made against the action plan. Audit Services also reviewed the Council’s plans and assumptions for its MTFS based on a risk based assessment.
1. That the strategic risk register be noted.
3. That the reduction and transfer of risk 16 – Equal Pay from the strategic risk register to operational risk register, reflecting the agreement with the Trade Unions on how to deal with second generation claims be noted.
4. That the reduction in the assessment of the following risks be noted:
· Risk 1 – Looked After Children (LAC), as a result of continued progress and the fall in LAC numbers.
· Risk 3 – Information Governance, reflecting performance in this area.
· Risk 8 – Business Continuity Management (BCM), due to the progress made against the Resilience Board work plan.
5. That it be noted that the Council has considered the implications of Brexit. Grant Thornton recently facilitated a session with the senior leadership team to discuss any risks, opportunities and mitigations arising from Brexit. It had been decided that no new risks require inclusion in the strategic risk register at this time. The Council would continue to monitor the situation and any new risks or changes to the assessment of current risks would be reported to a future Audit and Risk Committee meeting.
6. That it be noted that following consideration by the Strategic Executive Board it has been agreed that risk 2 – Skills for Work and risk 10 – Economic Inclusion would be reviewed and combined to reflect the Council’s current priorities and work programmes within the Place Directorate.
8. That the main sources of assurance available to the Council against its strategic risks at Appendix B to the report be noted.
9. That an update on progress with the LGA Finance Peer Review action plan be shared with the Committee.