Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

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Audit Committee (ceased to operate 21/05/2019) Minutes

Monday, 25th February, 2008
04.00 pm
First Floor Committee Room, Town Hall, High Street, Stockton
Please note: all Minutes are subject to approval at the next Meeting

Attendance Details

Cllr John Fletcher (Chairman), Cllr Maurice Frankland, Cllr Robert Gibson, Cllr Mrs Sylvia Walmsley, Cllr Barry Woodhouse
I. Jones, J. Bell, D. MacDonald (R); D.E. Bond, M. Henderson (LD)
Apologies for absence:
Cllr Mrs Kath Nelson, Cllr Maurice Perry, Cllr Mick Womphrey, Cllr Ross Patterson
Item Description Decision
Councillor Fletcher declared a personal, non prejudicial interest in item 6 entitled ‘Health and Safety Report’ as his wife had consulted the specialist under the Back Care Programme.

Councillor Gibson declared a personal non prejudicial interest in Item 9 entitled ‘Tristar Management Agreement Extracts’ as he was a member of the Tristar Management Board
The minutes of the meetings held on 10th December 2008 were signed by the Chairman as a correct record.
RESOLVED that the report be noted and it be brought to the attention of all Members and relevant Officers
RESOLVED that the Committee did not, at this time, have any topics it wished to be considered for inclusion in the Scrutiny Work Programme 2008/2009.
RESOLVED that the report be noted.
RESOLVED that the report be noted.
RESOLVED that the report be noted.

1. the Management Agreement
extracts be noted.

2. in the opinion of the Committee, the wording in the extracts, provided the Council with sufficient power to access information and require Tristar officers to attend Council Committees
RESOLVED that the draft report be agreed and be forwarded to all Members of the Council.

RECOMMENDED to Council that it consider and note the Audit Committee’ s Annual Report for the year ended 30th September 2007.


Members considered a report that provided details of revisions which had been made to the Council’s constitutional framework. It was explained that Revisions to the Constitution had been finalised andpublished at the end of November and the updated version had been madeavailable on the Internet. It was also available on the Council’s website.Members noted some of the amendments:-

additional information regarding partnerships - Part 2 - Article 10A
new details relating to diversity eg amendments to the
Member/Officer protocol about Members and Officers expectations and
a change to the principles of decision-making to include
respect for human rights and equality of opportunity
new Cabinet Member portfolios - Part 8
inclusion of revised Code of Conduct for Members - Part 5
the updated gifts and hospitality protocol - Part 8
general guidance on the revised Code of Conduct - Part 8
the revised Members’ Use of IT Equipment protocol, including
guidance on data protection issues - Part 8.

It was explained that a number of changes had recently been agreed but were not currently reflected in the published Constitution. These and other potential changes were as follows:-

incorporating the Communication, Consultation and Engagement

adding reference to the new Sustainable Community Strategy

revising the delegation scheme to include
o Gambling Act powers (agreed at Council on 28 November 2007)
o Stockton/Darlington Partnership functions
o new Planning delegations

changes arising from users consideration of the new version.

These changes would be added to the published Constitution in the near future.Members asked a number of questions, particularly with regard to the Stockton/Darlington Partnersip and how relevant delegated functions would operate in the two authorities.
Members discussed a report that invited the Committee to suggest topics to be considered for inclusion in the authority’s scrutiny work programme for 2008/09.

The Committee was provided with details of the PICK system which had been introduced to assist in prioritising suggested topics.Members indicated that, as a Committee, they had no topics that they wished to suggest for inclusion in the work programme.

Members noted that the Committee could still refer matters, coming from its work, to the Executive Scrutiny Committee, at any point during the Municipal Year.
Members considered a report that provided accident, assault and training statistics for the period October to December 2007.

It was explained that 29 training sessions had been delivered in this quarter, to a total of 278 delegates. There were 9 additional bespoke courses delivered within departments.

There had been 114 Back Care referrals received in the quarter, along with 159 Sickness Absence referrals, 90 New Physio appointments, 462 Physio Review appointments, 32 Work Place assessments & 12 Return to Work / Occupational Health Assessments. The Back Care Adviser also delivered 3 training sessions within the complex needs areas of CESC.

Accidents reported to the Health & Safety Unit this period were 57. This compared with 39 over the same period last year and with 45 in the previous reporting period.

Physical Assaults reported to the Health & Safety Unit this period were 43. This compared with 39 over the same period last year and with 22 in the previous reporting period.

Verbal Assaults reported to the Health & Safety Unit this period were 20. This compared with 43 over the same period last year and with 20 in the previous reporting period.

A breakdown of all of the above issues was also provided to Members.

Members were also informed that 47 premises had been audited producing a total of 203 recommendations. 2 Safety Policies had been vetted.

Members noted that officers had attended Teesdale District Council, for 11 days, which currently had no health and safety support.
Consideration was given to a report that advised Members of the work carried out by the Internal Audit Section and the progress that had been made during the quarter October to December 2007 against the current annual audit plan.

It was outlined that Internal Audit was an independent appraisal function established by the Council to objectively examine, evaluate and report on the adequacy of internal controls. This role ensured that there was proper economic, efficient and effective use of resources. It also ensured that the Council had adequate accounting records and control systems.

Members were reminded that the list of all audit work undertaken in the period covered by the report (Appendices B & C) had been circulated to all Councillors prior to the meeting.

Appendices that were attached to the report detailed:-

Key Performance Indicators.
List of audits undertaken and number of recommendations made.
Details of audits by Service Groupings.
An extract from an Internal Audit Report relating to a corporate
audit of the Council’s Scheme of Delegation.
An extract from an internal Audit report relating to a corporate
audit of Partnership Management in the Council.

Members were provided with information relating to an audit undertaken at a School in the Borough. During discussion reference was made to the Financial Management Standard that had to be applied to all schools. It was explained that the Standard required an assessment of how effective a school’s Board of Governors was. Some audits undertaken revealed that, though often well run, some schools did not provide sufficient/appropriate information to its Board of Governors to enable it to be effective. This resulted in the school failing this element of the audit. Schools were then required to implement an action plan to remedy this.

Members noted that in complying with this element of the Financial Mangement Standard, Boards of Governors had to receive a considerable amount of information. Members noted that training courses were held for Governors to assist them with their understanding of financial and other information they were provided with. However, these had been poorly attended.

Members also received information about an audit undertaken on Mental Health Services and noted that issues had been discovered with regard to differences between records held electronically and those held on hard copy files.

The Committee discussed information received relating to recent corporate audits undertaken on the Scheme of Delegation and Partnership Management. Members were provided with an overview of how corporate audits operated and their benefits. It was explained that corporate audits covered all five Service groupings, however, the final report collated all the findings and recommendations to provide a corporate overview. Members noted that both these corporate audits had provided substantial assurance.
Members were reminded that quarterly reports on the Corporate Risk Register would be presented for the purpose of reviewing the key risks that had been identified as having the potential to deflect services from achieving their objectives over the next 12 months and beyond. They also set out the actions being taken to ensure that the risks, and possible adverse outcomes, were minimised.

The Committee had requested that, in the absence of substantial changes to the register, quarterly reporting should be confined to highlighting significant additions and amendments since the previous update, with a detailed report incorporating a review of the Council’s risk management process being produced annually.

Members considered an interim report that covered the period 30th September to 31st December 2007. All Service Groups had been contacted subsequently and the returns indicated that there had been some changes to the Authority’s risk profile over the months in question. These comprised the addition and deletion of a number of risks and revision of some of the existing entries and were particularly described later in the report.

The changes since the last reported position were provided and Members noted the new risks added to the register:-

BSF Programme continuity/failure/late delivery.
Regeneration programmes to revitalise the town centres of
Billingham, Stockton and Thornaby.
Concerns over the structural stability of Grade 2 listed building in Dovecot Street, Stockton.

Members noted the risks added to the register and discussed the concerns relating to the structural stability of a Grade 2 listed building in Dovecot Street. Members noted that the Council was responsible for other listed buildings and the Committee suggested that such buildings may be identified as having similar problems in the future.

The Committee noted that the Corporate Risk and Insurance Manager would report on the situation with regard to the building in Dovecot Street at the end of the fourth quarter.

Members also noted that two risks had moved below the corporate reporting threshold and had therefore been deleted from the register. Additionally, information was provided on the latest reordering of entries in the register and it was explained that there had been no other changes to existing entries on this occasion.

The Committee was informed that the total number of significant risks in the Corporate Risk Register had increased from 11 to 12 at the end of the 3rd Quarter.

Members noted that the changes referred to above had been incorporated in the latest version of the Corporate Risk Register. This was available in the Member’s Library and an electronic copy incorporating the supporting risk assessment details had been placed on the intranet (Toolkit/Risk Management & Insurance/Risk Management/Corporate Risk Register).
Members were reminded that, at its previous meeting, it had requested the specific wording, contained in the Council’s Management Agreement with Tristar, relating to the Council’s ability to access information and request Tristar officers to attend Committees.

The Committee was provided with extracts and discussed relevant paragraphs.

Members were satisfied that the specific wording did provide the Council, and its Committees, with sufficient powers in this regard.

Members agreed that, when requesting that an officer attends a meeting, it was important that all Committees, as far as possible, identified specific officer(s), whether from the Council or a partner organisation.
Members considered a draft of its first Annual Report for the period ending 30th September 2007.

The draft report was written by the Chairman and Vice Chairman in consultation with relevant officers.

Members considered the report which contained details of:

the Committee’s Establishment, Membership and Scope
the role of Members serving on the Committee and how to be effective
the Committee’s work during the period
areas of work the Committee would be undertaking in the future.

The report also included the conclusion that, on the basis of all the evidence provided, during the period, the Committee could confirm that:-

assurance has been gained that risk management was properly undertaken and that best practice was being followed by the authority in its understanding and management risks.

there was no area of significant duplication or omission in the systems of governance in the authority, that had come to the Committee’s attention and not adequately resolved.

Members discussed the report and agreed it subject to some minor amendments.

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