Agenda item

Risk Management


5.1      Darren Skinner, Head of Planning, Performance & Improvement, gave a presentation on the Risk Management Framework. Members were informed that Risk had moved into the Planning Performance & Improvement Service in November 2020. The presentation would outline the risk management approach of the Council, detailing the three lines of assurance model, roles and responsibilities, key documents and tools and the direction of the travel.


5.2      The three lines of assurances were, ‘risks are owned and managed’, ‘functions that support & challenge’ and ‘independent assurance’.


5.3      Responsibility sat with services managers, directors, the Corporate Leadership Team and Member Oversight and Cabinet with support from the risk management group and external assurance through internal and external audit. Members noted that service managers reported monthly and quarterly.  Cabinet members had quarterly oversight of risk and regular meetings with Directors.


5.4      The key documents included the Annual Governance Statement, Risk Strategy and Policy and Strategic Risk Register.


5.5      There was a improvement plan being followed which included better presentation of risk information to the Corporate Leadership team and Scrutiny as well as testing that the framework was working in practice alongside the Audit Plan for 2021/22. In addition the Risk Management Group had been developed chaired by the Monitoring Officer.


5.6      One member discussed officers working from home and how training of individual staff was harder, particularly to ensure the right ethos for new starters. He asked whether working from home and its associated challenges was incorporated within the risk register. In response it was explained that it had been raised in the annual governance statement and there were collective efforts to manage those risks. Management training and further development opportunities had been raised at the Leadership Conference. 


5.7      One member raised a query around external audit and asked what the triggers were for external audit to come in? In addition were service areas inviting external audit in? In response it was explained that there had been an audit of internal risk mechanisms at the end of 2019 and early 2020. Risk audits could be called in at any time and often Internal Audit would make their own recommendations of service areas to look at. External audit could be triggered by a variety of things and there were also routine inspections that would be followed. The big External Audit  that took place was on the financial statements, which was an annual process.


5.8      In response to a question,  it was explained that the Local Resilience Forum risk register included pandemics and was actively managed as part of that. The owner of that risk was the Executive Director of Public Health and Adults.


5.9      One member raised  that there had been a reliance on internal whistle blowers.  He stated that audit should be seen as a critical friend. It was explained that the whistle blowing policy was part of the governance framework and, while it would be hoped that other checks and balances were working, whistle blowing was an important part of that. A number of lessons had been learned from the GFRS issues and the improvements that had been put in place from that. External audit could not be solely relied on, other mechanisms had to also be in place.


5.10    Members had a discussion around the role of audit and scrutiny in relation to the issues previously with the Fire and Rescue Service. Members noted the subsequent Scrutiny Task Group that looked at this. Members understood the continuous improvement journey that was underway.


5.11    One member raised the importance of appropriate training for County Councillors with the example given around  ICT. She suggested that there was a possible weakness there. Members were informed that there was a Member development group to ensure members felt they had appropriate training.


5.12    One member asked whether questions within the staff survey would help show and demonstrate a change in culture at the Council. The Audit and Governance Committee had responsibility of the oversight for the whistle blowing process. There was also professional advice provided by a Whistle blowing charity and that included benchmarking tools. Internal Audit would use that tool to make sure that best practice was being followed. The staff survey included questions on whistle blowing. Members suggested that there should also be a question on this in the staff survey.  Members understood that there had been a higher response rate from GFRS to the staff survey.


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