The Committee is asked to review and approve the Annual Governance Statement and the actions planned by the Council to further enhance good governance arrangements; and agrees that an update on actions taken to address the governance issues identified will be provided to the January 2023 meeting of this committee.
Simon Hawkins, Planning & Co-ordination Manager presented the report in detail and explained that the Council was required, as part of its annual review of the effectiveness of its governance arrangements, to produce an Annual Governance Statement (AGS) for 2021/22. It was noted the Annual Governance Statement was signed by the Leader, Chief Executive and the S151 Officer and must accompany the Annual Statement of Accounts.
The Committee were advised that the Council’s AGS and associated assurance framework had been developed in accordance with the CIPFA / SOLACE publication Delivering Good Governance in Local Government 2016.
This year’s annual review had identified 9 key corporate governance matters, the details of which could be found in the reports pack:
- Ofsted Improvement Plan
- Gloucester Fire and Rescue Service (GFRS) Improvement Plan
- Recruitment and retention of employees in 'hard to fill', critical posts
- The impact of Covid-19 on governance.
- ICT transformation roadmap
- Procurement Transformation
- Adult Social Care transformation and procurement
- Equalities, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) development
- Implementation of the Communities Infrastructure Levy (CIL)
The Committee discussed the governance key matters in detail, during the discussion it was noted that under the 'ICT Transformation Roadmap', cyber security was not clearly defined, members felt it needed to be clear and concise and requested the wording be amended accordingly. In terms of the CIL, it was also agreed that the wording be amended to include 'we will work constructively with partners'. (Action - SH)
In response to a question, members were advised that the Children's Services Budget was a limited resource, officers explained that general reserves were used as a contingency. Members were advised that contract management oversight would form part of contract procurement arrangements and this area was being looked at closely given the outsourcing issues within children services, which had contributed to the overspend.
The Committee questioned the relationship between the GFRS Improvement Board and the Fire Scrutiny Committee. It was explained that this was an issue for the Constitution Committee, as the Fire Scrutiny Committee was still in its infancy stage and the Committee had been established in response to the white paper. The Committee were informed that the Fire Scrutiny Committee would monitor these issues, as it was within its remit and they would keep the issues relating to GFRS front and centre.
Members also raised concerns regarding GFRS culture, the Monitoring Officer explained that a lot of work was being undertaken with an independent organisation to advise, challenge and work on the cultural improvement journey.
In terms of concerns raised regarding the CIL, the Committee were informed that the Environment Scrutiny Committee were of a similar view and wanted to work with the Districts to find a solution. Members were advised the CIL had been introduced as an alternative to Section 106 funding and the CIL Team were actively working to understand the issues raised by the Districts and GCC. It was suggested that an LGA corporate peer review would include CIL within the scope, as many other authorities were in the same position and lessons could be learnt. Members were mindful that by removing GCC of any asset payments, it delayed infrastructure improvements for local residents, as all funds were currently being received by the Districts.
The Chairman referred to Principle D of 'The Gloucestershire Vision 2050' and questioned how it sat with the Council's carbon neutral strategy, given the 2050 aspiration was for Gloucestershire to have its own airport. The Chairman felt there were some general issues with the AGS and suggested it should go back to Cabinet for effective scrutiny.
The Monitoring Officer explained that the information via the link to 2050 was out of date and needed to be removed from the AGS. The vision had been signed up to in the Council Strategy but the projects described on the 2050 website had no official status or support. It was noted moving forward there would be a performance report to Council on the strategies and priorities, and this would enable scrutiny to have greater insight, visibility and plan effectively.
Officers explained these matters would be kept under review and a further update on actions taken to address them would be provided to the Committee, at its January 2023 meeting.
That Committee approved the annual governance statement and the local code of corporate governance, subject to the inclusion of Cyber Security in the ICT Transformation Roadmap and the CIL wording be amended to include ''we will work constructively with partners'.
That the Committee agreed an update on actions take to address the governance issues identified would be presented January 2023 meeting.