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Agenda and minutes

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No. Item


Minutes pdf icon PDF 429 KB

To approve as a correct record the Minutes of the meeting of this Committee held on 19 April 2021 and 4 May 2021.

Additional documents:


The Minutes of the meeting held on 19 April 2021 were approved as a true and correct record and signed by the Chairman, subject to the following amendments:

Item 28 - Minutes

Councillor Tony Linden confirmed that he was present at the meeting held on 1 February 2021, but was late in arriving.

Item 33 – Revised Audit Findings for West Berkshire Council

It was noted that Councillor Linden’s name had been misspelt.

The Minutes of the meeting held 4 May 2021 were approved as a true and correct record and signed by the Chairman.


Declarations of Interest pdf icon PDF 306 KB

To remind Members of the need to record the existence and nature of any personal, disclosable pecuniary or other registrable interests in items on the agenda, in accordance with the Members’ Code of Conduct.


There were no declarations of interest received.


Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 173 KB

Purpose: To consider the Forward Plan for the next 12 months.


The Committee considered the Governance and Ethics Committee Forward Plan (Agenda Item 4).

Julie Gillhespey raised that GE4093 should state Quarter 3 rather than Quarter 4.

RESOLVED that the Governance and Ethics Committee Forward Plan be noted.


Annual Governance Statement 2020-21 (GE4031) pdf icon PDF 360 KB

Purpose: The report sets out the Annual Governance Statement (AGS) for the Council for 2020-21 for approval. The AGS summarises the key governance issues for the Council and the action plan to address these. The AGS is required to be approved by those charged with governance, the Governance and Ethics Committee at West Berkshire, under the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015.


Joseph Holmes introduced the Annual Governance Statement for the 2020/21 financial year, noting that approval of the report was an important annual requirement, and that it set out key areas of governance to focus on in the following year, as well as noting progress on the key areas from 2019/20. Joseph Holmes noted that some areas such as Asset Management were retained, as well as new issues for governance.

The Chairman proposed to suspend Standing Orders in order to allow the External Auditor, Iain Murray, to speak. This was approved.

Councillor Jeremy Cottam asked what remained to be done to improve the issue of Asset Management. Joseph Holmes responded that there was an update to the previous committee, and some of the internal audit actions were due for completion.

Councillor Cottam asked about the monitoring of the current portfolio, and whether there would be a mechanism in place to monitor the position of the purchased assets. Joseph Holmes responded that the Property Investment Board met quarterly to assess the investments and monitor their success. Joseph Holmes noted that the audit referenced was a one-off as part of the internal audit arrangement, but the Committee now had Treasury Management within its remit, and commercial properties would form part of its strategy. A report on the portfolio could come to the Committee if requested.

Councillor Graham Pask noted that it was important that the Committee continued to be informed.

The Chairman noted some typographical errors, and Joseph Holmes agreed to amend the report.

The Chairman noted that some points had been removed from the Annual Governance Statement, and asked who had signed off on that decision and whether it would be open to public scrutiny. Joseph Holmes noted that the decision was made based on where the report could be best used, but assured that items could be added at a later stage.

RESOLVED that the Annual Governance Statement be approved. 


Going Concern Assessment as at 31 March 2021 (GE4030) pdf icon PDF 895 KB

Purpose: This report summarises the management assessment of the Council continuing to operate as a going concern for the purposes of producing the Statement of Accounts for 2020/21.


Shannon Coleman-Slaughter introduced the report which outlined the assessment of the Section 151 Officer on whether the Council could fulfil all of its financial obligations. In its conclusion, the Council could meet those obligations as a Going Concern.

RESOLVED that the report be noted.


2020/21 Draft Financial Statements Highlight Report (GE3820) pdf icon PDF 629 KB

Purpose: This report is to inform Members of the key highlights from the draft 2020/21 financial statements and progress against the implementation of recommendations made by the Council’s external auditors Grant Thornton in respect of the 2019/20 external audit.

Additional documents:


Shannon Coleman-Slaughter introduced the report, particularly noting the pension liability and the reasons why it had increased.

Councillor Tony Linden asked whether the suburban population of Reading West within West Berkshire should be included on future versions of reports such as this. Joseph Holmes responded that it could be added in future.

Councillor Linden noted that the report stated the Council had been created as a unitary district council after the dissolution of Newbury District Council. Councillor Linden asked whether that was the case, or whether it was simply renamed in 1998 on assuming more powers. Joseph Holmes stated that he would check to see whether it was correct.

David Southgate asked for further clarification on the summary and the seven negative points that had been highlighted. Joseph Holmes stated that this was reference to two separate reports, one of which had already been considered by the Committee.

Councillor Andy Moore asked whether the pension fund deficit was likely to improve, and whether there were actions prepared in case it did not. Joseph Holmes stated that it was difficult to assess whether it would further worsen or improve, but the overall pension fund would be due an overall review and valuation where decisions on actions would be taken. Councillor Moore asked when the next review would be. Mr Holmes stated that it was in 2022.

Councillor Linden stated that the Berkshire Pension Fund had been late, but that it would be improved to allow for better reporting.

The Chairman noted that the report had to be produced by 31 July 2021, and asked whether that had been completed. Joseph Holmes responded that it had.

The Chairman noted that there were £4.2 million worth of assets marked as unable to be substantiated, and asked if there were any clear examples of that. Ms Coleman-Slaughter noted that it was predominately old ICT equipment which had remained on the register and required being written off, and some duplicate items. This was part of a review into the fixed asset management which had been undertaken.

RESOLVED that the report be noted.


Internal Audit Annual Assurance Report 2020/21 (GE4029) pdf icon PDF 270 KB

Purpose: The Public Sector Internal Audit Standards (PSIAS) require the Audit Manager to make a formal annual report to those charged with governance within the Council.

Additional documents:


The Committee considered a report (Agenda Item 8) concerning the Internal Audit Annual Assurance Report 2020/21.

Julie Gillhespey introduced the report. She noted that the report’s conclusion stated that the Control Framework was still robust and effective, and noted the large number of areas which were marked as ‘satisfactory’. A number of ‘weak’ opinions had been reported to Committee and since worked on. Grounds Contract Management had been ‘very weak’, and while this had not been improved to ‘satisfactory’ there had been improvement. Additionally, there were three follow-up reports which had returned unsatisfactory reports, and had been reported to the Committee and followed up on.

Joseph Holmes noted that Capital Strategy Group had seen reports on available contributions and whether they were being managed effectively.

Bryan Lyttle noted that there was a new government requirement to report back on Section 106 and CIL by the December of each year. The Council had been successful on that deadline and the report was published. Section 106 agreements had gone down from 106 in 2013/14 to just eleven in the previous year, and one this year. Most information requests were being managed through the Freedom of Information Act, which were free of charge.

Councillor Jeff Beck noted that the Maintenance Contract was marked as ‘very weak’, and that it was a joint contract between West Berkshire Council, Newbury Town Council and an external contractor. He asked why this was suddenly ‘very weak’. Julie Gillhespey noted that the report was not ‘out of the blue’, as there had been issues throughout, due to the failure to establish a database. An agreement had been reached on actions to improve on the audit, and these were promising.

Councillor Tony Linden noted that the Development and Planning Capital Programme Board had been marked as ‘weak’, and asked what actions would be taken. Julie Gillhespey stated that the Committee could request a second stage follow-up, but that the main issue, reports going to the Capital Strategy Group, had been addressed by Joseph Holmes and acted on.

Councillor Claire Rowles asked for reassurance that the Council was able to benchmark themselves against other authorities, and that the Audit Team was following the statutory requirement to be externally audited. Julie Gillhespey responded that the external assessment was a benchmark, as it was comparing the Council with other local authorities. The audit reports were additionally externally audited, and that would have raised any issues. Councillor Rowles asked how an external audit worked. Julie Gillhespey responded that external audits had a set of criteria to work on and that the Council had been marked as fully conforming to the standards set out.

David Southgate noted that in 5.9 there was a mention of a new process being set up in 2018/19, and in 5.21 there was an external audit in March 2018. He asked whether the process was still relevant considering there was a new process. Julie Gillhespey responded that the new process was a risk management process, and was not related  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.


Exclusion of Press and Public pdf icon PDF 308 KB

RECOMMENDATION: That members of the press and public be excluded from the meeting during consideration of the following items as it is likely that there would be disclosure of exempt information of the description contained in the paragraphs of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972 specified in brackets in the heading of each item.


RESOLVED that members of the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the under-mentioned item of business on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as contained in Paragraphs 3, 5 and 6 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972, as amended by the Local Government (Access to Information)(Variation) Order 2006. Rule 8.10.4 of the Constitution also refers.


Risk Management Q4 2020/21 Report (GE4028)

(Paragraph 3 - information relating to financial/business affairs of particular person))
(Paragraph 5 - information relating to legal privilege)

(Paragraph 6 - information relating to proposed action to be taken by the Local Authority)


Purpose: To highlight the corporate risks that need to be considered by the Committee and to outline the actions that are being taken to mitigate those risks.


The Committee considered an exempt report (Agenda Item 10) concerning the Risk Management Q4 2020/21 Report.

RESOLVED that the exempt report be noted.