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To report the appointment of any substitute members for the meeting.
The Committee noted that Councillor C P Pond was appointed as substitute for Councillor H Kauffman.
To agree the notes of the meeting of the Working Group held on 27 July 2021.
That the notes of the meeting of the Working Group held on 27 July 2021 be agreed as a correct record.
To review the terms of reference and progress with the achievement of the current work programme for the Working Group.
(a) Terms of Reference
The Working Group noted the Terms of Reference.
(b) Work Programme
The Working Group noted the work programme.
To consider the attached report regarding an amendment to the Constitution to give the Audit and Governance Committee delegated authority for approving the Council’s annual Statement of Accounts, with effect from the 2020/21 financial year.
For information: The latest Constitution update of 5 August 2021 is published on the Council’s website and can be viewed at this link: https://rds.eppingforestdc.gov.uk/ieListMeetings.aspx?CId=638&Info=1
A Small, Strategic Director (Corporate) and 151 Officer, introduced the report. Currently on completion of the external audit, the Statement of Accounts underwent detailed consideration by the Audit and Governance Committee but required the approval of Full Council under the Constitution, in particular, the Council’s Terms of Reference – Article 4 under Section 1(c). Regulation 20 of the Accounts and Audit (Amendment) Regulations 2021 had now amended Regulation 10 of the 2015 Regulations and required the Council to publish its 2020/21 Statement of Accounts and supporting documents (together with any external audit certificate or opinion) by 30 September 2021, which had moved the deadline forward from 30 November requirement for the 2019/20 Statement of Accounts. This was a challenging timeframe. Council had supported giving delegated authority to Audit and Governance Committee at its meeting on 29 July 2021, subject to consideration by the Constitution Working Group.
Members raised the following questions:
· If the Statement of Accounts did not go to Council at what stage would members see the accounts?
· Audit and Governance was not high profile enough nor did it seem right for the Committee to both scrutinise and approve the Statement of Accounts.
· The Statement of Accounts was more prominent on the Council agenda.
· Was there a way to publicise to members that the accounts had been through Audit and Governance so that there was more an advisory announcement to Full Council, in the interests of transparency, rather than a requirement?
A Small replied that the whole process was a struggle to co-ordinate with the external auditors, then present to Audit and Governance in addition to seeking Council approval. Thus, moving the completion date forward by two months had only increased the pressure on finance officers and the external auditors. The members of the Audit and Governance Committee had a greater understanding of the technicalities of accounting. The Statement of Accounts was fairly impenetrable and took account of the findings in the external auditor’s report, which was presented alongside. All members could attend Audit and Governance Committee and the agenda was published online accompanied by all the relevant documents. In previous years the Statement of Accounts had not generated much scrutiny at Council but was more a straightforward process of approval.
Councillor J Philip, Portfolio Holder (Finance, Qualis Client and Economic Development), fully supported approval of the Statement of Accounts by Audit and Governance Committee. There had not been any significant issues raised at Full Council in past years. Audit and Governance was a specialist committee that received input from the external auditor and looked at the Statement of the Accounts in great detail. From an overall operational view, the opinion of Audit and Governance Committee was already accepted, so there was no point in having Full Council rubberstamp the Statement of Accounts. Therefore, to keep to the timescales it was the sensible and straightforward approach to take. He would continue to notify Council members about the progress of the Statement of Accounts as this was important and would ... view the full minutes text for item 10.
To consider the attached updated Procurement Strategy for 2021 – 2026 and Procurement Rules of Jan 2021. (Please note: Amendments to the Procurement Rules (January 2021) have been made so that any references to EU law have been replaced with relevant UK law).
The Procurement and Contract Development Team Manager, S McNamara, reported that the current Procurement Strategy was renewed in January 2021 to reflect how Procurement could support the delivery of the Council’s Corporate Objectives and Covid-19 recovery plan by increasing the number of local suppliers invited to tender, and paying local suppliers faster. Social value and sustainability evaluation criteria were being used wherever possible in procurement exercises to maximise the benefits to the District and to ensure sustainable practices throughout the Council’s supply chains. The creation of a social value matrix measured contractors on elements such as the locality of their business, their supply chains, workforce and any other benefits they might bring to the District. A procurement checklist guided officers through a step by step process and helped officers meet the socially sustainable evaluation criteria. The Procurement Rules had been updated to ensure these changes were adopted into everyday practices, but the Rules also needed to be incorporated into the Constitution.
Members raised the following questions:
· How did the Council guarantee local suppliers were paid within 30 days?
· Would the Procurement Team invite tenders to compete against Qualis?
· Could feedback on the experience and use of the social value matrix since January 2021 be reported back to a scrutiny committee?
· It would be useful for a scrutiny select committee to receive a progress report on this and the use of apprentices or work placements, which would help people, and was easier to do for local companies. Were new local companies coming forward?
· Support for the Essex Procurement Hub that was a good resource owing to the cost savings the Council had achieved, which helped to keep Council Tax low, but were there any other procurement hubs that could be beneficial to the Council that it was not a part of yet?
S McNamara replied that electronic invoices were usually paid within 21 days. He did not know the KPI performance figures although he could research data after the meeting, if required. Qualis would be treated as an internal supplier but if Procurement officers felt the need to include their details with external suppliers, this could be done on a case by case basis. So far, six or seven projects had requested that bidders complete the social value matrix and officers had received some good responses back, so they were happily surprised at the take up. However, other local authorities were also doing this already. Officers had to find two companies rather than one, and more local suppliers were coming forward. The social value matrix could technically be changed to include work placements, which officers could amend on request. Other procurement hubs had not been implemented as the Essex Procurement Hub was working very well and brought the Council savings. The resources the Council had received since joining and becoming a member of the Essex Procurement Hub was most cost effective and efficient. There were also working groups within procurement where best practice was shared.
Councillor J Philip, Portfolio Holder (Finance, ... view the full minutes text for item 11.
Date of Next Meeting
To note that the next meeting of the Working Group will be held on 5 October 2021 at 19.00
It was noted that the next meeting of the Working Group would be held virtually on 5 October 2021 at 19.00.