Agenda and minutes

Audit and Risk Management Committee - Monday, 12th February, 2024 4.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Fenland Hall, County Road, March

Contact: Jo Goodrum  Member Services and Governance Officer

No. Item


Appointment of Vice-Chairman for the Municipal Year


Proposed by Councillor French, seconded by Councillor Christy and agreed that Councillor Mockett be appointed Vice-Chairman for the remainder of the municipal year.


Previous Minutes. pdf icon PDF 204 KB

To confirm the minutes of 20 November 2023.


The minutes of the meeting held on 20 November 2023 were confirmed and signed as an accurate record, subject to the inclusion of the attendance of Councillor Nawaz.


Treasury Management Strategy Statement, Minimum Revenue Provision Policy Statement and Annual Investment Strategy 2024/25 pdf icon PDF 309 KB

The purpose of this report is to provide Members with information on the proposed Treasury Management Strategy Statement, Minimum Revenue Provision (MRP) Policy Statement and Annual Investment Strategy for 2024/25.



Members considered the Treasury Management Strategy Statement, Minimum Revenue Provision Policy Statement and Annual Investment Strategy 2024/25 presented by Mark Saunders, Chief Accountant.


Members asked questions, made comments and received responses as follows:

·         Councillor Booth referred to borrowing money in the future, which is likely to be through Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) and asked if it is correct that the Council is looking to make any borrowing after September when rates are expected to decrease? Mark Saunders confirmed that it would be around this time but it depends upon the timing of a variety of items, with the capital programme cash flow tending to be towards the second half of the year by the time the schemes get up and running and similarly with the normal cash flow it tends to be higher in the first half of the year than it does in the second half.

·         Councillor Booth asked if the PWLB’s rate is about 5%? Mark Saunders confirmed that it is just over 5%, with a discount for being a local authority. Councillor Booth continued that it was just after the budget in 2022 when all the rates increased and the effects are still being felt now. Mark Saunders agreed, the property funds invested in March 2022 was in good timing as within the next 6 months things went completely haywire in terms of interest rates and the impact on some of the property type funds, with the Council still suffering the consequences of this but they are long-term investments so it is hoped that this situation will be rectified. Peter Catchpole added that the Council will always look at a range of options when borrowing money and have used internal borrowing as much as it can but equally it might not be the PWLB because although all the local authorities plead poverty there is still a lot of cash in the system and it might be that the Council does short-term borrowing from another local authority as that might be more beneficial. He stated that the Treasury Management Strategy looks at options every day and the Council has professional advisors and no action is taken without taking advice and looking at lots of different options, with PWLB historically being good but they did hike their rates as a reaction to a lot of the commercial borrowing that local authorities were undertaking. Peter Catchpole made the point that this Council is always very careful and would look at the circumstances at the time when looking to borrow.

·         Councillor Christy referred to the external interest payments revised estimates and asked if this was as the result of interest changes? Mark Saunders responded that it would be a combination of the fact that the Council will be taking more borrowing next year and £618k is the amount that is on the Council’s current borrowing and does depend upon the extent of the borrowing that is required.

·         Councillor Christy referred to Section 5 on the Capital Programme and asked what  ...  view the full minutes text for item ARMC28/23


Internal Audit Plan 2023/24 - Progress Report Quarter 3 pdf icon PDF 263 KB

To report progress against the Internal Audit Plan 2023/24 for the third quarter of 1 October until 31 December 2023 and the resulting level of assurance from the planned work undertaken, and to provide an update to members on the resourcing situation within the Internal Audit team.    



Members considered the progress against the Internal Audit Plan 2023/24 for Quarter 3, with an update on the resourcing situation within the Internal Audit Team, presented by David Thacker, Interim Internal Audit Manager.


Members made comments and asked questions as follows:

·         Councillor Christy referred to Section 2.3 regarding the cyber security audit and asked how this is progressing as within the past couple of months there has been an increase in cyber attacks in the public and private sector with some authorities shutting down because of this? David Thacker responded that he is personally undertaking this audit and he is trying to finalise it now with the Head of ICT, it is more in relation to the governance angle and he is confident with the protections the Council has in place and that the Council is going beyond what it needs to do, with the National Cyber Centre Essentials report passed with flying colours and the firewall having been upgraded. He stated the biggest weakness is users which is normal so training needs to be improved and the understanding of what staff can do.

·         Councillor Booth referred to the lack of a Publication Scheme, but he is sure the Council must have had one at some point so is it saying it was not on the website and it has just dropped off over time? Amy Brown responded that the information has always been there on the website but it has not been pulled together, there is a reference to a Publication Scheme on the website so it has existed at some point and she is not aware when it was removed or why but every piece of information that is required to be published by the Council has always been published. She stated that a central page has now been created which lists everything from the model Publication Scheme and puts the links here for people to access the information on other pages on the website so it was the entry point that was missing to easily navigate to the different places where the information was contained. Councillor Booth stated that the information was buried basically. Amy Brown responded not on purpose but this new entry point makes it abundantly clear to people what they need to click on to find it. Councillor Booth asked is it possible that when the website was refurbished that this is when this got lost? Amy Brown stated that this might have been possible because there was reference on the page to its existence and some authorities have printed the model Publication Scheme but this Council has tried to thread it all through so that under each heading there is the specific link to the policy but she is unable to definitely say why or when it got removed but it was a very easy task to rectify as all the information existed on the website.

·         Councillor Booth referred to future governance as the same could happen again if the Council changed the  ...  view the full minutes text for item ARMC29/23


RIPA Policy pdf icon PDF 795 KB

This report is intended to provide members of the Audit and Risk Management Committee with an update on Fenland District Council’s use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) and to seek approval of a revised RIPA Policy.



Members considered an update on the Council’s use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) and the revised RIPA Policy presented by Amy Brown, Assistant Director.


Members asked questions, made comments and received responses as follows:

·         Councillor Booth referred to him saying in the past that the Council seems to be fairly proportionate in the way it uses these powers, although he thinks it needs to be used more for fly tipping as this is quite a big issue particularly in the rural areas. He asked in relation to using the power once this year was it in relation to fly tipping or was it something completely different? Amy Brown responded that she is happy to share this information with him outside of the meeting. Councillor Booth stated that one of the issues that has been reported in the past is for local authorities to understand if someone lives in the catchment area and this Council does use it sparingly and he has said in the past that as this area has such a big issue with fly tipping it needs to be considered using this power to try and combat this as it is only going to get worse. He stated that he understands about GDPR and not going into specifics of individual cases but feels he could be provided with broad areas. Amy Brown responded that when the Council relaunches the policy, if the amendments are approved today, that area of the business can be focussed in on to see whether they feel comfortable with the policy, understand it, are confident to use it and if there are any areas where they could use it in relation to fly tipping to address the concern of it not being used enough. She made the point that there are quite high thresholds that have to be crossed to be able to use the powers anyway and then a JP has to be persuaded that the correct procedures have been followed, with there often being other ways of dealing with these issues that do not require something quite so invasive.

·         Councillor Christy thanked officers for the report, which contains a lot of information, and he feels the most interesting part was the case law examples, especially those examples where it had been found against the local authority, which bring the document to life and through training people should be made aware of those examples as it would be very easy to fall foul of some of those case law examples. Amy Brown agreed that it is good to have practical examples and some of this has been added to the policy, with a commitment to retrain and on a bi-annual basis. She explained that it is an arduous process to get an application approved and it does help for people to understand but not put them off either.


Members noted the annual report on the Council’s use of RIPA and approved the amended RIPA Policy.


Corporate Risk Register - quarterly update pdf icon PDF 611 KB

To provide an update to the Audit and Risk Management Committee on the Council’s Corporate Risk Register.


Members consider an update to the Council’s Corporate Risk Register presented by Sam Anthony, Head of Human Resources and Occupational Development.


Members asked questions, made comments and received responses as follows:

·         Councillor Booth referred to a question he raised at the last meeting in relation to actions and putting deadlines or targets against them. He provided an example being that one of the changes is around reviews being ongoing in service areas and changes will be delivered but the timescales are not known, is it going to be a year or 5 years, questioning  how the success can be measured when doing those reviews and delivering the actions. Councillor Booth asked that target dates be added to specific activities and where they are ongoing for it to say ongoing. Sam Anthony agreed that this can be added and as the report indicates the transformation service reviews have commenced and they are rolling out, with two taking place currently, and she feels that an update can be included with the next Risk Register.

·         Councillor Christy referred to Section 6 and asked on the current risk is there anyway it could be indicated if those scores are trending up or down or changing at all as some risk registers he has seen use an arrow scheme to show whether it is increasing, decreasing or staying the same. Sam Anthony agreed this could be added but stated that the risks have not moved since they were last reported. Peter Catchpole added that he seems to remember that Councillor Booth has suggested this previously and he feels it is a good idea and would be beneficial.

·         Councillor Booth made the point that it does indicate though that there is no change last time the report was considered and there is no change this time and is the committee satisfied that the Council’s risk register and issues are that static as you would normally see some movement in it particularly when you deliver actions because you have a better control environment and reduce the potential for that risk to occur. Peter Catchpole responded that there is a risk expert at the meeting with the involvement of David Thacker, he is part of the Risk Group and will be adding ideas and suggestions with a fresh pair of eyes.


Members agreed the latest Corporate Risk Register.


Audit and Risk Management Committee Work Programme pdf icon PDF 162 KB

For information purposes.


Members considered the Audit and Risk Management Committee Work Programme.


Peter Catchpole highlighted that the work plan is lighter than normal, with it containing very little from External Audit, with it now being out to consultation again on what is happening with External Audit, which the Council will be responding to but they are referring to these end dates now for undertaking certain years, but it looks very unlikely that this Council will have a full audit for 2022/23. He stated that the Council has just published it 2022/23 draft accounts on the website, which do not have to come before this committee, but a copy will be sent to members, with the auditors having undertaken some work on 2022/23 but just for a Value for Money report, which is still awaited. Peter Catchpole expressed the opinion that it looks unlikely that there will be a full audit for 2022/23 and the Council’s auditors are now focussing on 2023/24, which was also the change over if you had new auditors under the PSAA but this Council still uses Ernst Young, which is good as if they are not undertaking a 2022/23 audit how would opening balances be checked. He made the point that the Council has been very fortunate with Mark and the team that there has been clean audit reports for many years but they are looking at September 2024 as being one of the first deadline dates for completing audits up to 2022/23 but it is believed that this Council is working to 2023/24 for a full audit so it is unknown what will happen for 2022/23 and what will be brought to this committee, but there will be a Value for Money report when this is received


Councillor Booth questioned the value for money report and asked will there not be the audit of the housing benefit account as there is never a clear audit of this due to the way that legislation is made so are they not even doing this audit this year? Peter Catchpole responded that he believes the Council will receive this. Mark Saunders added that External Audit will carry on doing these audits but they are some way behind and the consultation talks about the backlog of the audits, with up to 2022/23 being complete by September 2024 but that will involve auditors providing qualified opinions and not full opinions and they will provide opinions based upon the work that they have actually managed to do on that audit so there will be lots of disclaimers and it is a way for them to fast track the audits of those accounts, with them concentrating heavily on the 2023/24 accounts undertaking preliminary walkthroughs with them of all the systems prior to the end of year to get ready for the 2023/24 audit. He stated that there has been no indication from them exactly when the 2023/24 audit is going to be undertaken, the draft accounts are due for publication at the end of  ...  view the full minutes text for item ARMC32/23


Items of Topical Interest.


There were no items of topical interest.