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Full text of "Council - 15/10/2019"

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Metropolitan Borough Council 

Agenda Item 4 

Minutes of the Audit and Risk Assurance Committee 

19 September, 2019 at 5.00pm 
at Sandwell Council House, Oldbury 

Present: Councillor Bostan (Chair); 

Mr Ager (Independent Vice-Chair); 

Councillors Allen, Hevican, M Y Hussain, Moore 
and Preece; 

Mr Doyle (Independent Member); 

Mr Hussain (Independent Member). 

Apology: Councillor Jarvis. 

29/19 Minutes 

Resolved that the minutes of the meeting held on 25 July 
2019 be confirmed as a correct record. 

30/19 Strategic Risk Register Update 

The Committee received an update on the Council’s strategic 
risks and the arrangements in place to manage them. 

There were currently 15 strategic risks - six red, eight amber and 
one green. The Committee noted that four of the six red risks (as 
noted below) related to uncertainty around central government 
financing over which the Council had little control and scope to 

Risk 4c - Demand for Children’s Social Care 
Risk 27 - Funding and Resource Allocation 
Risk 40 - School Place Planning 
Risk 52 - Better Care Fund and Public Health Grant 

The Council was lobbying the government around these issues. 


Audit and Risk Assurance Committee - 19 September 2019 

It was reported that Risk 21a (compliance with the General Data 
Protection Regulation and Data Protection Act) had been 
upgraded from amber to red, as a result of the identification of a 
greater volume of electronic records being held by the Council 
that needed to be reviewed and managed in accordance with 
agreed retention periods. Measures had been put in place to 
ensure that the Council was aware of all the information it held, 
how it was installed, retrieved and managed in all various formats 
particularly with the move to Office 365. Members expressed 
disappointment and concern at the oversight. The Director - Law 
and Governance and Monitoring Officer undertook to provide 
further detail and clarification to members on the technical issues 
surrounding archived information and a further report would be 
submitted to the next meeting, if necessary. 

At the previous meeting of the Committee under Minute no. 
26/19(2), members had requested details on the establishment of 
the client function for the contract between the Council and 
Sandwell Children’s Trust. 

The Committee was informed that the current governance 
arrangements in place in relation to the monitoring of the 
Council’s Contract with Sandwell Children’s Trust, and the day to 
day involvement of the Executive Director - Children’s Services 
and the Finance Business Partner was not a sustainable 
arrangement in the longer term. A post had therefore been 
created to undertake this role. The post would also manage the 
contract with Adoption@Heart, the Black Country Adoption 
Agency that had been established and operational since 1 April, 
2019 as a result of legislation. The Committee noted the 
responsibilities set out in the job description for the post, which 
would be temporary for a period of three years, to coincide with 
the expectation in the contract that services would receive an 
Ofsted judgement of ‘good’ by 2022. The post would report to the 
Strategic Partnerships and Commissioning Manager, who in turn 
was line managed by the Executive Director - Children’s Services. 

Concerns were raised that the Trust was not providing sufficient 
assurances to meet the escalating demand. The Executive 
Director - Children’s Services reported that children’s social care 
continued to be a massive challenge at a national level and was 
becoming increasingly high profile. 


Audit and Risk Assurance Committee - 19 September 2019 

Additionally, Sandwell had more children in care per 10,000 
residents than its statistical neighbours. Robust monthly and 
quarterly meetings with the Trust continued to take place. 

Resolved that the Director - Law and Governance and 
Monitoring Officer provide further detail and clarification to 
the Committee on archived information. 

31/19 Children Services Directorate Risk Register 

The Executive Director - Children’s Services presented the 
Children’s Services Directorate Risk Register and updated the 
Committee on the mitigations in place to manage these risks. 

Of the 11 risks on the register, two were red, seven were amber 
and two were green. It was noted that this was in addition to 
three risks relating to children’s services that were currently 
included on the Strategic Risk Register. 

It was reported that Sandwell Children’s Trust was working with a 
number of other councils, including Wolverhampton City Council 
and Essex County Council, on a project - Edge of Care - that 
provided support services to prevent children from entering the 
care system. Early indications in the other local authorities 
showed that the project was having a positive impact on reducing 

The Executive Director - Children’s Services reported that 
retaining staff and managing budgets continued to be a challenge 
for the Trust. A Medium Term Financial Plan for Sandwell 
Children’s Trust had been drafted, which would be presented to 
the Operational Partnership Board on 1 October 2019 and 
subsequently the Budget and Corporate Scrutiny Management 
Board, before being submitted to the Council as part of the normal 
budget setting arrangements. 

There were 15 key performance indicators (KPIs), which were 
monitored at monthly Operational Partnership Board meetings 
and the contract details the actions to be taken if targets were not 
met. Performance on the KPIs had been up and down and action 
had been taken in relation to one. 


Audit and Risk Assurance Committee - 19 September 2019 

It was noted that partnerships had been an area of criticism by 
Ofsted and there had therefore been a lot of emphasis over the 
last 18 months on creating better partnerships with separate 
organisations to free up capacity. The Safeguarding Partnership 
had been re-structured with excellent commitment from all 
partners and intervention activity around child exploitation being 
recognised by the 

Members voiced concerns that since 2014, there had been three 
reoccurring themes raised by Ofsted regarding children’s social 
care: staffing and lack of stability in work force; high caseloads 
and quality of work. The Executive Director - Children Services 
reported that the current staffing profile stood at 30% agency 
workers, however, the Trust’s target was <18.5%. With regards 
to caseloads, current data showed 20.4 cases per social worker. 
Quality monitoring took place every month, with 20-50 cases 
audited, including a percentage of SEND cases which showed 
quality was improving. 

Members expressed concern about the increasing number of 
looked after children and the considerable overspend and the 
need for a whole system approach, giving more focus to 
community-based solutions. Representatives of Sandwell 
Children’s Trust would be invited to attend a future meeting to 
address the Committee and answer questions. 

The Executive Director - Children’s Services informed the 
Committee that whilst an invitation to attend could be made, the 
Trust was only obliged to attend council meetings as noted in the 
service delivery contract such as Scrutiny. The Trust was not 
obliged to attend the Council’s Audit and Risk Assurance 

The Chair expressed concern around the huge area that 
Adoption@Heart covered and whether the particular needs of 
each component was taken into account for example assessment 
cultural and religious needs of children that come into the system 
for adoption. The Executive Director - Children Services 
responded that the benefit of having a regional arrangement was 
that across a large geographic area, there was more opportunity 
to find a right match for a child and a family that was able to meet 
their cultural, physical, emotional and behavioural needs. A 


Audit and Risk Assurance Committee - 19 September 2019 

report was due to be presented to the lead member in early 
October on performance on the first six months of operation of the 

Resolved that representatives of Sandwell Children’s Trust 
be invited to attend a future meeting of the Audit and Risk 
Assurance Committee. 

32/19 School Place Planning 

The Director - Education, Skills and Employment presented an 
update on school place planning and the risks and mitigation that 
the Council was putting in place for the next five years. School 
Place Planning continued to be a red risk on the Strategic Risk 
Register due to uncertainty around government funding 

Funding to support capital programmes came from the 
Department for Education Basic Need Funding. The Council had 
received a nil basic need funding allocation for 2020/21 and it was 
estimated that allocation for 2021/22 would also be nil. Recent 
consultation suggested that there would be a change in funding 
methodology and it was hoped that this would impact positively on 
future Basic Need allocations. 

Since 2011, there had been a 26% increase in birth rates in 
Sandwell. In addition, the Council had seen a 33% increase in 
inward migration in the past two years. This had resulted in the 
expansion of 38 primary schools, creating an additional 5,200 
school places. These expansions would need to be replicated 
into the secondary sector, which required significantly more 

In the secondary sector, 414 additional school places had been 
delivered for September 2019 through the creation of a new 
secondary schools in West Bromwich and expansions at a 
number of secondary schools. The Cabinet had recently 
approved funding to complete the final development phases at Q3 
Langley and West Bromwich Collegiate and a scheme to increase 
capacity at Bristnall Flail Academy by 150 places. Two additional 
new free schools were also scheduled to open in 2022. 


Audit and Risk Assurance Committee - 19 September 2019 

It was noted that the Council had to demonstrate a surplus of 
places in primary projections that provided parents choices 
between schools. Most authorities operated a 5-10% surplus. 15 
of Sandwell’s 19 secondary schools were currently full. 

The Council had received funding from the Department of 
Education for two new special schools that would cater for autism 
to support the increasing number of children and young people 
with more challenging needs entering the education system. 

The Council was looking to explore other means of capital 
streams pending the anticipated receipt of government funding in 
the future and discussions were taking place with the Executive 
Director - Resources. 

The Chair thanked the Cabinet Member for Resources and Core 
Services who had recently sent a robust letter to the Chancellor, 
for championing Sandwell’s needs in this area. 

33/19 Interserve Update 

Further to Minute No. 6/19(10 January 2019), the Committee 
noted an update on the Council’s relationship with Interserve Pic. 

As at 10 January 2019, the major risk to the Council, if Interserve 
as a company had folded, concerned delays that would arise in 
the timely delivery of time critical capital projects to deliver new 
school places by the required dates. This risk had now fallen 
away, with two of the three projects completed, and the project at 
George Salter Academy being on schedule for completion early 

34/19 Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy 
(CIPFA) Update 29 

The Committee noted the latest Audit Committee Update from 
CIPFA, which focussed on the CIPFA Statement on the Role of 
the Head of Internal Audit, External Audit Arrangements for 
English Local Government Bodies and a Regular Briefing on 
Current Issues. 


Audit and Risk Assurance Committee - 19 September 2019 

The Statement was based on five principles applicable to any 
public-sector organisation. The Council was satisfied that the 
Head of Internal Audit role complied with the five principles and 
public-sector audit standards. 

The update also made reference to external audit arrangements. 
The Public Sector Audit Appointments conducted a procurement 
exercise of audit services that public authorities could opt into. 
The Council opted into this and was awarded Grant Thornton as 
its external auditor. It was noted that due to capacity issues at 
Grant Thornton there had been a delay this year in publishing the 
Council’s Statement of Accounts, which were yet to be presented 
to the Committee. 

It was noted that a government review (the Redmond Review) 
was currently underway into the quality of local authority audits 
and the effectiveness of local authority financial reporting and 
audit regimes. The final report of the Redmond Review, which 
would also include consultation with stakeholders, was expected 
to be published in March 2020. 

Members of the Committee requested that the Council should 
provide its feedback on its experience of the statement of 
accounts audit process to the review. 

Resolved that, if given the opportunity, the Council should 
provide its comments to the Redmond Review of its 
experience of the 2018/19 statement of accounts audit 

35/19 Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) - 
Annual Review for the year ending 31 March 2019 

The Committee received the Local Government and Social Care 
Ombudsman (LGSCO) Annual Review which provided a 
summary of the complaints dealt with in relation to the Council. 

115 complaints had been received in 2018/19 period, of which 17 
detailed investigations had taken place and 10 complaints had 
been upheld. 

The Committee noted that the detailed breakdown of the 
decisions provided in the report did not accurately reflect the total 
number of detailed investigations. The Director - Law and 





Audit and Risk Assurance Committee - 19 September 2019 

Governance and Monitoring Officer undertook to circulate a 
revised report to members. 

Resolved that the public and press be excluded from the 
rest of the meeting to avoid the possible disclosure of 
exempt information under Schedule 12A to the Local 
Government Act 1972, as amended by the Local 
Government (Access to Information) (Variation) Order 2006 
relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular 
person, including the authority holding that information. 

Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman 

The Committee noted the detail of a confidential case report that 
the LGSCO directed needed to be considered by the Council in 
private. The details of the case were outlined to the Committee 
and questions answered in respect of the matter. 

The Committee agreed to note the case report, its findings and 
conclusions; and the chronology of events arising in this matter. 

Cyber Security Update 

Further to Minute No. 54/18 (8 November 2018), the Committee 
received a presentation on the detailed arrangements that the 
Council had in place relating to cyber and information security. 

A Cyber Governance Board had been established, which would 
meet monthly and submit quarterly updates to Executive 
Management Team. 

Members sought assurances in relation to the data transfer 
process from Capita to Synergy (Minute No. 31/19 refers) given 
the high volume of sensitive data involved. It was reported that 
there was a project management process in place to manage the 
transfer, which included consultation with ICT staff. 

It was agreed that regular updates would be presented to the 
Committee to provide ongoing assurance that the Council’s core 
ICT systems were adequately protected from cyber-attacks. 


Audit and Risk Assurance Committee - 19 September 2019 

(Meeting ended at 7.14 pm) 

Contact Officer: Suky Suthi-Nagra 
Democratic Services Unit 
0121 569 3479