Agenda item

Annual Governance Statement 2019/20

To receive the above titled item.


Mr Hill had requested to speak on this item as a member of the public. He asked for assurances of good governance and asked how he could have confidence in the statement. Mr Hill pointed out that the Managing Director had not received the report, according to the consultee table. The recent Cabinet decision taken on allowing residents with Advantage Cards to benefit from free parking for a limited time was questioned. Mr Hill said that the Director of Resources at RBWM had said that the budget for this decision had not been fully costed, but Cabinet voted for the decision regardless. He concluded by asking if the Panel was happy with verbal declarations of interest.


Karen Shepherd, Head of Governance, explained that the statement was currently in draft version and included recommendations to the council to ensure appropriate corporate governance systems and controls were in place. All members of the Corporate Leadership Team had been consulted on the statement. An action plan formed part of the statement which showed areas where compliance could be improved, with each action being assigned a responsible officer. Progress reports had been requested by the Panel last year and these would continue to be brought to future meetings.


The Chairman said that it was much better compared to the statement last year. Areas for improvement had a good level of detail and allowed officers to have a grasp of what needed to be improved. He asked if training and development could be offered to improve governance.


Karen Shepherd said that training was constantly evolving in light of the Covid-19 situation and that they were currently looking at options available for virtual training sessions. Free online training was available, with details of this being sent to all Members. Specific chairing skills training had also taken place which had been successful especially now that chairing an online meeting required a different approach. Nikki Craig, Head of HR, Corporate Projects and IT, said that they were now holding induction training for new employees at RBWM online. Checks with external training providers was taking place, and in many cases this was now taking place online.


Councillor Werner said that the statement was all about giving assurance to the public. He said that the section 151 Officer’s advice had been ignored in regard to the Cabinet decision made about parking charges. Councillor Werner asked if decisions would be dealt with properly and when governance changes would be seen.


Duncan Sharkey, Managing Director, said that the statement reviewed the framework of governance that was currently in place. There had been problems in the past but improvements were being made to the framework. The report showed the areas that needed to be addressed and the progress reports would show the improvements that were being made.


Adele Taylor, Director of Resources, clarified the comments that had been raised by Mr Hill and Councillor Werner. She said that finance had not been yet been identified for the decision that Cabinet had taken. However, she said that councillors make decisions based on advice provided by officers.


Councillor Jones asked about the customer satisfaction figures in the report when, as far as she was aware, no survey had been undertaken since the end of 2018. There was a higher code of conduct workload, she asked why this was, and that culture of the organisation was an important factor. She queried if all the actions in the action plan were achievable in the time limit?

Duncan Sharkey said that culture was about the way people behave. A corporate draft set of values had been created along with an action plan and it was important that everyone in the organisation accepted these values. Improvements to capacity would be looked at it if needed but this would be done to ensure that taxpayers’ money was used as efficiently as possible and would be something looked at in the budget setting process.


In her role as Deputy Monitoring Officer, Karen Shepherd confirmed that there had been a high number of code of conduct complaints, particularly related to activity on social media. However, many of the complaints did not reach the level required to be investigated.


Councillor Jones asked why the customer satisfaction was described as ‘very high’ seeing as the data was outdated. Duncan Sharkey said that 2018 was the last time a full survey was done and the statement this year was based on compliments and complaints data.


Councillor Jones said that she would like the wording of the statement amended to reflect this. Duncan Sharkey agreed to consider amending the wording.


Councillor Sharpe said that the statement was far better than had been done in the past and it clearly highlighted the problems. The statement showed that RBWM was moving in the right direction.


Duncan Sharkey commented that it was obvious when things were not working, but less obvious when it was. There was continued improvement each year and he gave assurance that it was moving in the right direction.


Councillor Werner commented that he believed RBWM did not have the resources in place for good governance, and asked which areas were lacking in resources. Duncan Sharkey said that more information would be in the budget later in the year, but additional short term capacity had been brought in, this would be reviewed to see if it was needed long term too.


Councillor Walters commented that there had been improvements.


The Chairman asked Panel Members what progress reports they wanted to see brought to meetings in future.


Councillor Werner said that there should be a focus on the financial side and decision making, with an overview on everything else.


Councillor Jones requested that capacity issues and finance were the priorities that should be looked at.


Duncan Sharkey suggested waiting until after the CIPFA report was published before making a decision, as the Panel may wish to take into account its findings. The Chairman agreed that this was a sensible approach.


Councillor Hilton, Lead Member for Finance and Ascot, asked why for equality impact assessments it stated “if appropriate”. Karen Shepherd explained that the standard report template included a section on equalities. The report author would be responsible for undertaking an equality impact assessment. Councillor Rayner, Deputy Leader of the Council, Resident & Leisure Services, HR, IT, Legal, Performance Management & Windsor, said that it was part of the process that the EQIA had to be considered as part of the report.


RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Panel notes the report and:


i)             Considers the draft 2019/20 AGS, identifying any specific matters which should be brought to the attention of Council or Cabinet;


ii)            Recommends the 2019/20 AGS to the Leader of the Council and Managing Director for signature and publication with the council’s Statement of Accounts.


iii)           Requests that update reports be provided to the Panel summarising progress in achieving the governance action plan on those areas identified as requiring action in the Corporate Action Plan.

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