Venue: Remote meeting
Contact: Sarah Lees Member Services Officer
Link: audio recording
To receive any apologies for absence.
There were no apologies for absence.
To note the protocol for remote meetings.
The protocol for remote meetings was noted.
Public Question Time (00:03:08)
To receive any questions relating to items on the Agenda from members of the public and replies thereto.
The Chairman read out a question from Mr Nick Quinn, a local resident, concerning item numbers 7 and 8 on the Agenda – Exclusion of the Public and the discussion of the 3 Rivers Governance Report. The question was as follows:
I read in the Constitution that Audit Committee has a duty to: Provide independent scrutiny of the authority’s financial and non-financial performance to the extent that it affects the authority’s exposure to risk and weakens the control environment;
In the case of the Council and 3 Rivers, there is a very large exposure to risk on both sides, which has not been well controlled - hence the report before you.
The public look to Audit Committee to ensure proper controls are in place and that any risk is minimised and properly managed. However, it appears that the Council’s Risk Management processes have broken down.
Monitoring checks that were supposed to manage these risks are clearly ineffective, since the last report to Cabinet was a year ago and the quarterly Officer Management Board does not appear to report to anybody.
There is a lot of public interest in the operation and performance of 3 Rivers because significant costs are being passed on to the Council Tax payer. However, the public are continually excluded from any reports on the company.
Because of the way this report is written, both Cabinet and Scrutiny Committee passed public exclusion resolutions. So, once again, a 3 Rivers report is being discussed in private and the outcomes from these discussions are not being published in minutes open to the public.
Audit Committee may also feel they must discuss this report in closed session. If they do so, whilst it may not be normal practice, I would like to ask:
In view of the impact 3 Rivers is having on the Council Tax payer and to uphold the Nolan Principles of Accountability and Openness - will the Audit Committee please state that their recommendations/resolutions are to be published in the open minutes?
In answering this question the Chairman responded by informing those present that he had taken advice from the Monitoring Officer and he hoped that what he would be proposing would assist both Members and the public regarding the treatment of Part II minutes in the future.
His proposal was that this Council’s approach to Part II minutes was consistent across the board. The Council did not publish details of the discussion and the resolutions. He did not think it would be appropriate for a single committee to take a different approach unilaterally. However, he recognised that this was an important point and should be looked at. He had spoken to the Monitoring Officer about it and understood that the Cabinet was also interested in this issue. For these reasons, he would be inviting the Monitoring Officer to present a report to full Council on this issue for discussion and debate.
The Committee were in full agreement that this should take place.
Cllr A Wilce stated ... view the full minutes text for item 21.
Declaration of Interests under the Code of Conduct (00:14:45)
Councillors are reminded of the requirement to declare any interest,
including the type of interest, and reason for that interest, either at this
stage of the meeting or as soon as they become aware of that interest.
There were no interests declared under this item.
Members to consider whether to approve the minutes as a correct record of the meeting held on 2 June 2020.
The minutes of the meeting held on 2 June 2020 were confirmed as a true and accurate record.
Chairman's Announcements (00:16:05)
To receive any announcements that the Chairman may wish to make.
The Chairman had no announcements to make.
Access to Information - Exclusion of the Press and Public (00:16:18)
During discussion of the following item(s) it may be necessary to pass the following resolution to exclude the press and public having reflected on Article 12 12.02(d) (a presumption in favour of openness) of the Constitution. This decision may be required because consideration of this matter in public may disclose information falling within one of the descriptions of exempt information in Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972. The Committee will need to decide whether, in all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exemption, outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.
To consider passing the following resolution so that exempt information may be discussed.
Recommended that under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972 the public be excluded from the next item of business on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraph 1 namely information relating to any individual; paragraph 3 respectively of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act, namely information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information) and paragraph 5 namely information in respect of which a claim to legal professional privilege could be maintained in legal proceedings.
Prior to considering the following item on the agenda discussion took place as to whether it was necessary to pass the following resolution to exclude the press and public having reflected on Article 15 15.02 (d) (a presumption in favour of openness) of the Constitution with the following issues being raised:
· Whether in future it would be possible to separate out Part II information from Part I as part of the reports agenda pack.
· When a proposal could be considered and moved given the wording on the agenda.
· The public interest given the amount of money being discussed.
· Possible conflicts of interest by the proper officer in making the recommendations.
· The possibility of publishing the agenda pack without disclosing sensitive information.
· The fact that Cabinet discussions about 3 Rivers had all taken place in Part II.
· The need to restore public trust and confidence regarding 3 Rivers.
· The need for the Committee to assess the sensitive nature of the information provided within the reports which included legal advice, commercial proceedings, cash flow information, personal information and the business interests of the Council.
The Committee decided that in all circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighed the public interest in disclosing the information.
It was therefore:
RESOLVED that: under section 100A (4) of the Local Government Act 1972 the public be excluded from the next item of business on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraph 1 namely information relating to any individual; paragraph 3 respectively of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act, namely information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information) and paragraph 5 namely information in respect of which a claim to legal professional privilege could be maintained in legal proceedings.
(Proposed by the Chairman)
3 Rivers Development Limited Governance Review (00:38:10)
To review the report of the Chief Executive presented to the Cabinet on 11 June 2020 and the resolutions listed (as amended) and to report their findings and any further or suggested changes not already addressed to the Cabinet for their subsequent consideration.
The Committee had been requested by the Cabinet to review the reports and recommendations / actions listed within Appendix D of the agenda pack and to report their findings and any suggested further changes not already addressed, to the Cabinet for their subsequent consideration. It had been requested that this be done in time for Cabinet to receive any reports back to its meeting scheduled for 9th July 2020.
Following consideration of the documents supplied, the Audit Committee returned to open session with the Chairman stating that the Committee had made a number of recommendations that would be put before the Cabinet for further consideration.
Note: *Recommendations previously circulated