Agenda and minutes

Corporate Committee - Thursday 21 January 2021 6.00 pm

Venue: Microsoft Teams - please copy and paste the following link into your browser: http://bit.ly/2K1Oi9f

Contact: Christian Scade, Democratic Services,  020 7926 0045, Email: cscade@lambeth.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

1.

Declaration of Pecuniary Interests

Under Standing Order 4.4, where any councillor has a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest (as defined in the Members’ Code of Conduct (para. 4)) in any matter to be considered at a meeting of the Council, a committee, sub-committee or joint committee, they must withdraw from the meeting room during the whole of the consideration of that matter and must not participate in any vote on that matter unless a dispensation has been obtained from the Monitoring Officer.

 

 

Minutes:

There were none.

2.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 244 KB

To approve and sign the minutes of the previous meeting held on the 25 November 2020.

Minutes:

The minutes for the meeting of 25 November 2020 were approved unanimously as a correct record of proceedings, subject to the following changes.

 

1)    To add at the start of the minutes (page 1) “The meeting started late, at 7.15pm, due to technical difficulties.”

 

2)    To update the wording concerning the guillotine on minute 7 to read -  “It was recognised that due to technical difficulties the meeting had started 15 minutes late and it was noted that it was both this, and the time taken to discuss the minutes, that had caused the delay. Subsequent to this vote Councillor Maria Kay and Councillor Ian Simpson left the meeting”.

 

Clerk's Note

The Chair agreed to take the Administration of Funds Held in Trust in Connection with the Tower Hamlets Environmental Trust – Central Hill Estate (Item 11) before the Work Programme and Action Monitoring Report (item 3). The minutes reflect the order in which items were discussed rather than the order set out on the published agenda.

3.

Administration of funds held in trust in connection with the Tower Hamlets Environmental Trust (Central Hill Estate) pdf icon PDF 411 KB

    • View the background to item 3.

    (All wards)

     

    Report authorised by: Bayo Dosunmu: Strategic Director for Resident Services

     

    Contact for enquiries: David Thomas, Contracts Lawyer, 020 7926 2228, dthomas@lambeth.gov.uk

     

    Minutes:

    David Thomas, Contracts Lawyer, Legal and Governance, introduced the report and noted that the main objective was to decide whether Corporate Committee should take responsibility of funds and land charges held in trust in connection with Tower Hamlets Environmental Trust (THET).

     

    Sabine Mairey, Chair of Central Hill Estate Residents’ Association made representations on this item. Informing the Committee that:

    ·         The decision to administer funds should be sent back to the Charity Commission, not made by councillors and officers.

     

    ·         There was no resident engagement/communication to join a panel to oversee fund spending as the estate had needed this due to disrepair.

     

    ·         Lambeth claimed to have no information on these funds in response to an email sent in July 2020 and a Freedom of Information (FOI) request in October 2020. Therefore, she queried who and which department oversaw the funds in 2020. As well as local government decisions and lack of improvements on the estate since 2017.

     

    Councillor Pete Elliott, a visiting member, supported Sabine Mairey and thanked David Thomas for the well-presented and thorough report and was grateful to have been pre-warned on the item. Concerns were raised about the following.

     

    ·         That the funds had decreased and queried if payments had already been made. Control of funds needed to be with residents and should be used for social and environmental benefits and not spent on items that landlords should carry out. Issues had been raised regarding disrepair, fly tipping and antisocial behaviour.

     

    Councillor Tim Briggs, a visiting member agreed that the funds should not be spent on normal provisions. He also raised a number of questions including:

    ·         Was the fund a fixed set of money, was it generating money?

     

    ·         Why was the decision made to appoint Lambeth a trustee without asking for permission from council members?

     

    Councillor Scott Ainslie stated no consultation with residents had taken place, a lot of work on the estate was required and raised concerns about potential conflict of interests.

     

    In response to questions, officers replied:

    ·         It was regrettable that this matter had not been presented to the Corporate Committee in 2012, it was explained that the Council had been liaising with the Charity Commission and the matter had been overlooked.

     

    ·         The recommendations set out in the report were solely asking for Corporate Committee to accept the transfer of the funds and charges on the land in the exercise of its duties.

     

    ·         Under the Council’s constitution Corporate Committee was responsible for exercising the functions, powers, and duties of the Council as trustee of all trusts for which the Council is corporate trustee.

     

    ·         The Charity Commission had reminded the council of its duties and had made clear that it expected the Council to proceed. If the funds were not transferred, the Council would be at risk of legal action.

     

    ·         As set out in the report it was noted that the funds held by solicitors, for the liquidator of THET, was £253,189.97, and once transferred would be held separately on the council’s balance sheet. It was noted the funds  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.

4.

Work Programme and Action Monitoring pdf icon PDF 219 KB

    • View the background to item 4.

    (All wards)

     

    Report authorised by: Fiona McDermott: Strategic Director for Finance and Investment

     

    Contact for enquiries: Christian Scade, Democratic Services, 020 7926 0045,

    cscade@lambeth.gov.uk

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Councillor Garden informed the Committee that he had examined the work programme and action monitoring report with Democratic Services prior to the meeting and confirmed that, apart from one item, all actions from the last meeting had been set out on the in-progress monitoring log on page 19, via the future items log on page 20 or had already been actioned as set out on page 25.    

     

    Democratic Services provided a brief update to highlight the following:

    ·         The C19 response plan, an action from the previous meeting was missing from the log and had not been picked up. However, officers had been contacted and arrangements would be made to circulate the plan when available.

     

    ·         That most of the overdue items on page 19, were close to completion.

     

    ·         The Homes for Lambeth (HfL) challenge session date, 2 February 2021.

     

    Councillor Garden informed members that questions raised on this item were to be sent to Democratic Services.

     

    RESOLVED: Unanimously

    1)    To note the Corporate Committee’s work programme for 2020-21.

     

    2)    To note the Corporate Committee’s actions monitoring log.

     

     

     

5.

Audit and Investigations Update pdf icon PDF 364 KB

    • View the background to item 5.

    (All wards)

     

    Report authorised by: Fiona McDermott: Strategic Director for Finance and

    Investment

     

    Contact for enquiries: Justin Martin, Chief Audit Executive, 07881 802336

     

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Justin Martin, Chief Audit Executive, Charlotte Bilsland, Deputy Chief Audit Executive, Michael O’Reilly, Counter Fraud Manager and Yousra Abdelmoneim, Internal Audit Manager presented the report and in response to questions noted that:

     

    ·         The audit trail set out on page 30 of the agenda, highlighted who had been consulted in preparing the Audit and Investigations Update for Committee.

     

    ·         The Tenancy recommendation graph showed that Lambeth had been performing better than in previous years. The graph also demonstrated several properties recommended by the Council for recovery because of tenancy fraud, generally due to subletting.

     

    ·         Current proactive investigations relating to COVID business grants and large-scale investigations that involved finance were ongoing, although these could not be discussed in detail at this stage.

     

    ·         When related to internal fraud recommendations were made to management and HR regarding lessons learnt distilled from past fraud cases, to raise appropriate changes.

     

    ·         Resident Services provided funding to employ officers dedicated to tenancy fraud. It was noted that five investigators looked at allegations of tenancy fraud and recovery of properties for the council.

     

    ·         In terms of Children Services and Schools, a summary report was produced every year which included all school audits that had been completed, and themes that had emerged. It was noted some school audits remained outstanding but would be completed later in the year and presented to Corporate Committee in May or June.

     

    ·         The HfL audit was in the plan and in development, this could be found on page 34, number 36.

     

    Annex A, highlighted management actions that were outstanding. It was explained that 11 actions were either in progress or outstanding at the time of writing the report.

     

    In response to a further question raised by the Chair regarding outstanding actions listed in Annex A of the report, especially in relation to Lambeth’s disaster recovery solution, Garry Jamieson, Head of ICT confirmed that:

     

    ·         Lambeth’s disaster recovery solution had been tested in 2017 and 2018. Lambeth was one of only a few councils in London to have done this. The item that was reoccurring on the audit was the final closure of a number of recommendations audit presented. The focus was to ensure the recovery solution plan was fit for purpose for the council’s needs. Further dialogue with Business Continuity colleagues was in place to ensure that the audit was finalised.

     

    ·         Officers welcomed the update regarding the disaster recovery solution but wished to keep the action on the tracker set out in Annex A, until it had been completed.

     

    Councillor Garden congratulated the Counter Fraud team, especially for the inclusion of graphs in the report that showed the effects of fraud activity, allowing trends to be viewed over the years and could therefore see how recovery of fraud was presented.

     

    The Committee also asked for further information, on lessons learned in relation to fraud cases and counter fraud, to be included in future reports.

     

    RESOLVED: Unanimously

    1)    To note the report which provides an update on matters relating to the Internal Audit and Counter Fraud service, its  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Internal Audit and Counter Fraud Strategy and Charter for 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 489 KB

    • View the background to item 6.

    (All wards)

     

    Report authorised by: Fiona McDermott: Strategic Director for Finance and Investment

     

    Contact for enquiries: Justin Martin, Chief Audit Executive, 07881 802336

     

     

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Justin Matin, Chief Audit Executive and Charlotte Bilsland, Deputy Chief Audit Executive presented the report and highlighted the strategic approach for Internal Audit that would be adopted to provide effective assurance on the risks facing the Council and to tackling fraud.

     

    Councillor Garden highlighted that there had been no significant changes to the report either the Internal Audit and Counter Fraud Charter or Internal Audit Strategy, compared to previous years.

     

    RESOLVED: Unanimously

    1)    To consider and approve the draft Internal Audit and Counter Fraud Charter for 2021/22 (Appendix A).

     

    2)    To consider and agree to the Internal Audit Strategy for 2021/22 (Appendix B).

7.

Audit Quality Review pdf icon PDF 428 KB

    • View the background to item 7.

    (All wards)

     

    Report authorised by: Fiona McDermott: Strategic Director for Finance and

    Investment

     

    Contact for enquiries: Nisar Visram, Assistant Director for Corporate Finance, 0207 926 9386, nvisram@lambeth.gov.uk  

     

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Nisar Visram, Assistant Director for Corporate Finance and Karren Murray, Partner at Mazars introduced the report and provided responses to questions raised by the Committee as follows:

     

    ·         The Redmond report 2018/19 identified that 40% of Councils’ audits had not been signed off by the July target date. Lambeth was in that percentage.

     

    ·         Mazars scale fee was agreed with the council; however, Mazars could charge for fee variations if work required varied significantly.

     

    ·         Regarding value for money, National Audit Office guidance required auditors to report any concerns as soon as they were identified, and not once a year which was in place as part of the old code of practice.

     

    ·         Christina Thompson, Director of Finance and Property added that:

     

    ·         Council officers worked closely with external auditors to ensure that the accounts were completed correctly to ensure that no technical errors in future auditor’s report would arise.

     

    ·         When members of the public enquired about statements of accounts/request for information, the team endeavoured to respond to them as soon as possible. However, when delays occurred it was due to trying to also respond to auditor’s who were engaged to audit the council’s statutory accounts in a timely fashion.

     

    RESOLVED: Unanimously

    1)    To note the external auditor’s response to the Financial Reporting Council report, set out in Appendix 1.

     

8.

Calculations of Council Tax Base and National Non-Domestic Rates Return 1 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 403 KB

    • View the background to item 8.

    (All wards)

     

    Report authorised by: Fiona McDermott: Strategic Director for Finance and

    Investment

     

    Contact for enquiries: Amaris Wong, Group Manager Finance and Property, 0207 926 7742, awong1@lambeth.gov.uk  

     

     

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Christina Thompson, Director of Finance and Property presented the report and, in response to questions, explained that:

     

    ·         Recommendation 4 delegated authority, to finalise and approve the final NNDR1 form setting out the business rate tax base, to the S151 officer. It was explained that the Cabinet Member for Finance and Performance would not be the decision maker but would be a consultee.

     

    ·         The Council tax base was based on properties where Lambeth could impose council tax. Individuals who for various qualifying reasons were unable to pay council tax were placed on the Council Tax Support Scheme.

     

     

    RESOLVED: Unanimously

    1)    To agree the amount calculated by the Council as its Council Tax base for the year 2021/22 at 110,872. The Council Tax base in 2020/21 was 111,520, so there has been a net decrease in the base of 648 Band D properties, and the percentage decrease is 0.6%.

     

    2)    To continue to apply the following council tax discounts and premiums adopted in 2013/14 in 2021/22, with only the premium for empty properties changing to 200% for properties empty for between five and ten years and 300% for properties empty for at least ten years:

    ·         a premium of 100% on homes empty for between 2 to 5 years (i.e. the council tax liability for such properties is set at 200%);

    ·         a premium of 200% on homes empty for between 5 and 10 years (i.e. the council tax liability for such properties is set at 300%);

    ·         a premium of 300% on homes empty for at least 10 years (i.e. the council tax liability for such properties is set at 400%); Page 91 Agenda Item 7

    ·         a discount of 0% on second homes;

    ·         a discount of 0% on Class A properties (empty dwellings undergoing major repairs); and,

    ·         a discount of 0% on Class C properties (vacant, unfurnished dwellings).

     

    3)    To agree that no changes to the Council Tax Support Scheme adopted in 2020/21 will be made and that the Scheme will be continued for 2021/22.

     

    4)    To delegate authority to the S151 Officer, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Finance and Performance, to finalise and approve the NNDR1 form setting out the business rate tax base.

     

     

     

9.

Homes for Lambeth auditor appointment pdf icon PDF 280 KB

    • View the background to item 9.

    (All wards)

     

    Report authorised by: Fiona McDermott: Strategic Director for Finance and

    Investment

     

    Contact for enquiries: Greg Carson, Principal Lawyer (Housing Property and Planning), 0207 926 3144, gcarson@lambeth.gov.uk

     

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    During the discussion of this item, the guillotine fell at 8.00pm.

     

    It was MOVED by the Chair, and,

     

    RESOLVED: Unanimously, that in accordance with Standing Orders 9.5-9.7, the meeting continue for a further period of up to 30 minutes.

     

    Hamant Bharadia, Assistant Director, Strategic Finance and Tom Dolan-Bent, Interim Assistant Director, Housing Regeneration presented the report and highlighted the following:

     

    ·         The Homes for Lambeth (HfL) procurement process resulted in two firms submitting proposals, one of which was found to be non-compliant. Larger firms had been approached, yet they declined. The process had been scrutinised in accordance with the procurement policy and by the HfL board and several directors.

     

    ·         The process that HfL had undertaken was set out in 3.5 of the appendix.

     

    ·         Auditors were required to be in place by 1 February 2021. It was noted that going back out to the market would be challenging and would pose significant risks and potential fines.

     

    ·         To get external auditors for small organisations like HfL was difficult. It, therefore, was not unusual to get one or two bidders.

     

    In discussion, Members noted that:

    ·         The appointment would be presented to the Ownership and Stewardship Panel for endorsement beforehand.

     

    ·         The Committee had strong concerns and were reluctant about the appointment process and felt that the process should have started much earlier to enable a full evaluation.

     

     

    RESOLVED: by 4 votes for to 1 vote against

    1)    To endorse the Homes for Lambeth Board recommendation to appoint Smith & Williamson as external auditors for Homes for Lambeth companies.

10.

Pay Policy Statement pdf icon PDF 244 KB

11.

Procurement Update pdf icon PDF 403 KB

    • View the background to item 11.

    (All wards)

     

    Report authorised by: Fiona McDermott: Strategic Director for Finance and

    Investment

     

    Contact for enquiries: Rachel Willsher, Head of Procurement, 0207 926 3760,

    rwillsher@lambeth.gov.uk

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Rachel Wilsher, Head of Procurement presented the report and provided a brief update to allow assurance on government processes that underpinned Lambeths’ procurement.

     

    In response to questions, it was explained that procurement contract management, had been vital in relation to the Council’s response to Covid-19, including the procurement of Personal Protective Equipment and equipment to make Council offices secure. Information was also provided on the initial impact of the UK leaving the European Union, the Government’s Green Paper on Transforming Public Procurement and the work that had taken place to establish a contract management model to ensure robust contract management was in place across the Council.

     

    Councillor Garden welcomed all initiatives set out in the report, especially on how contract management was managed. It was recognised that the report had captured many issues that Corporate Committee had raised in the past.

     

     

    RESOLVED: Unanimously

    1)    To note the governance and processes to support Procurement.

     

    2)    To note the updates on Procurement.