Audit Wales Work Programme: Council Progress Update
The Performance and Data Insight Manager introduced a report to provide a quarterly update on the Council’s progress against the Audit Wales Work Programme and its management response to relevant recommendations for local and national reports. Following presentation of the report, questions from Committee Members were invited:
· The Chair referred to the current economic position and emphasised the importance of officers further strengthening key elements of the Medium-Term Financial Plan (MFTP). Continuing, the Chair suggested that the MTFP needed to be based on a range of plausible scenarios and subject to stress testing. It was the Chair’s opinion that the Committee doesn’t have sufficient visibility over the end to end MTFP process nor an understanding of the key financial operational assumptions underpinning the plan.
Regarding proposed savings to deliver a balanced budget, the Chair advised that it is essential that the Committee understands where these cost savings will be made and to gain assurance from officers that this does not materially impact levels of internal control, governance or other matters that appear on our work programme.
The Chair will raise these points with officers.
The Deputy Chief Executive stated that there is a level of assurance provided to the Governance and Audit Committee around the budget process. Last year the S151 officer opinion statement was presented to the committee ahead of the budget being approved so the committee could reassure itself of the robustness of the budget process and the adequacy of reserves. If the Committee wants to strengthen assurance, a Cabinet report can be made available that provides context and an outline of the budget process. Additionally, the MTFP strategy will be presented to Council in December/January and a draft version can be presented to the committee.
· A Member commented that considering measures to close budget gaps or anticipate what will happen over the next four years is difficult for this committee and suggested that scrutiny committees would be better placed to consider this on an ongoing basis.
The Chair, Chief Internal Auditor and Deputy Chief Executive will meet on Monday to consider more fully the Committee’s role in reviewing the MTFP and budget recovery plan with a specific emphasis on ensuring its work complemented that of the Performance and Overview Committee). It was considered that the Governance and Audit Committee should focus on control and process when discussing the budget to assure itself of the means by which savings are identified, how risk and consequences are assessed as a result of that and financial sustainability over the medium term. Some discrete elements fall to this committee, others to the Performance and Overview Scrutiny Committee.
· A Member, referring to national studies, asked where the response to net zero fitted in the scrutiny process. It was confirmed that the response to climate emergency strategy action plan falls to the Performance and Overview Scrutiny Committee.
The Chair, in summary said the Committee carefully reviewed the progress made in addressing the points made by Audit Wales and is generally satisfied with the current position noting the comments made by Members.