Venue: Virtual Meeting/ Remote - Please use links on the Agenda Front Sheet to join the virtual meeting
WELCOME & APOLOGIES
The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting. Apologies for absence had been received from Councillors Brett and Lappage and from Matt Bowmer
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
Members of the Council are invited to identify any disclosable pecuniary, other pecuniary or non-pecuniary interests relevant to the items on the agenda.
There were no declarations of interest.
To receive and agree the minutes of the General Purposes Committee meeting held on the 15 October 2020.
AGREED the minutes of the General Purposes Committee meeting held on 15 October 2020.
To receive a report from the Executive Director Resources.
Fay Hammond, Executive Director Finance introduced the report.
1. Despite best endeavours the council has not been able to meet the 30 November deadline. The draft accounts were drafted in advance of the revised August deadline. However, since that time officers have struggled to get through the audit stage of the Statement of Accounts.
2. At the last meeting of the General Purposes Committee officers were overly optimistic that the different strategies that had been put in place would allow the accounts to be completed by the 30 November deadline.
3. The general complexity of the accounts and the questions raised by the auditors has been a challenge. The council has been working closely with BDO to resolve.
4. One of the most significant challenges has been around staffing levels.
5. Following contact with councils across London, over half of those who responded have also been unable to meet the November deadline for various reasons.
6. The year a number of improvements to the Statement of Accounts have been undertaken. BDO have provided positive feedback on these endeavours to make the accounts more robust. At the end of the process the council is expecting to have an unqualified set of accounts.
7. The priority now is for the Executive Director Resources to diligently and thoroughly review the timetable to ensure that with the addition of resources expected shortly (one person started this week and one is due to start next week) the accounts are completed as soon as possible.
8. The Committee is reminded that there was previously a Chief Accountant, but he left in November 2019. The Council then recruited two interim Chief Accountants as wanted to implement of a number of improvements such as the new asset register and the huge number of HRA beacons. Unfortunately, both interims left in February and the council was unable to recruit despite best endeavours. The draft accounts were produced on time but since that point the council have struggled with balancing the resources and the other work in the team to deliver the timetable for the review part of the audit.
9. The council have advertised for a permanent Chief Accountant. This post has been revaluated and is now at a much higher salary than previously and is at market value for this role, however, there were only two applicants that are A grade. Two interim Chief accounts have successfully been recruited to help the council get through this audit stage of the accounts.
Questions, comments and queries raised:
· This is the third year in a row that Enfield has missed the deadline for producing an audited assessment of accounts on time. How can we have confidence that this will not happen next year. Should these accounts not be completed until February will that mean that the accounts for 2020/21 will be late as officers will be working on two sets of accounts at the same time. Officers advised that the council does not want to be in this ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
BDO- UPDATE ON THE AUDIT OF 2019/20 STATEMENT OF ACCOUNTS
This will be a verbal update from BDO (External Auditors).
BDO advised that this item has been mostly covered by the previous item. They continue to make progress although not as quick as would have liked. The issues behind this in terms of resources to be able to turnaround some of the audit queries and deal with some of the audit trail points that have been raised. They will continue to work closely with officers to refine the timeline and re plan the remainder of the audit to get to a conclusion.
They are hoping to be able to provide an unqualified opinion on the understanding that if they find errors they will be corrected and if they find areas of challenge these will be resolved to their satisfaction.
AGREED to note the verbal update from the external auditors.
To receive an update report on Universal Credit Implementation.
Sally Sanders, Head of Financial Assessments introduced the report.
1. That the report highlights the risks associated with the implementation of Universal Credit (UC) in Enfield and the impact of Covid19 and proposes that in future reports this is linked to the broader impact of poverty in Enfield on the cost of benefits , homelessness and debts to the residents and the council.
2. The background of Universal Credit is detailed in section 5 of the report.
3. The impact of Covid-19 on Universal Credit from March 20- September 20 has been significant, this has meant that has been a more rapid natural migration due to claimants change of circumstances.
4. Local authorities do not get access to UC data so can only measure impact through increased demand for Housing Benefit and council Tax support, Discretionary Housing Payments, welfare advice and debt support and homeless applications. During this period Housing Benefit caseload has reduced by 1,962, Council Tax Support has increased by 1,390 and those receiving Council Tax Support on UC has increased by 3,559.
5. The lack of access to data (controlled by the DWP) has raised the issue that whilst we know that households impacted by the Benefit Cap has increased significantly recently as a local authority, we do not know who they are.
6. DWP statistics in May 2020 identified that Enfield had 3,431 Benefit Capped households putting Enfield in the top 5 local authorities in the country for high numbers of households impacted by the benefit cap. The local authority has requested this information as yet there is no promise when this will be made available.
7. Rising personal debt, pressure on homelessness and increase in the allocation of certain benefits such as Council Tax support and Discretionary Housing Payments, continue to be an implication of universal Credit with other key variables such as the changing Local Housing Allowance rate, the cost of housing in the private rented sector and Covid 19 and the associated economic downturn.
AGREED to note the update on Universal Credit
To receive an update report on Cyber and Technology Security.
Kieran Murphy, Director or Digital, Data & Technology and Martin Sanders, Head of Service Management & Governance introduced the report.
1. This updated requested by the Chair
2. The committee is asked to accept the risks and findings in the report and accept the progress that has been made to date.
3. The key things to note are; where we are with our existing assurance levels; the impact of increased remote working due to Covid and the increase cyber threats to the public sector; successful attacks to other peer organisations; our success at thwarting these attacks and ensuring that everyone is aware of the need for constant change to keep up to date with these attacks; ensure that our existing tools and processes are robust; maintain statutory compliance and ensure that the whole council needs to be aware of increased risks and remain vigilant.
4. The key threats impacting the council since July 2020 are increases in; Phishing, Email spoofing, Ransomware, Malware, and Distributed Denial of Service.
5. Hackney Council who deliver the same services and use many of the same applications were victim to a ransomware attack in October. There has not been a formal report into this at present.
6. Security reporting for the period 1 July 20 to 31 October 20 is detailed in paragraph 12 of the report.
7. On email security, in the last 4 months the council has undertaken a further review of the monitoring tools used. To give an indication of the level of attacks or potential attacks on average the council sends or receives around 56,000 emails per day and the monitoring tools block around 48% of these emails.
8. The email review identified that the software and processes work well. It identified that in one month alone 200 malware attacks were identified. From this a series of improvements and remediation will be incorporated into the Cyber Security Remediation Programme.
9. The risk register will come back to a future meeting of the committee as this is mostly covered within the Cyber Security Remediation Programme that is being delivered.
10.Progress and achievements since the last report are detailed in section 13 of the agenda report.
11.The next stage is to bring in some specialist fixed term roles within the current capacity to deal with new and emerging threats, particularly in light of the Hackney attack to ensure that the council remains as secure as possible.
12.The Cyber Security Remediation Programme is targeting most of its delivery by the end of March 21.
13.The main considerations for the council are detailed in the agenda report.
Questions, comments and queries raised:
· When the mock cyber-attack is undertaken are staff aware that this is taking place in advance. Officers confirmed that staff are not made aware when a mock cyber-attack takes place.
· On the Public Services Network Certification is the council on time to meet the work needed by the end of the financial year? The Certification ran out in September ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
ELECTORAL SERVICES UPDATE
A presentation will be received providing an Electoral Services update.
Jeremy Chambers, Director of Law & Governance and Maggie Mulhall, AEA Consultant, Electoral Services introduced a presentation
1. This committee now includes in its terms of reference the work that previously went to the Electoral Review Panel. The presentation covers a general update on the work of the elections team. The committee is asked to advise whether any further briefings are required, and this can then be timetabled for a future meeting.
2. There has been a change in the legislation which came in December 2019. This introduced some new methods to undertake the annual canvass.
3. The changes are that; the national data matching is now undertaken for all properties. This identifies if the names on the electoral register matches the names held by the DWP and this was supplemented with local data matching against council databases.
4. Where all details matched the property was assigned a Route 1 direction. All Route 1 properties without emails were sent a form for information or action if any changes. For the first time emails were able to be sent to properties and these went to Route 1 properties where an email address was available. This went out to just over 41k properties reducing the impact of printing and postage for these properties. If the household did not respond to the email then a subsequent letter was sent.
5. Nonmatching properties went into Route 2, this followed the usual format for a normal canvass with a few enhancements. This year the form that was sent out directed the occupier to a digital response (online, telephone or by text). This reduced the amount of returned postage and subsequent mail opening and processing. The reminder form reverted to the original traditional form and included a reply-paid envelope to encourage postal responses and was supplemented by email reminders to these properties where an email address was held. Any non-responding properties were canvassed as normal. This year the team were able to do telephone canvassing where a telephone number was held.
6. Whilst arrangements were put in place to undertake a doorstop canvass this was abandoned following the introduction of Tier Two restrictions. New residents have been identified through data mining trying to find potential electors from data sets that the council has received movement notifications.
7. Route 3 properties is a new category, which includes nursing homes or anywhere that has a single responsible person. The Electoral Registration Officer can approach this person allowing a nonstandard approach to be taken. Telephone contact was made with the home managers and the response was tailored to what was best for them. This has generated a good response.
8. The results of the new methods will provide a foundation for future canvasses
9. The lack of the doorstep canvass has prompted another initiative. In January all residential properties will receive a Household Notification Letter (HNL) detailing the people at the property and advice on how to add, delete or amend the information. A postal vote application will ... view the full minutes text for item 8.
To receive a report from Gemma Young, Head of Internal Audit and Risk
Management providing updates on:
· Corporate Risk Register
· Brexit Risk Register
· COVID-19 Risk Register
This was introduced by Gemma Young, Head of Internal Audit and Risk Management
1. The report includes the revised Corporate Risk Register, the COVID-19 Risk Register and the Brexit Risk Register.
2. The Corporate Risk Register has been circulated for review by Departmental Management Teams and the Executive Management Team and the only change is the risk for Health & Safety (CR10) has been reduced from High to Medium. All updates to this register are recorded in Appendix A of the report.
3. The COVID-19 Risk Register developed with the Council’s COVID-19 Recovery Group and Silver has been circulated to both groups for review and the update is included in Appendix B of the report. There have been no major changes.
4. The Brexit Risk Register following a request from the chair of the Brexit Panel a full review has taken place and the latest version is attached at appendix C. significant changes which have been made since the last time this was presented to the Committee are that Medicines and supplies shortages have been upgraded from medium to High, Civil unrest has been upgraded from low to medium and a new risk Local businesses has been added to take into account the support that local businesses may need post Brexit.
Questions, comments and queries raised:
· Does the local lockdown risk need to be updated to consider the Tiered system? Officers confirmed that this does need to be updated
· It was queried that rise in unemployment is considered a medium risk in the Covid 19 Risk Register, given the current economic state does this not need to move to medium. Gemma Young agreed to take this back to the Panel and challenge this.
· Civil unrest in the Brexit Register has been increased why is this is this due to the closeness to the date of leaving the internal market. Officers advised that the Panel felt that in terms of what has taken place this year; the protects in London, the Black Lives Matter protests and when the lockdown began there was unrest in supermarkets, that the potential for civil unrest and the risk should be raised. A representative from the Metropolitan Police sits on this panel and they were in agreement that the level needed to be raised.
· On Covid 19 Risk Register the sustainability of social care markets has gone from high to medium as has Civil unrest and unemployment. Currently in double dip depression and will be 2024 before things go back to normal, with furlough being extended and businesses struggling and the impact if we do not get a vaccine and a possible third wave- Is it premature to reduce these risks. Officers agreed to take this back to the Panel to look again at the economic risks. The Panel does have people represented from each service area and at present we are not seeing a lot of local businesses closing down. There has been lots of support for local businesses from central government
· The Risk Registers ... view the full minutes text for item 9.
To receive a report on the Audit and Risk Management Service Progress
This was introduced by Gemma Young, Head of Internal Audit and Risk Management.
1. This item comes to every meeting to update the Committee members
2. The report covers the work that the Audit & Risk Management Service has undertaken during 1 April 2020 and 16 October 2020.
3. Progress continues to be made on delivering the plan, there is still a risk of not having sufficient assurance work on which to base the annual Head of Internal Audit opinion. The committee will continue to be update on this risk. Officers are optimistic that this risk will not materialise and there will be sufficient assurance work to give an annual opinion.
4. There is a lot of work in progress but not yet finalised. Since the Audit Plan was agreed by the committee in July there has been one audit cancelled and 2 audits added to the plan. 7 audits have been completed since the start of the year, 6 of these were either grant certifications or management letters so an assurance opinion was not given and the remaining audit on which there is an assurance opinion was a limited audit on unregulated placements.
5. With the support of the Assurance Board there has been substantial improvement in the implementation of agreed actions. Managers have implemented 64% of high priority and 52% of medium priority actions that were due to be implemented by October 2020.
6. The latest matrix for the insurance team are detailed in paragraph 7 of the report.
7. The Council in line with other local organisations has not received any Covid-19 related claims. The team are ensuring that the council is following all government guidelines and recorded are being kept showing that these have been followed.
8. It is expected that the insurance industry will increase premiums going forward as a result of the global spread of risks of covid-19. An actuarial review is underway and that will inform the value of the councils Insurance Fund and hopefully provide suggestion for improvement to the insurance programme.
9. It is not expected that Brexit will have any effect on the insurance premiums.
AGREED to note the Audit & Risk Management Service Progress Update.
The work programme for 2020/21 was noted
DATES OF FUTURE MEETINGS
To note the dates of future meetings:
· Thursday 14 January 2021
· Thursday 4 March 2021
· Thursday 22 April 2021
All meetings start at 7pm.
The dates of future meetings were noted.