To receive the draft Annual Governance Statement 2019/20.
Jeremy Chambers, Director of Law and Governance presented the Annual Governance Statement.
1. This Annual Governance Statement is required to be completed each year. The committee’s attention is drawn to the areas of significant change, the actions taken to improve governance during 19/20 and the areas of focus for 20/21 detailed in the report.
2. The areas of focus for 20/21 are Information Governance risks including cyber security which is high on the list (covered next on the agenda); Improving and enhancing customer access to services; continued need to ensure high standards of health and safety; and to ensure that our business continuity plans are fit for purpose.
3. The biggest areas are the ongoing impact of council’s response to Covid 19, this is under constant review by the Council, Cabinet, Senior Management team and Departmental Management teams to ensure that there are financial and governance arrangements in place.
4. The Council will also be looking at demand led services which have the higher cost impact on the Council.
5. The impact of the implementation of Universal Credit is to be reviewed.
6. The Impact of a no deal exit from the European Union. The Director of Law and Governance is the senior point of contact for the Government. The Brexit Panel is chaired by Cllr Barnes. The Council is preparing itself reviewing all the options in terms of the impact on the community should the UK leave on the 31 December without a deal in place with the European Union. The Council is working on the basis of the highest risk, worst case scenario which is a no deal at the end of the transition period.
7. When these risks are collated for the Annual Governance Statement, they are sent around the senior management team and discussed at the Assurance Board to identify a list of areas that we believe are our areas of real concern that we need to monitor closely.
8. The conclusion of the Annual Governance Statement, which is signed off by the Leader of the Council and the Chief Executive is that we are satisfied that we have the appropriate governance arrangements in place. Over the next year we will take steps to address the matters raised tonight and to further enhance our government arrangements
Questions, queries and comments raised:
· On the Risk Management Strategy on Meridian Water risks it did not have a risk pandemic flu. In the report it says that we have robust Annual Governance Statement and all the decisions were done correctly, all in public and all properly. It was believed that one meeting of the Planning Committee was not held in public. It was also queried why the Brexit panel is not a public meeting. Officers responded in terms of Planning Committee query more information was requested. The Brexit Panel has one member who chairs this. The rest of the attendees are officers of the council and representatives of partner agencies. It is lawful in terms of governance for this not to be a public meeting. It is not a formal meeting of the Council and is not decision making. It is in effect a working group.
· Governance during COVID has been a difficult time for local authorities. The law did not permit virtual meetings, so we were unable to make collective Cabinet Decisions for a period of time from the 23 March when lockdown started till the 4 April when virtual meetings were permissible. The Council had a difficult time in terms of making decisions. A protocol was agreed with both the majority and opposition parties. This was shared with 40 other authorities who had asked how we were dealing with decisions during the Covid crisis.
· In terms of the risk register, there is a huge Meridian Water Risk Register in its own right. There is a separate Brexit risk register which has previously been to this committee. We have as an organisation a pandemic flu plan that was originally activated when Covid19 first emerged. However, this quickly became clear that this was overtaken by events as this is not sufficient for a national emergency. Whilst it was a testing time the governance arrangements and the way we conducted ourselves at Enfield were very robust.