Agenda and minutes

Audit & Governance Committee - Thursday, 1st February, 2024 6.30 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Town Hall, Katherine Street, Croydon, CR0 1NX

Contact: Hannah Cretney, Democratic Services  Email:

No. Item


Disclosure of Interests

Members are invited to declare any disclosable pecuniary interests (DPIs) they may have in relation to any item(s) of business on today’s agenda.


There were none.


Minutes of the Previous Meeting

To approve the minutes of the meeting held on 30 November 2023 as an accurate record of the proceedings.

Additional documents:


The minutes of the meeting held on 30 November 2023 were approved as an accurate record.



Urgent Business (if any)

To receive notice of any business not on the agenda which in the opinion of the Chair, by reason of special circumstances, be considered as a matter of urgency.


There were none.


Audit and Governance Committee Action Log pdf icon PDF 52 KB

To note the Audit & Governance Committee Action Log.


At the request of the Committee Jane West, Section 151 Officer, provided a verbal update on the status of the 2019/20 accounts, which had been due to the February meeting. It was advised the 2019/20 accounts had been close to completion in December 2023, however there had been an issue which required incorporation and adjustments to be made and had caused the delay. The council was awaiting the external auditor’s final position on the issue and anticipated either an additional Audit and Governance Committee to be scheduled in February 2024 or the 14 March 2024 meeting would receive the final 2019/20 accounts at the latest.


The cost implications and frustration of the ongoing audit of the 2019/20 accounts were noted and the committee queried what support it could provide in resolving this. Councillor Cummings, Cabinet Member for Finance commented on the frustration around the issues which had arisen and caused further delays and reminded the committee it could hold to the external auditors to account.


The consultation regarding the government’s proposals to implement a backstop date for the auditing of local government accounts on 30 September 2024 was expected to open soon. These proposals would impact Croydon’s ability to complete its backlog of accounts. The 2022/23 accounts would not be completed in time and discussions were ongoing with the external auditors regarding the feasibility of completing the 2021/22 accounts if the backstop was implemented. Officers advised they were unsure how the opening balances for 2023/24 would be ascertained if the previous year’s accounts were not able to be completed. Croydon had written to the National Audit Office (NAO) noting the council’s challenging position and had requested dispensation to allow the auditing of all previous year’s accounts to be completed. The NAO had advised these comments were to be submitted when the consultation formally opened. Officers confirmed funds to cover the increased audit costs were held as a reserve. The public interest in the council’s full completion of the accounts was noted and it was the council’s intention to complete all years to have a full record. It was suggested that the Audit and Governance Committee may be able to support the council’s response to the NAO consultation.


In response to questions from the committee around the resources available to complete the accounts, officers advised the Finance Team had a dedicated team working on the financial statements and auditor queries. There was pressure on Grant Thornton’s resources however this was being discussed regularly and there was intent for the external auditors to retain the same team for Croydon.


The committee queried whether Croydon had engaged with the Department for Levelling up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) on the backstop proposals. Officers advised they had, there were numerous government bodies involved in the national discussion including the Financial Reporting Council, CIPFA and the Local Government Association (LGA). Audit resources were a national issue, and all parties would need to agree to a way forward. Croydon was lobbying and in conversation with DLUHC regularly  ...  view the full minutes text for item 46/24


Committee Work Programme and Assurance Mapping Document pdf icon PDF 221 KB

To note the Audit & Governance Committee Work Programme for the remainder of the municipal year alongside the Committee Assurance Mapping Document.

Additional documents:


Dave Phillips, Head of Internal Audit noted the inclusion of reporting cycles within the assurance mapping document as requested by the committee. Whilst officers would facilitate any updates, it was the intention for the committee to have ownership of the document going forward.


The Committee queried if the People and Culture Transformation Programme and Transformation Strategy should be included in the assurance mapping document. It was advised that the assurance mapping would be developed further at the beginning of the next municipal year and would build in the governance arrangements for the Exit Strategy Action Plan which was still being developed. The committee intended to extend the assurance mapping to include the Exit Strategy Action Plan and Transformation Programmes once these were available. 


The Committee noted the People and Culture Transformation Strategy update on the March meeting agenda and suggested that this could be a presentation on Transformation as a whole, including the design structures and risk.


A discrepancy between the action log and the work programme was raised and officers agreed to review the documents. The expanding work programme and the committee’s responsibility to encourage a good pace of response from officers were discussed.


An update on the gas safety compliance was requested to be included on the March meeting agenda.



Annual Governance Statement (Update on Action Plan 2022/23) pdf icon PDF 116 KB

For the year 2022/23, the Council through its Annual Governance Statement, conducted a review of the effectiveness of its systems of internal control and developed an Action Plan to address the improvements required. This report provides an update on the progress with the Action Plan with a particular focus on financial management, information management, procurement and contract management and the recommendations in the Report in the Public Interest on the refurbishment of Fairfield Hall.  


The Committee is asked to consider and comment on the Annual Government Statement (AGS) 2022/23 Action Plan Update which is attached as Appendix 1.


Additional documents:


Stephen Lawrence-Orumwense, Monitoring Officer introduced the report and Annual Governance Statement (AGS) action plan updates to the committee. Huw Rhys-Lewis, Interim Director of Commercial Investment & Capital, Paul Golland, Interim Chief Digital Officer & Director of Resident Access and Chris Dyson, Data Protection Manager were present to provide detailed updates and to answer the Committee’s questions in relation to the Procurement and Contract Management and Information Management and actions.


There had been significant progress in completing the RIPI 2 recommendations and work was underway to ensure these actions were embedded in the council’s practices. A session had taken place with stakeholder officers and presentations on the lessons learned and changes in practice would be shared across internal boards/forums to ensure continued discussion and awareness by responsible officers. The thematic overlaps between the RIPI2 actions and the Improvement Panel Exit Strategy recommendations were noted. An Exit Strategy Action Plan Tracker had been developed and the committee would receive reporting on the recommendations when targets were set.


Some actions included in the reports were ongoing and the committee asked how completed actions would be reviewed to ensure they were embedded and issues did not reoccur. It was advised that the council’s internal audit function would be testing completed actions and part of this was to ascertain their implementation within business-as-usual practices. The audit plan would cover the issues flagged by RIPI 2 and provide the continuous assurance. The Committee requested the future internal audit test date to be included in the tracker for those actions marked complete.


Councillor Cummings commented that the scale of recommendations and actions included within the AGS were far larger than a council in normal position and there was work to be done to return to an acceptable level of monitoring and to ensure the council was not too backward looking.


Huw Rhys-Lewis, Interim Director of Commercial Investment & Capital advised the improvement work already undertaken had met the requirements of the RIPI 2 recommendations and the service was now focussed on the development of improvement plans for Procurement and Contract Management to satisfy the Improvement Panel Exit Strategy. The team had undertaken benchmarking with other local authorities and incorporated the government best practice guidance. The improvement plans were expected to be finalised by March 2024 and would be recommended to Council for approval. The plans incorporated and provided flexibility for the requirements anticipated under the new procurement act. Contract management improvements prioritised key contracts and commercial reviews had been implemented to measure the performance and identify any issues or changes required.


The committee asked what percentage of contracts were now procured through the improved process. 460 contracts had been identified by the deep dive undertaken in July 2023 and around 50% of these were deemed compliant. Since then, improvements were ongoing to improve compliance and had included the allocation of a dedicated procurement manager for each team. Non-compliant contracts were typically below £180,000 in value with an approximate total value of between £30 million and £40 million.


The committee  ...  view the full minutes text for item 48/24


Risk Register Entry 'Deep Dive' pdf icon PDF 106 KB

The presentation updates the Audit & Governance Committee Members on progress against a selected entry from the corporate risk register (the register).

The Committee is asked to:

Note the contents of the risk presentation attached in Appendix 1


Additional documents:


Malcom Davies introduced the risk register entry deep dive on risk PR0013 Sustainable Parking Income. Jayne Rusbatch, Head of Highways and Parking presented a deep dive presentation to the committee, available at Appendix 1 within the agenda pack.


The committee queried the basis upon which the risk had been downgraded from red to amber. Officers advised this was due to the increased sustainability of the 2023-24 budget and certainty around the income expected from ANPR cameras. It was noted that narrative explaining the effectiveness of control actions in future reports would provide the committee with assurance around risk downgrades. 


Councillor Cummings advised parking income had become a high-profile item for the council due to the large variance in the 2022/23 budget due to budgeting failures rather than the operation of the department. This position had improved and 2023/34 performance aligned with the budget. It was agreed the risk register entry required rewording. 


Clarification was requested on whether the £26 million expected income was on track and the impact of the council’s recent Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) software issues. Nick Hibberd, Corporate Director of Sustainable Communities, Regeneration & Economic Recovery advised the recent problem with printing had impacted 3100 PCN’s where motorists had not received the first notice of contravention with the opportunity to pay a discounted rate. The council was cancelling those PCNs with an average income yield of £56 per PCN. This incident would be reflected in the next risk register entry update and future control measures. The royal mail delivery delays in Croydon were noted, officers advised the scale of the issue was small, but it was a problem all parking services encountered. It was confirmed that Croydon actively challenged PCN appeals. 


The challenges to achieve a customer focused service when income was based upon penalties was raised and the committee queried if there were additional risks associated with this. The balance required between setting objectives and a correct budget policy was explained by officers. Examples of this were objectives to support the local economy achieved by setting parking charges at an appropriate level to encourage visitors and customer churn and school street safety objectives where there were regulations during school hours and penalty charges for contraventions. 


The Committee RESOLVED to; note the contents of the risk presentation attached in Appendix 1.



Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) Deficit Management Plan

This report provides some important updates regarding the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) Deficit Management Plan, which has been in place since 2019/20. The management plan is being implemented successfully; however, there is a level of risk from increasing numbers of Children and Young People with complex Special Education Needs.


The AuditandGovernanceCommittee isasked tonote:

a)       Thekey performancetargets setunder theDfE SafetyValve agreement.

b)       The overall performance of the Deficit Recovery Plan against the target and challenges and risks of delivery.

c)        The impact on the accounting treatment of the DSG deficit as provided for in the Local Authorities (Capital Finance and Accounting) (England) Regulations 2003/3146, as amended by the Local Authorities (Capital Finance and Accounting) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 and the Local Authorities (Capital Finance and Accounting) (England) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2022.

d)       Challenges faced by the service with the implementation of new Education system (Synergy) from Capita One.

Additional documents:


Shelley Davies, Director of Education introduced the update report to the committee.


The committee asked if there was a risk that it would not be possible to rectify the deficit due to the borough’s population growth and increased need. It was advised that the Safety Valve programme supported Croydon and other councils to reduce their cumulative deficits whilst achieving a balanced in year budget. The service had significantly reduced its overspend and made strategic plans to reduce spend including maximising in-borough provision.


The Committee RESOLVED, to note:

a)       The key performance targets set under the DfE Safety Valve agreement.

b)       The overall performance of the Deficit Recovery Plan against the target and challenges and risks of delivery.

c)        The impact on the accounting treatment of the DSG deficit as provided for in the Local Authorities (Capital Finance and Accounting) (England) Regulations 2003/3146, as amended by the Local Authorities (Capital Finance and Accounting) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 and the Local Authorities (Capital Finance and Accounting) (England) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2022.

d)       Challenges faced by the service with the implementation of new Education system (Synergy) from Capita One.



Quarterly Whistleblowing Update pdf icon PDF 136 KB

The Council’s Whistleblowing Policy provides for six monthly reports to the Committee on whistleblowing referral received. This report provides an update on disclosures for the period January 2023 to December 2024.


The Committee is asked to note the whistleblowing disclosures and the outcomes. 

Additional documents:


Stephen Lawrence-Orumwense, Monitoring Officer introduced the report to the committee.


The intention to increase awareness of the whistleblowing policy via internal communications was welcomed. The committee queried whether the 7 whistleblowing disclosures in the 6-month period covered by the report was usual in comparison the previous year’s figures. It was advised there had been greater take up of the whistleblowing procedure amongst staff over the last year. The comparison data and benchmarking data would be included in future reporting. The additional avenues available to staff including the Guardian’s Programme were noted.


In response to questions officers advised the ongoing investigation cited within the report was slightly delayed due to the complexity of case. Timescales would be included in the next whistleblowing report.


The committee queried what success looked like for whistleblowing and whether it was possible to also include the additional avenues available into the whistleblowing reporting.  It was advised that upheld investigations resulting in changes in practice indicated success. The strength of the council’s anti-fraud team and the receipt of direct referrals to the team resulted in less need for whistleblowing disclosures.

It was noted that if staff utilised the whistleblowing process for issues such as ‘covering up’ when things had gone wrong, this would indicate a cultural issue within the organisation. 


Officers agreed to include a paragraph on the other activities in this area within the whistleblowing annual report.


There had been a session on the Guardian’s Programme delivered for Scrutiny and this recording was available. 


The Committee RESOLVED, to; note the whistleblowing disclosures and the outcomes.