Agenda item - Member Involvement

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Agenda item

Member Involvement

To consider the following matters raised by councillors:

 

(a)           Petitions: to receive any petitions submitted to the full Council or at the meeting itself;

 

(b)          Written Questions: to consider any written questions;

 

(c)           Letters: to consider any letters;

 

(d)      Notices of Motion: to consider any Notices of Motion referred from Council or submitted directly to the Committee.

Decision:

1)    That the Audit and Standards Committee agree to commission an Audit report on the proposed transport contract for children with special educational needs and disabilities and vulnerable adults;

 

2)    That the Audit and Standards Committee agree to commission an Audit report on the Valley Garden Stage 3 project

Minutes:

(c)      LETTERS

 

6.1          The Chair stated there were two member’s letters. They explained the options open to members and stated that there would be two votes on each letter. Firstly the Committee would be invited to note the relevant letter and secondly it would be asked whether or not it wished to request that an audit be carried out and reported back to Committee.

 

(i)            School Transport

 

6.2          The Committee considered a letter from Councillors Wares and Mears requesting that the Committee commission an audit report regarding matters relating to the proposed transport contract for children with special educational needs and disabilities for vulnerable adults. The recommendations of the contract agreed on agenda Item 64, Home to School Transport for Pupils with Special Needs and Other Social Care Transport Contract, of the 11 October 2018 Policy, Resources and Growth Committee (PR&G) were not adhered to by BHCC adopting a Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) following an agreement by the Leader of the Council and the Chair of Children, Young People and Skills Committee (CYP&S).

 

 

6.3          Councillor Wares stated that when the report had been to PR&G there had been no meaningful discussion of the recommendations facilitated by the Leader of the Council after the conditions of BHCC refusing to give any details on the consultancy contract or the business case of the contract. Members were corporate parents therefore needed oversight and this audit should be authorised before any problems occur due to the lack of scrutiny in this committee system that characterised a dictatorship in this instance.

 

6.4          Councillor Peltzer-Dunn agreed with the need for an audit and stated that officers would have had an opportunity to respond to the listed points in the letter since they had sight of it several weeks ago.

 

6.5          In response to Councillor West seeking clarification on whether the letter was suggesting inadequacies in the Constitution or a failure to follow process, Councillor Wares stated that there were no constitutional mistakes however there was no opportunity for member input at PR&G and no attempt was made to call an urgency Sub-Committee which demonstrated bad process so therefore it was now a matter for the Constitutional Working Group and the Monitoring Officer.

 

6.6          Councillor Hill agreed the need for an audit and noted due to the decision having only being taken by the Leader of the Council and the Chair of CYP&S and during period of a high member intake that an audit would provide comprehensive figures for them to understand the process.

 

6.7          Councillor Appich stated that she had received assurances that appropriate decision making, and savings had been made however agreed that now was a good opportunity to ask for an internal audit because it would add value to the process.

 

6.8          The Committee lawyer stated that Audit and Standards Committee did not have any decision-making powers in relation to the matters which were the subject of the letter and did not offer a means of reviewing substantive decisions taken by other committees. That said, Audit and Standards Committee had responsibility for providing assurance regarding the adequacy and effectiveness of thee Council’s governance arrangements. In light of this, it was within the Committee’s scope to ask officers to carry out a review in to whether the Council’s polities and procedure had been followed in the matters that were subject of the letter, and to bring a report to a future meeting. In terms of which officers would be best placed to carry out such a review, as Legal Services team was considered to have been involved in the relevant matters, the Internal Audit team was considered to be the best placed to carry out any review. Like other committees, Audit and Standards Committee could only commission work which was considered to fall within existing budgets. Subject to the Internal Audit team’s review (if any), it might be that – if the Committee was minded to request an audit – then a desktop review with a specified brief could be the way forward.

 

6.9          Councillor Wares responded that the request was not limited to the constitution and that the process required a deep dive due to BHCC employing a consultant and refusing to share the details, not sharing the contract’s business case and acting contrary to the decision at PR&G to not adopt a DPS contract.

 

6.10       The Committee voted unanimously to firstly note the report and secondly to commission a desktop audit. The report commissioned from Internal Audit was to consist of the outcome of a desktop audit limited in scope to the questions of whether the Council had correctly followed processes and procedures.

 

(ii)           Valley Gardens Stage 3

 

6.11       The Committee considered a letter from Councillors Wares requesting that the Committee commission an audit report regarding matters relating to Valley Gardens stage 3.

 

6.12       The Chair and Councillor West declared that despite having been present at the Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee (ET&S) on the 7 February 2019, neither considered themselves to have a conflict of interest in this item.

 

6.13       Councillor Wares stated that the project was originally intended to improve public spaces and active travel for the local economy however during later planning stages concerns grew as the project developed timetable pressures, funding insecurity and outgrew the brief. Without a refreshed business case the current situation left the Council dictating morphed plans despite the public and cross-party discontent.

 

6.14       Councillor West noted that this issue had been discussed for long time, that now due to legal challenges it was important to advance the project and expected that there would be a transparent answer to all the letter’s concerns and they would benefit from an objective discussion.

 

 

 

6.15       Councillor Peltzer-Dunn agreed with the issues raised in the letter and said that it was essential for the Council to display transparency, which could only be addressed by commissioning an audit.

 

6.16       Councillor West said that he had proposed the task and finish group to scrutinise the project until completion which would have a broad enough remit to review the project to include stakeholders, cross-party membership and the terms of reference. This was agreed to not be established until the next ET&S or potentially the end of the year until the membership could be finalised, however the live project needed to progress in the meantime.

 

6.17       Councillor Nemeth agreed that now was the perfect time for an audit after attending meetings with local businesses and hearing their views on not properly being consulted on the process.

 

6.18       The Chair suggested that if an audit were commissioned then that process could feed into the terms of reference for the task and finish group. This was because a finding of either the process being followed of not would both be helpful in the terms of the future continuation of the project.

 

6.19       The Committee voted to firstly note the report and secondly to commission a desktop audit. The report commissioned from Internal Audit was to consist of the outcome of a desktop audit limited in scope to the question of whether the Council had correctly followed processes and procedures.

 

 

6.20       RESOLVED -

 

 

1)    That the Audit and Standards Committee agree to commission an Audit report on the proposed transport contract for children with special educational needs and disabilities and vulnerable adults;

 

2)    That the Audit and Standards Committee agree to commission an Audit report on the Valley Garden Stage 3 project.

Supporting documents:

 


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