Decision Maker: Audit Committee
Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Is Key decision?: No
Is subject to call in?: No
The Chair of the Committee invited the Director of HR and OD to provide an update on the recommendations that came out of the South West Audit Partnership (SWAP) report into the Role of the Somerset Manager, which was issued last October.
He reported that there has been good progress made on the recommendations and the work had been identified as a key part of the Council’s People Strategy and the Transforming the Council to Improve Lives programme. He had commissioned the Audit and although it had provided a ‘Partial’ audit opinion, it had identified several areas of good practice.
The report also identified one significant weakness, with a finding that significant numbers of managers had not completed important training that included: systems to identify and address non-completion of training were not effective; there was no corporate training policy (for managers); and mandatory training (for managers) was not clearly identified. It also suggested that a Management & Leadership Training Framework be implemented as this would help to address the weaknesses found.
Consideration of the report was aided with a PowerPoint presentation and in response to a question it was noted that the Learning Centre was now used to identify and report on mandatory training for managers. This included a recent programme on Financial Management Training, as well as courses such as Health & Safety and those reports were included as part of quarterly HR reporting to the Council’s Senior Leadership Team.
There was a discussion of the report and it was thought that commissioning the audit had been a good use of the SWAP team. There was a question about resources and the Committee heard that the improvements were linked to the Council’s transformation programme and had been adequately delivered through a couple of additional posts and coupled with technology this meant there were adequate resources to deliver required improvements.
On the topic of analysing the effectiveness of performance management and staff appraisals it was noted that there was now a about 90% completion rate for staff annual appraisals. The Director of HR and OD thought it important for all staff to be able to have regular 1-1 meetings with their line manager and this approach might suit more staff than an annual appraisal meeting.
It was noted that the good overall progress had been made with regards to making staff more aware of changes and opportunities to participate and last year the Leader of Council and Chief Executive had seen over 800 staff at ‘roadshow’ events. Members heard that the Council’s Learning Centre held a variety of interesting and informative courses for staff and last year 17.5k modules had been completed.
There was a brief discussion about the SLT development programme and it was stated that the procurement process had resulted in 35 bids being shortlisted and it was envisaged after inviting a few to make presentations the contract would begin in September.
The report was accepted, and the Chair requested that the Council’s Corporate training policy be circulated. It was agreed to request an update report for the November meeting.
The Chair invited the Strategic Manager for Estates to introduce the report, on the recommendations made in the South West Audit Partnership (SWAP) report into Corporate Property’s maintenance of the school estate with particular reference to Schools Annual Condition Surveys issued last May.
It was noted that the objective of the Audit had been to ensure that ‘adequate arrangements were in place so that schools were safe and any closures due to structural and maintenance issues were minimised; and to ensure the risk of reputational damage to the Council was mitigated as far as possible. Controls within three areas of the Council had been reviewed: Corporate Property; Corporate Health and Safety; and Support Services for Education (SSE).
The Audit report noted that the annual condition survey was an important control in helping to ensure that school buildings were safe, with most surveys performed by SSE. Some weaknesses had been identified in the recording of those surveys, in some cases there had been no permanent record of the individual surveys being completed and they were unable to verify if they were being carried out on an annual basis.
Members heard that improvements had also been identified in the monitoring of the condition surveys undertaken by schools. A significant number of schools were found not to be making an annual return on health and safety items, despite the Corporate H&S team performing monitoring and follow up. In response to a question it was noted that good information was provided to schools by the Corporate H&S Unit and there had been a good take up of the Premises Manager training course.
There was a question about SSE and as it was a traded service Officers knew which schools were buying the service and those who were not and as SSE managing a wider portfolio it was able to gain more experience. Members sought reassurance regarding completion by schools of the annual statement and it was noted that processes were in place to ensure all schools reported an annual statement and each was well monitored.
It was noted that the recent changes regarding the designation of schools had created a variety of different school types, meaning less were now maintained by the Council. Recent work now ensured that the Council had a better understanding of the buildings it owned and the condition of those properties. The properties would have an annual inspection, and this helped to close the gap of omissions and possible errors and ensure all responsibilities were being met.
The Committee accepted the report and welcomed the progress made and noted the determination to ensure improvements were maintained.
Publication date: 09/07/2019
Date of decision: 20/06/2019
Decided at meeting: 20/06/2019 - Audit Committee