Agenda and minutes

Venue: Conference Room 1, Herefordshire Council Offices, Plough Lane, Hereford, HR4 0LE

Contact: Jen Preece, Democratic Services Officer 

Link: Watch this meeting live on the Herefordshire Council Youtube Channel

No. Item


Apologies for absence

To receive apologies for absence.


No apologies were received.


Named substitutes (if any)

To receive details of any councillor nominated to attend the meeting in place of a member of the committee.


There were no substitutes.


Declarations of interest

To receive declarations of interest in respect of items on the agenda.


No declarations of interest were made.


Minutes pdf icon PDF 175 KB

To approve and sign the minutes of the meeting held on Tuesday 24 October 2023.




That the minutes of the meeting held on 24 October 2023 be confirmed as a correct record and signed by the chairman.


Questions from members of the public

To receive any questions from members of the public.


No questions had been received from members of the public.


Questions from councillors

To receive any questions from councillors.


No questions had been received from councillors.


Annual review of the councils Information Requests and Complaints 2022/23 pdf icon PDF 567 KB

To inform the committee of performance in the areas of complaints, data incidents and requests for information made to the council over the municipal year 2022/23.



The committee considered a report on performance in the areas of complaints, data incidents and requests for information made to the council over the municipal year 2022/23.


The Information Governance Manager (IGM) informed the committee that the information held in the report was from 1 May 2022 to 30 April 2023. The following points were highlighted:


1.     The volumes of freedom of information (FOI) and environmental information regulations (EIR) requests fell slightly in comparison to the previous municipal year.

2.     The information governance team (IGT) have continued to see a steady decrease in requests received since April, however it was highlighted the number of subject to access (STA) requests had increased.

3.     The IGT are responsible for investigating data breaches and risk assessing and advising service areas of how to ensure that those breaches do no reoccur.


In response to committee questions, it was noted:


      I.         The information request process was explained.

     II.         The IGM informed the committee that where a similar request had been made previously or where they knew the information was held on the website or could be found quickly, these are being treated as “business as usual” rather than being recorded as an FOI.  

   III.         The IGM informed the committee of the disclosure log on the Councils website which members of the public can use to search published requests responded to since January 2022. The website also provides a frequently asked questions which suggests what the Information Governance Team (IGT) may not respond to founded on previous responses.

   IV.         The IGM provided the committee with examples of data incidents.

    V.         It was noted that the Council was moving across to Office 365 which meant address books are no longer shared which would decrease the number of emails being sent to the wrong recipient.

   VI.         The IGM confirmed that making employees aware of “phishing emails” is the responsibility of the IGT and that the team undertake “phish exercises” by sending out “spoof test” emails to employees at random. At the last test 6% of staff were found to still be clicking on the links which was felt to be too high and further reminder emails were sent out to all staff.

 VII.         Based on the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) guidance the IGM clarified that in order for a breach to meet the threshold for reporting an assessment would be carried out on the number of people involved, the information and the sensitivity of that information. The breach would then be scored. A score of two or above would be reviewed with the Ofwat's Senior Information Risk Owner (SIRO) before it is considered reporting to the ICO.

VIII.         It was reported of the breaches reported to the ICO over the last 12 months, the ICO have been pleased with the actions that the Council had taken and they considered that no further action was required from themselves.

   IX.         The IGM confirmed the status of the Councils storage and back-up systems.



The Complaints and Children’s Rights  ...  view the full minutes text for item 60.


Update on Internal Audit Recommendations pdf icon PDF 152 KB

To review the progress of audit recommendations implementation.


Additional documents:


The Performance Team Lead (PTL) provided the committee with an update on the progress made in the council’s response to audit recommendations made by South West Audit Partnership (SWAP) in their audit reports issued before September 2023.  It was highlighted;


1.     Of the 34 recommendations that were previously reported to the committee as overdue, 7 have since been completed, 1 deferred and 26 remain outstanding. 

2.     Of those recommendations due between April 2023 and September 2023, 21 of 34 recommendations were reported as completed. This was compared to 47% when last reported to the committee 6 months ago.

3.   Whilst the PTL found the proportion of recommendations being actioned within period to be improving, 13 of those recommendations had not been completed and will be added the to the 26 previously overdue and reported as still outstanding recommendations, meaning the actual number of recommendations reported as overdue when next reported would have increased.

4.     The PTL noted that focus would be given in ensuring those historical recommendations are acted on or at least a statement to the committee within the report to state changes that had taken place within the service that meant those recommendations are no longer relevant. The PTL suggested that when SWAP audits are conducted more consideration be given in setting target dates to ensure dates are less likely to be missed in the future.

5.     Of the 3 future recommendations, all are on track to be completed within planned timescales, or have already been completed; it was noted that from previous forecasts it was expected that these would all be completed when the report was brought back to committee in six months’ time.


In response to committee questions, it was noted:


      I.         The PTL explained the completion rates had improved since previously reported but the percentage still could be improved and should be higher. As highlighted previously more focus needed to be on the completion of historical recommendations and service areas needed to work with SWAP initially to identify realistic target completion dates.

     II.         In response to questions received surrounding the unspent green homes grant funding, the PTL explained as he is only responsible for chasing and updating actions he was unable to provide an answer. The questions were noted and a written response would be established from the relevant service area.


The Chair of the committee made a request that all recommendations are reviewed and to establish whether any could be removed with an explanation provided and also that when target dates are set they are realistic.  


   III.         The PTL confirmed over the next 6 months his intention was to follow up with all the service areas that had incomplete recommendations to establish whether or not these recommendations were still live and worth completing. If it was found that they were not, a

statement and agreement between ourselves and swap that they were content for them to be removed would be provided in the report brought to the committee.

   IV.         The PTL explained the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 61.


Energy from waste loan update pdf icon PDF 228 KB

To update the committee on the current status of the energy from waste loan arrangement to enable the committee to fulfil its delegated functions.


Additional documents:


The Head of Strategic Finance (HSF) introduced the report the purpose of which was to update the Audit and Governance Committee on the current status of the energy from waste loan arrangement and to enable the Committee to fulfil its delegated functions. The following principal points were made:


1.     The HSF explained that the Council acted as a joint lender with Worcestershire County Council to Mercia Waste Management limited (MWML). The loan was used to buy and operate an energy from waste plant in Hartlebury in Worcestershire. The asset is used to recycle and recover energy from waste collected across the two counties.

2.     The report confirms that the repayments have been made by the borrower in line with the loan agreement.

3.     The HSF explained that financial covenants look at the position and performance of the borrower and provide assurance over the risk of their ability to meet future debt repayments. It was confirmed that these had been met by the borrower. 


In response to committee questions, it was noted:


                        I.         The HSF provided the committee with further explanation of the “ratios” listed on page 75 paragraph 9.

                       II.         The HSF explained that there are a number of working papers underneath the assessment of compliance and that some of that information will be available in those companies accounts but in terms of cash flow it is not reported on a monthly basis in a set of published or audited accounts but is information that is provided to the Council as part of the requirement of the agreement with MWML.

                     III.         The HSF explained the compliance value is the value set within the loan agreement (the value that we are expecting them to meet) and the actual value is how they have performed.

                     IV.         The HSF was unable to confirm that the loan agreement would be repaid by the end of its term, however confirmed the terms and conditions of the loan agreement and provided assurance through this mechanism that they are currently meeting the conditions within that loan so the current loan agreement provides for the repayment of the outstanding balance in full in January 2029 via a bullet payment for the remaining balance.

                      V.         The HSF confirmed a review had taken place by an external body in the last 12 months of the loan agreement which included a review of the conditions attached and the compliance ratios.


Resolved that:


a)    The risks to the Council, as lender, were confirmed as being reasonable and appropriate having regard to the risks typically assumed by long term senior funders to waste projects in the United Kingdom and best banking practice; and


b)    Arrangements for the administration of the loan were reviewed and confirmed as satisfactory.








Amendments to the Code of Conduct Reporting Process pdf icon PDF 232 KB

A report to propose an amendment to the functions of the Standards Panel, which will streamline the joint functions of the Audit and Governance Committee and Standards Panel.


Additional documents:


The Head of Legal Services (HLS) introduced the report the purpose of which was to propose changes to the code of conduct arrangements in particular the way that members of the standards panel are made aware of the decisions made by the monitoring officer and officers.  The proposal is to improve transparency, usefulness and time of member feedback for officers and the monitoring officer.


The HSL provided the committee with a presentation highlighting the relevant changes proposed, in response to committee questions, it was noted:


1.     In relation to concerns with the new process taking up more time of officers, the HLS said the situation would be monitored but suggested having looked at the time that had been spent preparing for a particular meeting the new process would be considerably less as it would just be information sharing over email or an informal conversation with members in real time rather than an official meeting and preparing for an official meeting six months to a year after the actual issue had been dealt with.

2.     The HSL explained that the Council has 4 independent persons who are usually picked on their availability to sit on the standards panel. Once a complaint is started, the same independent person would be used throughout the process. It was confirmed that the parish council representative is nominated by Herefordshire Association of Local Councils (HALC).

3.     The HSL confirmed there was no official sanctions under the Council’s code of conduct. The code of conduct reporting process / a standards hearing was the only sanction in place.

4.     A report from the standards commission went before central government two years ago with regards to making changes around sanctions but the response back was they had no current plans to make any changes to the to the current regime.

5.     The HSL explained that the Chairperson of the committee only has authority as set out in the constitution which is typically in relation to the conduct and efficient discharge of a meeting and currently does not give them the power to remove a member from the panel/ committee. It was explained that only full council could remove a member from a committee, but where a sub-committee had been created, the owners of the Sub-Committee were entitled to remove / amend members as necessary.

6.     It was highlighted that the Audit and Governance committee were responsible for appointing the three members to the standards panel.

7.     With regards to the wording in Appendix 2 “Such notices will be retained until the later of 6 years, or the subject member ceasing to be an elected member”.the HSL recognised comments made surrounding councillors who leave and return to the authority. It was suggested that the wording be revised to state notices will be retained for 6 years.

8.     It was suggested and agreed that should for any reason a member of the standards panel be unable to act (a complaint made against them, a conflict of interest, sickness  ...  view the full minutes text for item 63.


Work programme pdf icon PDF 203 KB

To consider the work programme for the committee.

Additional documents:


The committee’s updated work programme was presented, the Head of Strategic Finance explained to the committee that the “External Audit Progress Report” was a legacy item and was removed from the work programme.




That subject to the amendment noted, the updated work programme be agreed.


Date of next meeting

Tuesday, 30 January 2024.


Tuesday, 30 January 2024, 2pm.