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Apologies for Absence
No apologies for absence were received.
Roll call and declarations of interest
If a Councillor has a disclosable pecuniary interest in a particular item, whether or not it is entered in the Authority’s register of interests, or any other significant interest which they consider should be declared in the public interest, they should declare the existence and, unless it is a sensitive interest as defined in the Member Code of Conduct, the nature of the interest at the commencement of the consideration of that item or as soon as it becomes apparent.
At meetings where members of the public are allowed to be in attendance and speak, any Councillor with a disclosable pecuniary interest or other significant interest may also make representations, give evidence or answer questions about the matter. The Councillor must then withdraw immediately from the meeting before the matter is discussed and any vote taken.
Where Members of the public are not allowed to be in attendance and speak, then the Councillor with a disclosable pecuniary interest should withdraw from the meeting whilst the matter is under consideration. Councillors who have declared other significant interests should also withdraw from the meeting if they consider their continued participation in the matter would not be reasonable in the circumstances and may give rise to a perception of a conflict of interest.
Councillors are not obliged to withdraw from the meeting where a dispensation to that effect has been obtained from the Standards Committee.
A roll call was carried out to confirm attendance which is listed above.
Councillor Alex Karmel declared a non-pecuniary interest in Item 4 as a deferred member of LBHF pension scheme.
To approve the minutes of the previous meeting and to note any outstanding actions.
The minutes of the meeting held on the 15th of September 2020 were approved as a correct record.
This report presents the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham’s 2019/20 Statement of Accounts, including the Pension Fund Accounts and Annual Governance Statement for approval.
Emily Hill, Director of Finance, introduced the report which presented the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham’s 2019/20 Statement of Accounts, including the Pension Fund Accounts and Annual Governance Statement for approval.
Emily Hill explained that the accounts would usually be considered earlier in the year but as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, deadlines were deferred to enable local authorities to deal with the pandemic as a priority. She noted that there had been some challenges due to the pandemic and working remotely so there were still some issues to work through, but no significant amendments were expected.
Paul Dossett, Partner at Grant Thornton, introduced the external auditor’s Audit Findings Report including the auditor’s findings and recommendations.
Ellen Millington, Audit Manager at Grant Thornton, took the committee through the Audit Findings Reports, highlighting that the audit was still ongoing for two main reasons:
· There was some outstanding information (detailed on page 5 of the report) though it was hoped that would be resolved in the coming week.
· Auditors required more information on a material investment held by the pension fund.
Ellen Millington added that she didn’t expect significant changes. Due to the outstanding issues the draft letter of representation hadn’t been tabled at the meeting and officers suggested the committee agreed that the Chair could approve it outside of the meeting.
Councillor Alex Karmel, noting that Croydon Council had recently issued a Section 114 notice due to ‘severe and ongoing’ financial difficulties, asked for assurance that H&F wasn’t moving in the same direction. Emily Hill said H&F was not in that position. The Council expected a hit of around £2.5m to outturn due to Covid-19 but was managing that very carefully. There had been no significant draw on reserves that couldn’t be managed.
Paul Dossett said they wouldn’t be issuing an unqualified value for money conclusion, as set out in the Audit Findings report, if they had concerns on the order of Croydon, but it was a risky environment for local authorities at the moment.
Councillor Alex Karmel asked for an update on the Thames Water legal case. Emily Hill said there had been a test case in October from Kingston but they had been unsuccessful, so officers needed to consider the implications of that judgement. There was some more detail on page 160 of the pack.
The Chair asked if officers expected further significant adjustments. Emily Hill said there was further work to do but she didn’t expect significant changes. There may be amendments based on the Thames Water case and the committee would be briefed on any changes.
Councillor Alex Karmel suggested a recommendation that any exercise of the delegation in recommendation 6 (below) be reported back to the committee. Members agreed.
1. That the Committee noted the content of the external auditor’s ‘Audit Findings Report’ (ISA260), including the auditor’s findings, recommendations and the Council’s response to those recommendations (Appendix 2).
2. That the Committee approved the 2019/20 Annual Governance Statement which is included ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
Date of next meeting
The next meeting is scheduled for the 1st of December 2020.
The next meeting was scheduled for 1 December 2020.