The committee considered a report on the appointment of an independent member of the Joint Audit and Governance Committee by the head of legal and democratic. This person would be independent to the council, answerable to the committee, who is skilled and able to take part in and make contributions to the audit committee’s business. As it was believed that the recruiting of an independent person to the audit committee would likely become a legal requirement, the council was recommended to approve the position now, before it became mandated. The co-opting of an independent member to the committee was also recommended by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy.
When the committee asked about the cost of the co-opted member, the head of legal and democratic confirmed that the independent remuneration panel would determine if a payment should be offered, and if so, what the amount the payment would be. In other authorities the allowance for the independent person has been found to be between £500 and £1,000 per year but would be proportional to members allowances. It was also confirmed that once the position and allowance was confirmed, it would be included in the budgetary process.
The committee also emphasised the need for a provision around the removal of the independent member from the committee if they were not making a meaningful contribution. The head of legal and democratic agreed that such a mechanism would be useful and agreed that this could be included when the terms of reference for the committee was updated to allow for the independent person to sit on the committee. The proposed revision to the terms of reference was also agreed to be brought back to the committee for their agreement.
Members also raised the potential of amending the person specification for the role to change the accountancy qualification from desirable to essential. This change was proposed in order to gain the best qualified candidates. However, the committee agreed that knowledge of local government finance and the audit process was very important and that they would not want to exclude good candidates without an accountancy qualification.
A motion, moved and seconded, to amend the person specification in order to make an accountancy qualification essential rather than desirable was lost when being put to the vote.
Overall, the committee believed that co-opting an independent person onto the committee would strengthen the council’s internal controls and help promote good governance and strong financial management. However, it was agreed that the updated terms of reference for the committee needed to include a mechanism that would allow for the removal of the independent person if they fail to make a valuable contribution.
A motion, moved and seconded, to accept the proposals and recommendations laid out in the report, subject to the provision of mechanism for managing and removing this independent person being a part of the terms of reference, was carried on being put to the vote.
RESOLVED: that the committee:
1. Approve the principle of co-opting an Independent Person onto the Joint Audit and Governance Committee on a non-voting basis.
2. Approve the person specification attached at appendix 1.
3. Recommend that each Council:
a) agrees to co-opt one independent person on to the Joint Audit and Governance Committee on a non-voting basis;
b) approves the person specification attached at appendix 1;
c) authorises the head of legal and democratic and monitoring officer and the section 151 officer, in consultation with the Joint Audit and Governance Committee co-chairs, to undertake the recruitment process and appoint an independent person to the Joint Audit and Governance Committee for a period of four years until May 2027;
d) authorises the head of legal and democratic to make changes to the councils’ constitution to reflect the appointment;
e) asks the Independent Remuneration Panel to consider an appropriate level of remuneration for the role of independent person to the Joint Audit and Governance Committee and the independent persons dealing with code of conduct matters if the committee consider that the roles should be remunerated.