Hampshire Fire and Rescue Authority Item 8

Governance Committee

15/03/200526 July 2005

Corporate Governance Policy and Code of Corporate Governance: progress report on compliance

Report by the Chief Officer

Contact: David Howells, Director of Corporate Services Tel: 012 8062 6833

1

Summary

   
 

One of the requirements of the recently adopted Code of Corporate Governance is to publish annually a statement of the level of compliance with the Code. This first comprehensive review of compliance - set out in detail as Appendix 1 - is a self-assessment of the Authority's current position. The assessment shows that there are few, if any, causes for concern and the conclusion reached is that the Authority is already at very good level of compliance.

   

2

RecommendationError! Bookmark not defined.

   
 

That the statement of the level of compliance with the Authority's Code of Corporate Governance set out as Appendix 1 to this report be approved; and, that statement subsequently provides the basis of a document that will be maintained on the Authority's website and regularly updated.

   

3

Introduction Error! Bookmark not defined.and Background

   

3.1

The Code of Corporate Governance was approved by the Governance Committee at its meeting on 8 March 2005 as part of the Authority's Corporate Governance Policy. The Committee resolved at that meeting that the Chief Officer should provide for this meeting a statement against each of the practices set out in the Code showing either compliance or non-compliance.

   

3.2

Appendix 1 sets out this statement in detail together with notes of any relevant activities currently underway or planned that are aimed at satisfying or enhancing the Authority's level of compliance.

   

4

Contribution to Corporate Aims and Objectives

   

4.1

For the Authority to be regarded and assessed as being in the `top 20% of high performing fire and rescue services in the country' it must have in place a robust Corporate Governance Policy and supporting Code of Corporate Governance. The Authority's adopted Code is based on the best practice guidance issued by the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE) and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA). Having effective corporate governance practices in place undoubtedly strengthens the Authority's ability to meet its other corporate aims and objectives.

   

5

Risk Analysis

   

5.1

Failure to maintain effective corporate governance practices would leave the Authority at risk of being unable to comply with a number of statutory requirements - particularly in the areas of democratic and financial accountability - as well as vulnerable to criticism and potential damage to its reputation by not operating recognised good governance practices. By providing an annual statement of compliance, the Authority is taking an effective control measure to manage this risk. The statement can quickly identify any items of non-compliance (or areas of weakness) and set out suggested actions aimed at satisfying the requirements of the Code.

   

5.2

Based on this first self-assessment, there are no significant risks that need to be brought to the attention of the Committee.

   

6

Resource Implications

   

6.1

There are no significant resource implications arising from the recommendation in this report other than to note that there is inevitably some additional senior officer time spent on reviewing levels of compliance and preparing the statement.

   

7

Equality Impact Assessment

   

7.1

The recommendations contained in this report are assessed as not giving rise to any potential equality issues for the Authority. It is worth noting, however, that the Code - and being able to demonstrate compliance with it - does complement and help to support the Authority's policies and practices aimed at promoting equality and diversity [note in particular those practices set out in the Code relating to `Community Focus' and `Standards of Conduct'].

   

7.2

The proposals within this report are considered compatible with the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights, the Human Rights Act 1998, and the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000.

   

8

Consultation

   

8.1

No consultation with staff, their representatives, or other stakeholders was felt to be appropriate in the preparation of this report. However, if the recommendation is approved by the Committee, it will be noted that the intention is to put the Statement of Compliance on the Authority's website where the opportunity will be taken to encourage feedback from stakeholders on the statements that have been made in the self-assessment. It is further anticipated that our auditors (both internal and external) will be carrying out their own independent assessments of compliance during the forthcoming year. Any feedback from these sources will be included in updates to the Statement.

   

9

Conclusion

   

9.1

The self-assessment that has been undertaken since the Corporate Governance Policy and Code was adopted shows that a very high level of compliance already exists and that the further actions that are being taken will do much to strengthen the Authority's already strong position.

   

Background Information (Section 100D of Local Government Act 1972)

 

The following documents disclose the facts or matters on which this report, or an important part of it, is based and has been relied upon to a material extent in the preparation of the report:

_ `Corporate Governance Policy', report to the Governance Committee on 8 March 2005.

http://www.hants.gov.uk/decisions/decisions-docs/050308-fgctte-R0301142925.html

Appendix 1

http://www.hants.gov.uk/decisions/decisions-docs/050308-fgctte-R0301142936.html

Note: The list excludes: (1) published works; and (2) documents that disclose exempt or confidential information defined in the Act.

 

Attached: Appendix 1 - Code of Corporate Governance - Progress on compliance

Secretarial/WP/Corporate/HFRA HFRA Governance 26 7 2005 Corporate Governance Policy DH/JMW/15/7/2005

Appendix 1

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Authority

Code of Corporate Governance - progress on compliance

Introduction

The term `corporate governance' refers to the system by which the Authority directs and controls its functions and how it relates to the community it serves. It is therefore the totality of the policies, systems, procedures and structures that together determine and control the way in which the Authority manages its business, determines its strategies and objectives and sets about delivering its services to meet those objectives for the greater good of the communities of Hampshire.

Having adopted a policy and code of corporate governance, the Authority needs to demonstrate, through periodic monitoring and review, the actions that have been taken - or need to be taken - to ensure compliance with the code. The following tables provide summary progress statements and highlight (in italics) any actions currently being taken or that need to be taken to provide further assurance of compliance.

The code

Community focus

We place great value on the views and opinions of the public and other stakeholders, both in helping to determine our priorities and in seeking joint working arrangements with other organisations to meet common goals. We are committed to ensuring that we are working both for and with the community in an open and effective manner, that we take account of the views of all our stakeholders, that we regularly report on our activities, performance and financial position, and that we maintain the highest standards of integrity in all our dealings with the community.

We will:

Compliance response and/or progress:

Continue to develop and maintain our consultation strategy, actions, and activities by which all stakeholders within the community are encouraged to contribute to and participate in the development of the services we provide.

Our consultation strategy and action plan is reviewed each year. `Before & After' community-based focus group meetings have been particularly successful in testing reaction to IRMP proposals and pilots.

Continue to develop and maintain our consultation strategy and communications channels through which the views of the community are identified, evaluated and reported.

The results of consultation exercises are always summarised and taken into account when developing and/or reviewing policies and proposals - both at the strategic planning and community-based levels. Results of consultation are recorded on our website and in our IRMP.

Ensure that our corporate aims, key objectives, priorities and targets are developed and reviewed, in consultation with the community.

The Authority's five corporate aims formed the primary basis of the three months' consultation exercise carried out in 2004 for in the development of IRMP2 (leaflet produced).

Provide unbiased and clear statements of our activities, achievements, and performance.

For major consultation exercises (e.g. the triennial public satisfaction survey) the Authority uses the services of a professional (external) opinion research company (ORS) to capture and summarise stakeholders' views. We provide regular (at least quarterly) clear statements of our performance against national and local performance indicators (national indicators are subject to external audit).

Publish annually a statement of our financial position, together with a statement of the level of compliance with this code.

We publish an annual Budget Book, and Statement of Accounts. This report provides a statement of compliance with our Code of Corporate Governance.

Ensure the independent review of our financial and operating procedures.

External audit is carried out by the Audit Commission - an Annual Audit Letter is presented to the Authority at its December meeting. Internal audit is provided under a contract of services by Hampshire County Council's Internal Audit Services - an Annual Internal Audit Opinion is presented to the Governance Committee.

Ensure that all of the dealings of the Authority are conducted in the public forum and that information relating to such dealings is made available on request, except where it is proper and appropriate to maintain confidentiality.

Meetings of the Authority and its five standing committees are open to the public. The work of some informal working groups (e.g. Asset Management Working Group) are held in private, but information reports and/or notes of such meetings are taken to the relevant standing committee (and/or full Authority) together with recommendations that require formal decisions to be made.

Note: the constitutional status of the Corporate Management Team is the subject of a second report to the Governance Committee at the meeting held 26 July 2005 (first report presented at the March 2005 meeting).

Develop monitoring procedures to ensure these systems operate effectively.

Our well-established corporate planning process and performance management framework (which is set out on our website and which provides the structure and context for the development and review of our IRMP) is based on the principle of continual review and consultation.

Service delivery

We are committed to securing continuous improvement in the delivery of its services and to ensuring that our policies, priorities and decisions are implemented on time, in a manner consistent with the needs of users, and in the most efficient and effective way.

We will:

Compliance response and/or progress:

Set and review targets for performance in the delivery of services that are both realistic and challenging.

Our five corporate aims are based on measurable targets (three are consistent with the Government's challenging targets set out in the National Framework for the Fire and Rescue Service). These targets are central to the actions we are pursuing in our IRMP.

Ensure that robust and reliable systems for providing the information necessary to measure and monitor performance against agreed targets are in place.

In response to the initial Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA) feedback (May 2005), we have already taken steps to streamline the number of performance indicators we report on publicly.

We will continue to enhance our already well-established practice of regularly reviewing and commenting on our progress against our performance indicators to the Performance Review Committee and (since June 2005) the full Authority. Detailed information is published on our website.

Note: We are making further enhancements to our management information through the implementation of a new software system (PBViews) capable of supplying more detailed analysis of our performance.

Develop comprehensive and understandable plans to meet agreed targets, and regularly review and report publicly our performance against those targets.

The detailed commentaries provided for each of our published performance indicators include, where appropriate, a note of intended actions or `pointers' to plans and actions recorded in other more detailed plans (including our IRMP).

Develop and maintain a budget process to allocate resources to the areas of identified need in support of the delivery of performance plans.

One of our corporate aims is to, "Divert 2% of our current resources to prevention activities by 2008". Any proposals to allocate or re-allocate significant levels of resources during the financial year to meet current plans or emerging needs are reported (in regular monitoring reports) to the Finance and General Purposes Committee.

Examine potential alternative means of delivering effective and efficient services to the community, including, where appropriate, contractual or partnership arrangements with other private, public and voluntary organisations and, where appropriate, seek to deliver services in partnership with such organisations.

The Authority is actively engaged in a number of successful partnerships (including those arranged via LSPAs) with the principal aim of enhancing our ability to meet not only our own service delivery aims and targets, but also helping partner organisations to achieve theirs (e.g. co-responder schemes with Hampshire Ambulance Service).

Note: We are keen to ensure that the increasing level of partnership activity is carried out in a focussed and cost-effective way and will be carrying out Best Value Reviews of both our partnership arrangements and our service level agreements with Hampshire County Council in 2005/06.

Respond promptly and positively to the findings and recommendations of our internal and external auditors, inspectors and assessors, and implement any agreed actions within agreed time scales.

We have a good-track record of responding positively to both internal and external audit and inspection outcomes - as well as those recommendations that arise from our Best Value Reviews. The Performance Review Committee monitors progress against outstanding actions until it is clear that these have been satisfied. Unless there are good reasons to keep this information confidential we publish (in committee reports and/or on our website) both the recommendations and our response to them.

Management structures and processes

We are committed to establishing appropriate structures and procedures to govern our decision-making process that will ensure the sound strategic management of the Authority, the delegation of operational responsibilities, the clarity of member and officer roles and responsibilities, and the proper scrutiny of all aspects of performance and effectiveness.

We will:

Compliance response and/or progress:

Maintain clearly documented protocols governing the relationship between members and officers.

Following consideration by the Standards Committee at its meeting on 21 January 2003), the Authority adopted (from 1 February, 2003) a protocol on member/officer relations.

Ensure that the roles and responsibilities of members of the Authority are clearly defined and documented, and that the terms of their appointment and remuneration, and the review of such terms, are clearly documented.

The Clerk to the Authority ensures that a copy of the protocol for member/officer relations is sent to all members of the Authority.

Maintain a scheme of delegated and reserved powers which identifies those powers delegated to the Chief Officer (and other officers) and those matters specifically reserved for the collective approval of the Authority.

The Scheme of Delegation to Officers was reviewed, updated and approved by the Authority at its meeting on 8 December 2004.

Ensure the regular meeting of such committees as are deemed necessary to set the strategic direction, and discharge the efficient and effective management of the Authority.

The calendar of meetings of the Authority and its standing committees is programmed each year to ensure that the Authority can meet its statutory obligations to make key decisions in a timely way - particularly the need to approve a forward budget and set a (council tax) precept. Wherever practically possible meetings are arranged to avoid clashes with key meetings of the three constituent authorities from which the Authority's members are drawn.

Maintain clearly defined and documented terms of reference for each committee, maintain and publish minutes of all meetings and, except where it is inappropriate on the grounds of confidentiality, open such meetings to attendance by the public.

These have been approved and are kept under review by the Clerk to ensure that they reflect the current responsibilities and expectations of the Authority, its standing committees and any informal working groups involving members and officers.

Every effort is made to ensure that the agendas, reports and minutes of formal meetings are made available on our website - including those of other bodies (e.g. the South East Fire and Rescue Services Regional Management Board) at which the Authority is represented and/or has a particular interest.

Ensure that members are properly trained to carry out their roles and responsibilities and that all relevant information, advice and resources are provided in order for them to carry out their role effectively.

The Authority has a good track-record of arranging training and awareness events and sessions for members - either in the form of specific events or as information items included on the agendas of the Authority and its standing committees. A Members' Handbook has recently been updated and issued (June 2005).

Ensure that the Chief Officer is made responsible for the overall operational management of the Authority and that formal written delegated authority is given to undertake this role.

This is reflected in the Chief Officer's contract of employment and in the Scheme of Delegation to Officers.

Ensure that the Officers of the Authority take responsibility for ensuring that agreed procedures are followed and that all applicable legislation and regulations are adhered to.

The Scheme of Delegation to Officers, Financial Regulations, and codes of practice relating to contracts are key documents for ensuring that the roles and expectations of the Authority's Chief Officer, its Clerk, its Treasurer and Monitoring Officer are understood and practised.

The Authority's own comprehensive set of Service Orders - together with Office of Deputy Prime Minister Circulars - are communicated and made readily available to staff to provide clear statements of policy and procedure so as to ensure that all current and relevant legislation and regulation is adhered to.

Maintain and review the scheme of delegation to officers of the Authority and ensure that it remains consistent with their roles and responsibilities, conditions of employment and remuneration.

The Scheme was reviewed and updated in December 2004.

A job evaluation process is in place which provides a robust basis for the periodic review of the roles and responsibilities of posts on the establishment.

Risk management and internal control

We are committed to the highest standards of care and control over the assets and resources at our disposal and to ensuring that these are protected from the risk of loss, damage or misuse. By identifying, analysing and managing any risk or threat to the Authority or its resources, we will aim to ensure that they are used in the most efficient, and effective way and provide best value for money to the public and our other stakeholders.

We will:

Compliance response and/or progress:


Establish and maintain a robust system for identifying and evaluating all significant risks to the Authority that involves all those participating in the planning and delivery of services.

The Authority approved a new Risk Management Policy and Strategy (together with a Strategic Risk Register) at its meeting on 9 February 2005. Training and Awareness sessions have been undertaken by members of the CMT and other senior officers. Training has been provided by external consultants [Public Risk Management (PRM)].

Our standard (committee) report template includes a section reminding originators to carry out a risk assessment (and an equality impact assessment) for the recommendations/proposals.

Note: Further training is to be rolled-out during 2005/06 - 2006/07 to other managers responsible for developing functional and business plans - again using PRM.


Establish and maintain effective systems of internal control to manage perceived risks, safeguard public funds, and ensure compliance with legislation and regulations.

The Authority has in place robust systems of internal control in place and the latest Statement of Internal Control (for 2004/05) - see report to Governance Committee 26 July 2005 - summarises some of the key arrangements that are in place.

Establish and maintain effective systems and processes to ensure that resources are used in an economic, effective and efficient way and deliver best value.

The Authority has been keen to use the Best Value methodology to ensure that key services are provided cost-effectively. In 2004/5 a review of vehicle workshops was completed resulting in a number of recommendations aimed at improving service delivery and management information.

Note: We will be carrying out Best Value Reviews of both our partnership arrangements and our service level agreements with Hampshire County Council in 2005/06; as well continuing to actively participate in the six Regional Management Board work streams.

Ensure that only people with the appropriate skills and experience deliver services and that the necessary training is provided to develop and maintain these skills.

The quality and level of our training is considered to be comprehensive and of a high quality. Systems are in place to alert senior managers when strategic and individual training needs are not being addressed quickly enough.

Note: A new Workforce Strategy will be presented to the Human Resources Committee in 2005/06 and the process of implementing the `Rank to Role' assimilation exercise will help to give further assurance in this area. A revised appraisal system is to be rolled-out to ensure a better fit between corporate and individual performance - and the training and development required to meet and identified needs.

Work in partnership with our external auditors, inspectors and assessors as well as our internal auditors to continually review and improve the standard of internal control systems.

We meet regularly with our external auditors to agree the audit plan for the year ahead. We have sought to encourage greater liaison between our external and internal auditors to ensure that work for the year ahead is better focussed and coordinated.

Note: Following the results of the Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA) a `round table' meeting is to be held to develop an Improvement Plan - this will involve our external auditors and assessors.

Establish and maintain a system of quality control checks to establish the effectiveness of the internal control framework, including maintaining an independent and effective audit function, to ensure that control mechanisms continue to function efficiently.

Senior managers meet regularly with our internal auditors (as well as our external auditors) to plan and review the work programmes and to monitor the quality of the work undertaken. A satisfaction questionnaire is completed at the conclusion of every review.

Provide at least annually an objective assessment of the Authority's strategic risks together with statements of control measures and actions to manage those risks.

A process for reporting the Authority's strategic risks was formally adopted in February 2005. This is set out in the Strategic Risk Register.

Note: The format of the Strategic Risk Register is to be reviewed and simplified during 2005/06 (the revised format will aim to make it easier to understand the control measures being taken and will provide `pointers' to supporting plans and actions contained in other documentation.

Standards of conduct

Our reputation depends entirely on the personal conduct of its members, officers and agents. We believe that good corporate governance is based around the highest levels of professionalism and integrity in conducting the affairs of the Authority in an open and accountable manner. We are committed to ensuring that these high standards are maintained and that all those associated with the Authority demonstrate the leadership and public service commitment for which the Authority is renowned and justly proud.

We will:

Compliance response and/or progress:

Establish and maintain formal codes of conduct for members, officers and agents of the Authority which document the required standard of ethical and professional behaviour expected, put in place measures to ensure compliance with these codes and deal with any incidences where standards of personal behaviour fall below that expected.

The Code of Conduct for Members was considered and approved by the Standards Committee on 30 April 2002; the procedure for investigating and determining complaints against members was approved by the Standards Committee on 19 November 2002.

The Standards Committee has also considered (at its meeting on 28 September 2004) a new code of conduct for local government employees drafted by the ODPM. When finalised, this will be issued to all staff. The Service has in place disciplinary procedures for dealing with incidents of bad conduct or behaviour.

Establish and maintain systems to ensure that members and officers are not unduly influenced by prejudice, bias or any conflict of interest in their dealings with stakeholders or in the decision-making process.

All members are reminded at the start of meetings to declare any personal or prejudicial interest they may have relating to items on the agenda.

The Service maintains a register for officers to record any personal interest, gifts or hospitality they receive that might be perceived as influencing any decisions they are personally involved in.

Establish and maintain easily accessible systems that enable complaints against the Authority, or its members, officers or agents, to be reported, investigated and resolved.

There is a Service Order (SO/2/8/3/6/2) covering the handling of complaints and an on-line complaints form is maintained on our website.

The procedure for investigating and determining complaints against members was approved by the Standards Committee on 19 November 2002.

Establish and maintain accessible arrangements for employees and agents of the Authority to report concerns about inappropriate or fraudulent behaviour with confidence and impunity.

The Service has a (whistle-blowing) policy and procedure for reporting concerns at work (Service Order SO/1/2/2) and this has been communicated to staff and is readily accessible on our website.

HFRA Governance 26 July 2005 - Code of Corporate Governance - progress on compliance, Appendix 1

DH/JMW/14/7/2005