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Agenda item

Corporate Risk Register

To consider the risks contained within the Corporate Risk Register and assurance that the risks are being effectively managed.

Minutes:

9.1             The report of the Head of Corporate Services, circulated at Pages No. 119-140, asked Members to consider the risks contained within the corporate risk register and assurance that the risks were being effectively managed.

9.2             Members were advised that the corporate risk register was a high-level tool which helped management to consider what the corporate risks were and how they were being managed and it was brought to each meeting of the Audit and Governance Committee.  The key updates arising since the register was last presented were set out in the table at Pages No. 121-122, Paragraph 3.1 of the report.  It was noted that financial stability remained a key risk and was likely to continue to be for the foreseeable future given the uncertainty moving forward.  In terms of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), good progress was being made on the new action plan including staff training, a comprehensive communications plan, and development of a draft mailbox usage policy and a report on the adequacy of the Council’s GDPR arrangements would be brought to the Audit and Governance Committee in December 2021.  The Head of Corporate Services explained that Reference 7. Waste Service, which related to the risk in respect of effectiveness of service delivery, was now fairly low risk and could potentially be removed; the Head of Community Services had a full team in place and contract monitoring had improved dramatically over the last few years.  A new risk around carbon neutrality had been added to the corporate risk register by the Head of Finance and Asset Management to acknowledge the challenge of achieving the wider county ambition.  The carbon reduction action plan had recently been presented to the Executive and Overview and Scrutiny Committees and had been well received in terms of the progress made to date.  There was a lot more work to be done than had initially been realised so a recommendation for a new Carbon Reduction Programme Officer post had been accepted by the Executive Committee and would now go forward as a recommendation to Council.  In terms of scanning the horizon for potential risks, the recent Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) consultation on the consistency of waste collections had been highlighted.  The consultation contained several proposals but the most concerning, which would potentially be effective from the 2023/24 financial year, was the requirement for local authorities to remove fees for garden waste collection – Tewkesbury Borough Council had collected £990,000 in garden waste this year so that would be a significant loss.  There were also potential changes to the way recyclate was collected with Tewkesbury Borough Council’s current comingled collections not being the favoured option put forward by DEFRA; that would have massive implications in terms of new vehicles, new containers and reconfiguring rounds.

9.3             A Member indicated that responsibility for maintaining grass verges continued to be a huge problem due to the variety of different owners which included Tewkesbury Borough Council, Gloucestershire County Council, Parish and Town Councils as well as private owners – she was sure she was not the only Member who received numerous queries about this from members of the public.  Grass cutting was only one example of an issue where expectations needed to be managed so she suggested that was something which could potentially be included in the corporate risk register.  The Borough Solicitor explained that, whilst grass cutting in itself was not a matter for the Audit and Governance Committee, the Member was asking for a general resource risk which identified the limitation on the Council’s functions and resource.  She undertook to give this some thought outside of the meeting and consider whether it was a matter which should appropriately be addressed via the risk register or by other means.  The Head of Corporate Services advised that the Property Team received a lot of reports about matters which were not Tewkesbury Borough Council’s responsibility and the Digital Team was currently working on a project so that, when customers wanted to report a problem, it would be possible to hone into the relevant area on a map and, if it was not Tewkesbury Borough Council property or land, it would flag up the relevant body – this would ensure customers were directed to the right place.

9.4             A Member drew attention to Page No. 124 of the report which stated “Business rates is a volatile income stream as a result of successful appeals.  In addition, a planned move to a 75% retention scheme has been delayed for a year and there is a lack of details around the new scheme.  The General Election also comment being made about the future of business rates as a suitable tax for business” and she asked for clarification on this.  In response, the Finance Manager explained that there was currently a 50% retention scheme for business rates but a 75% scheme was being discussed which would mean more money but it was a risk as this had been delayed and may not happen.  The point the statement was trying to convey was that, during the election period, the government had acknowledged this was not a suitable tax for businesses as it did not take account of online businesses. 

9.5             A Member drew attention to Page No. 135 of the report, Risk Reference 12 in relation to Brexit, and asked for an update on the consequences of Brexit, for instance, the lorry driver shortage and the lack of agricultural workers from European countries resulting in food shortages in supermarkets.  The Head of Community Services undertook to discuss the risks with the Local Resilience Forum and provide an update following the meeting.  The Member also asked for more detail in relation to the risk around the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) operator being unable to fulfil the contract, included as part of Risk Reference 7, and the Head of Community Services confirmed he would circulate this.  With regard to Page No. 139 of the report, Risk Reference 16 and the risk around the climate change motion and the countywide carbon neutrality aims, a Member raised concern this all related to costs, there was nothing about the risks associated with not reducing carbon emissions.  A brief debate and it was observed that carbon reduction had been identified as a risk and that was an economic one recognising the potential financial impact upon the Council to deliver the necessary reduction but there was nothing to suggest it was not actually going to reduce it.

9.6             With regard to the proposals in the DEFRA consultation, a Member felt it was worth pointing out that recycling tended to reduce with incineration and there was evidence that better quality recyclate was achieved when residents were asked to separate waste.  This ultimately came down to education - residents were keen to recycle things they believed were recyclable when the reality was that, for a number of reasons, not all materials could be recycled even when they were technically capable of that.  In order to help with this, she asked whether a presentation could be created to be used by schools and businesses.  The Chair noted the request but clarified that it was not a matter for the Audit and Governance Committee.  In response to a Member query, confirmation was provided that the DEFRA consultation had closed.  The Member presumed that the changes proposed would have a huge impact to the Council, both financially and operationally, and the Head of Community Services indicated that the costs were difficult to quantify but would be significant in terms of capital and revenue.  The government had talked about new burdens funding but that tended to disappear a few years after it was allocated.  He felt the government had been short-sighted as it wanted items to be recycled but there was not necessarily a market for that, for example, plastic film.  Whilst he agreed manufacturers should be required to take back materials for recycling, that would mean there was less good quality recyclate in the Council’s waste streams which would subsequently reduce income to the authority.  Separate collections would require additional vehicles and crews and the Swindon Road depot was currently at absolute capacity so an alternative site would need to be identified very swiftly; that work was already underway but it was a four to five year project.  If the government went ahead with the proposals, the Council would have no option but to make the changes so it was important to be prepared for that.  The earlier point made about the driver shortage was significant as there was a real possibility that some of the Council’s waste services would have to be suspended within the next month to six weeks and a business continuity plan was being discussed with Ubico.  The least impactful service to suspend would be garden waste but, unfortunately, that would mean a loss of income to the authority.  The Chair indicated that Gloucestershire County Council was carrying out training for drivers so Tewkesbury Borough Council may be able to take advantage of that and the Head of Community Services advised that Ubico had been training drivers over the last 18 months but, due to the pandemic, there was a backlog at testing stations.

9.7             Having considered the information provided, it was

RESOLVED          That the risks and mitigating controls within the corporate risk register be NOTED.

Supporting documents: