Agenda and minutes

Venue: Council Chamber - Municipal Offices

Contact: Democratic Services 


No. Item




There were none.


Declarations of interest


Councillor McCloskey put on record his position as a non-executive director of Publica, in view of Publica being listed as a significant risk in the Risk Register (Agenda item 6).




Minutes of the last meeting pdf icon PDF 315 KB

To consider the minutes of the last meeting, 26 September 2023


The Chair highlighted several minor typographical errors.  The minutes were otherwise approved as a true record, and signed accordingly.


Public and Member Questions pdf icon PDF 454 KB

These must be received no later than 12 noon on the seventh working day before the date of the meeting


Two Member questions were received.  The written responses were taken as read:


1.            Question from Councillor David Willingham to the Chair, Councillor Adrian Bamford

Could the Chair please advise in the calendar year 2023, how many planning applications were processed by the borough council where due to viability issues, less affordable housing than required by JCS policy SD12, was provided?



Policy SD12 of the Joint Core Strategy requires developers to provide 40% affordable housing on sites where 11 homes or more are proposed.  In Cheltenham the number of applications received each year seeking consent for 11 or more homes is very low and therefore the number of affordable housing applicable schemes is also very low. 

In the calendar year 2023, the council determined one affordable housing applicable planning application; that application (at Elms Park, Tewkesbury Road) provides for a policy compliant level of affordable housing. No applications were granted in 2023 with a sub-policy affordable housing offer.

These numbers relate to the number of applications processed (i.e. determined) in 2023 (as requested) not the number of planning applications currently in the system.  There are a number of live applications currently being scrutinised by the Planning team where viability issues in respect of affordable housing provision is being argued; these negotiations are yet to be concluded in many case

2.            Question from Councillor David Willingham to the Chair, Councillor Adrian Bamford

Could the Chair please advise for the same period how many of those planning applications detailed above had the viability assessment published on Public Access for consultation before the application was determined, as required by JCS policy SD12?


As no applications were determined in 2023 with a sub-policy affordable housing offer, no viability appraisals have been submitted or therefore published on the council’s website during that period.


Councillor Willingham said he still had concerns about this, which he would raise when discussing the internal audit progress report and/or work programme later in the meeting, with the request that internal audit look into the matter. 




Progress Report and Sector Update pdf icon PDF 3 MB

Report of Grant Thornton, external auditor


Peter Barber of Grant Thornton introduced himself as the appointed auditor for 2022-23, having taken over from Alex Walling, the appointed auditor for 2021-22.  He highlighted the following points:

-       having undertaken supplementary work on group accounts, including the airport, and further work around property, plant and equipment and council dwellings evaluations, CBC’s 2021-22 financial statements were given a ‘clean’ unqualified opinion on 03 October and signed off by the external auditors;

-       public sector auditors have a secondary responsibility to issue a value for money (VFM) conclusion on the council’s arrangements, looking at three areas defined by the National Audit Officer;

-       financial sustainability – balancing budgets in medium term, delivering to budget, budget monitoring;

-       governance – the committee and internal audit play a vital role in ensuring the council’s decisions are based on complete, timely and accurate information;

-       economy, efficiency and effectiveness – ensuring that CBC is delivering services in the most effective way; 

-        Grant Thornton and CBC officers have agreed that the VFM work for both 2021-22 and 2022-23 will be combined in a single report; this is progressing well; the draft report should be ready by week commencing 12 February, with the final version brought to the next meeting, completing the VFM responsibility for both years;

-        this just leaves the 2022-23 financial statements, and as Members are aware, wide sector challenges have resulted in significant backlogs throughout the country.  The government has explored a number of solutions and, subject to final confirmation, has indicated that all audits not complete by the end of September a backstop will be set for 2022-23 and prior years;

-        Grant Thornton and CBC’s finance team agree that, due to a number of challenges and pressures, the 2022-23 audit cannot be completed by the end of September, and that, subject to final confirmation about the actual backstop date, CBC’s 2022-23 statement of accounts (issued by CBC on 31 May 2023) will be signed off by Grant Thornton with a disclaimer, the nature of which will depend on how far work has progressed at that time;  

-        this will allow the new auditors, Bishop Flemming, to make an early start on the 2023-24 accounts, recognising that further audit work to confirm the opening balances will be required – 2023-24 accounts to be complete by the end of May, with the auditors’ accounts signed off by the end of September.


 In response to Members’ questions, PB confirmed that:

-       Grant Thornton will conclude the VFM work on the 2022-23 accounts in the next few weeks, to share with Members at the next meeting; 

-       regarding audit fees and coverage if the accounts are disclaimed, Grant Thornton has made limited progress on the 2022-23 audit so far, and discussions are underway on behalf of CBC and other councils to determine what ramifications the disclaimer has on its fee.  A lot of audit time and officer time has already been incurred, and a judgement will need to be made as to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Corporate Risk Register pdf icon PDF 235 KB

Report of Ann Wolstencroft, Head of Performance, Projects and Risk

Additional documents:


The Executive Director for Finance and Assets introduced the item on behalf of the Head of Performance, Projects and Risk, saying acronyms had been removed, as requested, and giving further information about the council’s two highest risks:

-       the MX development is near conclusion but the developer is still experiencing workforce shortages which could potentially disrupt the completion of the groundwork, in turn causing budgetary pressures as a result of the requirement to keep both resources and welfare facilities on site until completion;

-       at the moment, the council is meeting the developers frequently, recalculating the programme, and retaining a level of focus and scrutiny on the risk.  An update will potentially be taken to March Council, with details of the expected completion and opening dates;

-       regarding Publica, its IT and the security of its systems is essential to business operations, and there are concerns about the stability of the service and whether Publica has the ability to recruit and retain the specific skills required.  Publica has reacted to this risk, appointed an interim MD and Programme Director, and assurance has been provided by its IT contact.  This risk will probably be reviewed and hopefully reduced in February, but the need to focus on this essential service is highlighted for the committee.


A Member asked that the grid presenting various levels of impact and probability be reinstated in the report in future as it is useful for reference, showing whether the risk is higher or lower than reported at the previous meeting.  The Executive Director for Finance and Assets confirmed that Level 5 represents a high risk, with a probability greater than 90%; risk scoring tries to quantify the probability of something happening without intervention, and identify where it is critical that the council puts mitigation and control measures in place to bring the scores down.  The Chair felt this would be helpful, and that the committee considers the higher risks at each meeting and receives assurance that these measures are in place – in particular for the MX project.  He also noted that several review dates had passed.


The Executive Director for Finance and Assets agreed that MX is the council’s biggest risk, and confirmed that the project steering group scrutinises its progress at every stage.


A Member raised the issue of the developing business continuity and corporate recovery plans, and suggested that a rigorous test exercise should be added to the plan to make sure everything works effectively in a role-playing scenario.  The Executive Director for Finance and Assets confirmed that a number of council officers undertake training in this area, which involves practical scenario testing, including sessions at Gloucestershire Airport and Waterwells. A lot of lessons are learnt from these exercises.   The Member suggested that this training should be included in the risk register, as it reduces and mitigates risks.


The Chair suggested that, while the table is useful, officers can’t be expected to respond fully on every item at every meeting; going forward, the committee  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.


Internal Audit Progress Report pdf icon PDF 531 KB

Report of Lucy Cater, Assistant Director, SWAP Internal Audit Services


Additional documents:


The Principal Auditor confirmed that since the last meeting, six audits had been finalised – four with substantial and two with reasonable assurances.


Members raised the following issues:

-       implementation of the planning enforcement agreed action has been put back several times since 2021; if there is no progress by May 2024, the senior officer or director should be invited to a meeting to explain what is happening with the service.  Planning enforcement vexes constituents across the town, has an impact and carries risk when it isn’t working – a discussion about progress would be useful.  There are a number of other out-of-date enforcement items which should be addressed;

-       the Executive Director for Finance and Assets confirmed that internal audit must be taken seriously, and that the internal corporate governance group meets regularly to go through the actions, making it clear to officers that if the recommendations are not implemented, officers could be called to attend an audit, compliance and governance meeting to explain why the timescale has slipped without resolution;

-       it would be useful to know the key performance indicators (KPIs) for planning to understand what is being measured and to inform any discussion of backlogs and resourcing; if they aren’t working, it should be reported to this committee, even though Planning Committee has discussed enforcement on a number of occasions and is aware of the distinct lack of resources. It would be helpful to invite the newly-appointed Head of Planning to a future meeting;

-       it is good to note that all the items on the Priority 1 list have been cleared.


No vote was required for this item.


Work Programme pdf icon PDF 303 KB

To consider agenda items for future meetings


The Chair noted that, in view of this evening’s light agenda, there would be a lot to consider at the April meeting, and suggested an extraordinary committee before then to consider the VFM report and 2022-23 statement of accounts.  It was agreed that this should be scheduled for the second half of March.


A Member, following up on Agenda Item 4, asked that internal audit look into the matter of JCS Policy SD12 and affordable housing.  He said developers are not complying with this policy which requires a certain level of affordable housing for all development over a certain size, unless the development is not viable.  Viability assessments should be available to the public but there are several recent cases where they have not been, depriving the public of the opportunity to properly scrutinise the figures.  It was the view of this Member that developers don’t want the figures published as they show how much profit they are making.  The question arises as to whether the council is following its own policy guidance correctly and if not, what can be done to change this.  This falls within the remit of this committee, and it is important to get it right.


The Chair agreed that it would be useful to ask planners to do a report with specific examples, and ask for an internal audit to ensure that these policies are being complied with.    




Any other item the chairman determines to be urgent and requires a decision


There was none.


Date of next meeting


The next meeting is scheduled for 17 April 2024.