Agenda and minutes

Lewes District Council Audit and Standards Committee
Monday, 21st January, 2019 10.00 am

Venue: Ditchling Room - Southover House, Lewes. View directions

Contact: Committee Services on 01273 471600 

No. Item


Minutes pdf icon PDF 80 KB

To confirm and sign the minutes of the previous meeting held on 19 November 2018 (attached herewith).



The minutes of the meeting held on 19 November 2018 were submitted and approved, and the Chair was authorised to sign them as a correct record.



Apologies for absence/declaration of substitute members


There were none.


Declarations of interest

Disclosure by councillors of personal interests in matters on the agenda, the nature of any interest and whether the councillor regards the interest as prejudicial under the terms of the Code of Conduct.


There were none.


Internet and Social Media Research and Investigations Policy and Procedure pdf icon PDF 220 KB

Report of Assistant Director of Legal and Democratic Services

Additional documents:


The Committee received the report of the Assistant Director of Legal and Democratic Services which sought the approval of the Council’s draft policy on conducting internet and social media research and investigations, and authority for creating and issuing an associated procedure.


The RIPA (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000) Monitoring Officer (MO) highlighted that the report was a follow-up to a previous report that the Committee received 2 years prior, at which time the Committee approved the Council’s policy on carrying out covert surveillance. The follow-up report detailed a stand-alone policy which specifically dealt with online covert activity. The RIPA MO highlighted that the need for the new policy had arisen from customers’ widespread use of the internet and social media sites for business or personal use, which could be a useful source of information for officers engaged in research and investigation connected to revenue collection, regulatory or counter-fraud work.


The RIPA MO clarified that the vast majority of the Council’s use of internet did not interfere with people’s privacy and the type of activity did not need authorisation under RIPA. The new policy stated that if the nature of online activity amounted to ‘directed surveillance’, it must be done in accordance with RIPA.


The Committee had several questions for the RIPA MO in respect of the report, which included:


·         Whether or not the Internet and Social Media Research and Investigations Procedure could, once written, be shown to the Committee in the form of confidential papers. The RIPA MO understood the Committee’s interest in the document but advised that he would first need to consult with the Head of Audit and Counter Fraud as to how much of the procedure it would be appropriate  to make available to the Committee  and in what way, given the sensitivity of the techniques set out. The RIPA MO said the external training course he was attending on 25 January 2019 was on this very topic, which should enable him to report back to Committee in the appropriated manner;

·         Which officer/s were allowed to authorise   internet or social media research and/or investigative work when this involved directed surveillance. The RIPA MO responded that the overarching policy stipulated that the Council would not use covert surveillance unless it was a last resort, and that the majority of surveillance would be carried out on open source material that any member of the public could access; but that if the research or investigation did constitute directed surveillance, the procedure document would include the authorisation process. Managers would need to alert the RIPA MO, who would then refer it to one of the Council’s RIPA authorising officers for evaluation and a decision; and

·         The Chair requested that a further report come to Committee which gave more detail on the Council’s use of online covert surveillance and the procedural document mentioned above.


1.    That Lewes District Council’s Internet and Social Media Research and Investigations Policy as set out in draft in Appendix 1 be approved; and

2.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 40.


Written questions from councillors

To deal with written questions from councillors pursuant to Council Procedure Rule 12.3 (page D8 of the Constitution).


There were none.


Interim Report on the Council’s Systems of Internal Control 2018/19 pdf icon PDF 208 KB

Report of Head of Audit and Counter Fraud


The Committee received the report which informed councillors on the adequacy and effectiveness of the Council’s systems of internal control during the first nine months of 2018/2019, and which summarised the work on which that opinion was based.


The Head of Audit and Counter Fraud (HACF) referenced the large amount of work that had been completed on the housing benefit subsidy claim 2016/2017 which was submitted the last week of September 2018. He informed the Committee that Audit and Counter Fraud team had started work on the 2017/2018 subsidy claim and that testing was underway for both Lewes District and Eastbourne Borough Councils.


The Committee referred to section 3.1 of the report and queried if the actual audit days from the previous year could be included in future reports, so the figures were easier to compare from year to year. The HACF agreed that he would provide the information in future reports.


The Committee asked the HACF to expand upon the term satisfactory in relation to the overall standards of internal control as mentioned in the officer recommendations. The HACF clarified that the term satisfactory when used in an accountancy context meant reasonable.


The Committee queried whether or not guidance on how to fill out the Members Register of Interest form was provided to newly elected councillors. The Committee Officer confirmed that guidance was provided to newly elected councillors.




That the overall standards of internal control were generally satisfactory during the first nine months of 2018/19, as detailed in section 2 of the report.



Statement of Accounts 2017/18

Verbal update by Head of Finance


The Head of Finance provided a verbal update in relation to the Statement of Accounts 2017/18.


The Head of Finance informed the Committee that the District Valuer had completed the review of accounts on 14 January 2019, with the Chair re-signing the letter of representation on 14 January and the Head of Finance on 16 January. The Statement of Accounts was signed off on 16 January 2019, with no changes to the Statement of Accounts the Committee had approved in September 2018.


The Head of Finance explained that the accounts were 3 million underneath the materiality level, but the accounts would not be adjusted to reflect this. She clarified changes to the valuation did not affect the Council’s bottom line and it bared no significance to the Council’s financial position.


The accounts were signed off and had been handed over to the Council’s new external auditors for the 2018/2019 interim audit.


Per BDO’s requirements an updated governance report had been distributed to the Committee prior to the meeting. The Head of Finance clarified that the report did not have to be approved by the Committee but that it had been distributed to Members for information purposes only. The Committee had several questions in relation to the report, all of which were answered by the Head of Finance during the discussion.




That the verbal update on the Statement of Accounts 2017/18 be noted.


Treasury Management pdf icon PDF 249 KB

Report of Chief Finance Officer


The Committee considered the report which presented details of recent Treasury Management activity between 1 November 2018 and 31 December 2018.




That it be confirmed to Cabinet that Treasury Management activity from 1 November 2018 to 31 December 2018 has been in accordance with the approved Treasury Strategy for the period, as set out in the report.



Date of next meeting

To note that the next meeting of the Audit and Standards Committee is scheduled to be held on Monday, 18 March 2019, in the Ditchling Room, Southover House, Southover Road, Lewes, BN7 1AB, commencing at 10.00am.




That the next meeting of the Audit and Standards Committee that is scheduled to be held on Monday, 19 March 2019 in the Ditchling Room, Southover House, Southover Road, Lewes, BN7 1AB, commencing at 10:00am, be noted.