Agenda item

Annual Governance Statement 2022/23

To consider a report from the Interim Monitoring Officer (copy enclosed)


The Audit and Assurance Committee considered a report from the Interim Monitoring Officer which presented the draft Annual Governance Statement 2022/23.


The Council was required to review its corporate governance arrangements annually and normally the review would be completed after the end of the relevant year to ensure that it reflected circumstances up the end of the year.


However, as the County Council would be dissolved on 1 April 2023 a review had been completed prior to the year end to enable the Audit and Assurance Committee to review and comment on the statement prior to 1 April 2023.


The statement would be published alongside the Annual Accounts for 2022/23 in the usual way.  Westmorland and Furness Council would be responsible for approval and publication of both the Annual Governance Statement and the Annual Accounts.  As the statement would be published after the Council had been dissolved this had been reflected in the draft statement.


The governance review reflected the significant impact that local government reorganisation and the transfer of the fire and rescue functions to the new Cumbria Commissioner Fire and Rescue Authority had had on the operation of the Council in 2022/23. A key focus of the current year had been preparing for the economic, effective, efficient and timely transfer to the new authorities of all functions, property rights and liabilities and working with the new authorities to ensure that they had taken all practicable steps to assume full functions on 1 April 2023 and to prepare suitable budgets and plans. 


The review also reflected the findings of His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) independent assessment and report on the effectiveness and efficiency of the Cumbria Fire & Rescue Service which was published on 20 January 2023. 


It was noted that whilst the service received one rating of Inadequate for Efficiency and two Cause for Concern were identified, the inspection took place during a period of significant uncertainty for CFRS and the service was confident that these issues would be addressed.


The review also reflected the findings of the Ofsted and CQC Joint Local Area SEND inspection report which was published on 1 February 2023 and Ofsted’s Children’s Services inspection report which was published on 15 November 2022.  Both inspections found significant progress had been made in a number of areas, although further progress was still required in some areas.  The new unitary authorities would continue to address the areas of weakness identified in these reports. 


Although the Council would cease to exist on 1 April 2023 the importance of maintaining effective governance structures particularly in times of change, and in learning from governance failures that had been identified in statutory and non-statutory reviews and public interest reports into other authorities was recognised as critical.  The knowledge gained from this review of governance in the County Council for the purposes of preparing this statement had been and would continue to be used to input into the development of the governance structures for the two new unitary authorities.


At its meeting on 18 November 2022 members approved the final annual governance statement for 2021/22 but as the publication of the statement was delayed while the accounts were finalised, delegated authority to the Interim Chief Legal Officer and Director of Finance in consultation with the Chair and Vice Chair was agreed to make any changes that may be needed so as to ensure the statement was up to date at time of publication.  


Members noted that no changes had been made to the draft reviewed on 18 November 2022 other than a few minor typographical errors which were discussed at that meeting.


RESOLVED,     that members


(1)     approve the draft Annual Governance Statement of Cumbria County Council for 2022/23.

(2)     note that the Annual Governance Statement for 2022/23 will be published at the same time as the Annual Accounts for 2022/23 and Westmorland and Furness Council will be responsible for approving and publishing both.

(3)     note that no changes have been recommended to the Annual Governance Statement for 2021/22 since the statement approved by the committee on 18 November 2022 and that this will be published alongside the Annual Accounts for 2021/22.


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