Agenda item

Culture & Ethics

Interim Corporate Director Finance and Resources


Shail Shah, Head of Audit and Risk, introduced the report focusing on the Culture and Ethics within the council, particularly issues raised within the Non-Statutory Review and the Report in the Public Interest. Richard Henderson, Director of HR and Equalities, Diversity and Inclusion provided additional information. They highlighted the following points:


(a)  An audit of culture and ethics within a local authority has been challenging to complete. The audit programme was developed  using guidance from the Chartered Institute of Internal Auditors and Grant Thornton Best Practice Toolkit;


(b)  Culture is a key workstream within the Recovery and Improvement plan and progress is being reviewed by the Recovery and Improvement Board;


(c)  Much of the work on culture in this report is looking backward at where the Council was, as highlighted within the Non Statutory Review and the Report in the Public Interest because fieldwork was undertaken in February and March and the Culture workstream had only just been established;


(d)  HR colleagues are playing a lead role in the review of culture and ethics. A number of different projects have been taking place to assess and review culture and ethics within the Authority;


(e)  A series of interviews of Council Staff from all levels within the structure has taken place establishing a sense of how each individual feels they fit within the organisation, their role in decision making and accountability.


(f)  A culture mapping exercise took place, based on the Goffee and Jones model, starting with an organisation wide questionnaire, focus groups and direct feedback from colleagues about how it feels to be part of the Authority and how colleagues view culture. One of the most striking points from this exercise was that colleagues felt the current appraisal process was a tick box exercise that failed to develop them;


(g)  A new appraisal processes has been developed and is being rolled out, initially to SLMG staff in June and then wider roll out over the summer. This will help to draw the Council Plan down into Departmental Plans and to individuals appraisal allows a sense that each individual has a part to play in achieving the goals of the Council;


Following discussion prompted by questions and comments from Committee members the following points were highlighted:


(h)  Measurement of improvements in Culture and Ethics can be difficult, however in the plan set out there are concrete deliverable actions that will show progress is being made. These include the roll-out of the new appraisal process, the rewrite of the constitution and its implementation, as well as compliance with other governance factors;


(i)  There are targets set for all managers to ensure that culture change continues to move in the right direction, particularly around behaviour management for managers to ensure equality in leadership across the authority;


(j)  It is likely that work on culture change will be ongoing for the long term. Wigan Council started a programme which is still ongoing 10 years from its start, however big steps have already taken place in Nottingham City Council, and the Recovery and Improvement Board will oversee the initial work over the next 3 years;


(k)  Committee members felt that this was a good and accurate report, but missed out the failure of senior officers to enact checks and balances and felt that it could have been more explicit in this. Concerns were expressed about the lack of a warning mechanism step before a Section 114 notice is issued, as a weakness in the Local Government framework;


(l)  Some Committee members felt the report did not go far enough, and that it is still unclear to Members who were not involved what went wrong, and that it is not possible to correct problems until they are fully understood;


(m)Concerns were voiced that not all elected members are trained enough on corporate governance, and that the collective responsibility of a Committee System style of Council offered better transparency;


(n)  The voluntary sector is specifically mentioned in paragraph 1.7 of the appendix, this is not due to any specific concerns or additional risk, but as an example of the type of work completed;


(o)  The rewrite of the constitution aims to simplify and fortify the decision making process re-establishing boundaries between members, officers and their separate roles. The rewrite process is very near completion and should be ready for approval by the July deadline. It is planned that there is then a roll out period with training for officers and members as it is in embedded;


(p)  Where limited assurance Internal Audit reports have been listed in the past, Committee members have picked some for further scrutiny and asked that the relevant management come to a later meeting for a closer examination. When time on the agenda allows for it this will be reinstated;


Committee members felt that a regular review of this item should come to the committee and felt that initially a 6 month review would be suitable.


Resolved to

(1)   require the findings of this report be used: 

a.  As a framework  for monitoring progress in rectifying the failures highlighted, particularly in paragraph 1.5 and 1.7 of the published appendix

b.  As a basis for training and information to support the necessary change in culture


Refer the report to both the Chairs of the Standards Committee and Overview and Scrutiny Committee and to Executive Panel to consider further action.

Supporting documents: