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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Executive held on 04/03/2008
CODE OF CORPORATE GOVERNANCE



Summary & Purpose
This report proposes a Code of Corporate Governance for consideration by members.

APPENDIX D
Waverley Borough Council

EXECUTIVE - 4TH MARCH 2008

Title:
CODE OF CORPORATE GOVERNANCE

[Portfolio Holder for Finance: Cllr M H W Band]
[Wards Affected: All]

Summary and purpose:

This report proposes a Code of Corporate Governance for consideration by members.

Environmental implications:

There are no environmental implications arising from this report.

Social / community implications:

Corporate Governance is about the Council being accountable to its diverse communities.

E-Government implications:

The Code of Corporate Governance will be available on the Waverley website.

Resource and legal implications:

There are no resource or legal implications arising from this report.

Introduction

1. The current definition of corporate governance is about how the Council ensures that it is doing the right things in the right way for its communities in a way that is timely, includes all sections of society and is open, honest and accountable. It is a vital part of how the Council ensures that people who live in Waverley have confidence in the way the Council is run and is the foundation of local democratic accountability.

2. Waverley is committed to following the highest standards of conduct and behaviour in the way it takes decisions, in its culture and values and in the ways it engages with and leads its communities. The borough motto of “town and country together” expresses the way the Council wants to lead and unify its diverse communities.
Background to the Code

3. Waverley has based its Code of Corporate Governance (attached as Annexe 1) on national guidance provided by the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy who, together, have produced a framework for delivering good governance in local government.

4. This is the latest of a series of reviews and legislation which have all aimed to improve good practice in local government and increase public confidence in how local government works. This is part of a development in both the private sector, where companies have been implementing the recommendations of the Cadbury Report of 1992 and the public sector where the recommendations made in 1995 by the Nolan Committee on Standards of Conduct in Public Life which have been developing over the last 20 years for local government.

5. Through a whole range of rules, structures and mechanisms, Waverley wants to demonstrate that it is complying with the three underlying principles of good governance which are:-

Openness and inclusivity; Integrity; and Accountability.

6. As part of working towards this, Waverley has drawn up the Code as a written framework, which includes a range of other adopted Council policies and documents, including its constitution and a range of other protocols and strategies which govern both its internal processes and systems, and also its external relationships with the community and with partner organisations. It will be publicised within the Council to Members and Officers, and made widely available to the public to show the standards of governance the Council is aspiring to follow.

Community Leadership

7. The Government has been very keen to encourage councils to look beyond their traditional role, however important, of providing services, to develop into a new role of leading their communities. This role of community leadership is central to the idea of corporate governance and Waverley is committed to focussing on improving the quality of life for its communities, and setting up internal processes and structures which contribute to this.

8. Traditionally, local government has been seen, by some, as being more interested in its internal rules and procedures than its communities. Waverley is working hard to move from this perception of an inward-looking approach to one that identifies and responds to the needs of its community, and then acts using the whole range of its powers, often in partnership with other organisations to improve the quality of life for people living in the borough.

9. This new role of community leadership is the overriding principle to which all Councillors and staff must now be committed.

Democratic Structure

10. Local Government is essentially the level of our democracy which is closest to the people. It is about communities such as Waverley governing themselves by electing representatives, either of political parties or independent members, who are not full-time politicians, but who remain as active members within their communities, while carrying out their role as representatives of their communities as Waverley Councillors.

11. Councillors are democratically accountable to residents of their ward but their overriding duty is to the whole Waverley community. They have a special duty to respond to their constituents' concerns, including those who did not vote for them, and this ward role is a very important part of local democracy. This report will replace with appropriate additions, the current summary of the Constitution.

Governance and Ethical Standards

12. The Council has appointed two Committees to help with the role of improving its Corporate Governance; the Standards Committee and the Audit Committee.

13. Currently the Standards Committee is responsible for maintaining and advising the Council on the highest ethical standards. It consists of Waverley Councillors, Town and Parish Councillors and Independent Members. The Chairman is an Independent Member. Shortly it will be given the responsibility for carrying out investigations into complaints by members of the wider community or by other Councillors about the conduct of an individual member of Council.

14. The Audit Committee's role is to ensure that robust systems and procedures are in place to maintain high standards by the Council and its officers to ensure the highest level of financial probity.

15. The Council has adopted a range of codes and protocols, including a Code of Conduct for Councillors, a similar code for members of staff and a member-officer protocol which sets out ground rules for establishing a constructive and fruitful working relationship between elected Councillors and the Council staff.

Approval of the Code

16. The Terms of Reference for the Audit Committee give it responsibility for considering the Council’s arrangements for corporate governance and agreeing necessary actions to ensure compliance with best practice. The Executive is being asked to consider the Code before referring it to the Audit Committee for consideration and recommendation to the Council for adoption.

Turning the Code into Action

17. Waverley has had a cross-department senior officer working group focussing on the Council’s governance arrangements for a few years now. This group maps Waverley’s arrangements to the best practice framework and identifies any gaps. This work has, in recent years, been summarised in the annual ‘Statement on Internal Control’. The ‘Annual Governance Statement’ has now replaced this statement. The production of this statement is required by regulation and must be approved by the Council and published in the Statement of Accounts.

18. The officer group is currently undertaking its gap analysis against the new draft Code and this will be included in the Annual Governance Statement for 2007-08 that will be considered by the Audit Committee in June, before being approved by the Council. The officer group monitors progress against the action plan periodically and reports mid-year to the Audit Committee. The Audit Commission considers Waverley’s governance arrangements as part of its annual Use of Resources assessment.

Recommendation

The Executive is asked to consider the Code and draw any particular issues/concerns to the attention of the Audit Committee when considering the Code at its next meeting.

Background Papers (DoR)

There are no background papers (as defined by Section 100D(5) of the Local Government Act 1972) relating to this report.

CONTACT OFFICERS:

Name: Graeme Clark Telephone: 01483 523236
E-mail: grclark@waverley.gov.uk

Name: Robin Pellow Telephone: 01483 523222
E-mail: rpellow@waverley.gov.uk



Comms/exec/2007-08/256