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Declarations of Interest
To provide an opportunity for Members and Officers to declare any personal and/or prejudicial interests in any item on the agenda
There were no declarations of interest.
To approve the minutes of the meeting held on 27th March 2012.
That the minutes of the meeting of 27th March 2012 be approved as a correct record.
Public Speaking Time/Open Session
In accordance with Procedure Rules Nos.11 and 35 a period of 10 minutes is allocated for members of the public to address the meeting on any matter relevant to the work of the meeting. Individual members of the public may speak for up to 5 minutes but the Chairman or person presiding will decide how the period of time allocated for public speaking will be apportioned where there are a number of speakers. Members of the public are not required to give notice to use this facility. However, as a matter of courtesy, a period of 24 hours’ notice is encouraged.
Members of the public wishing to ask a question at the meeting should provide at least three clear working days’ notice in writing and should include the question with that notice. This will enable an informed answer to be given.
The Chairman welcomed everyone to the special meeting of the Audit and Governance Committee which was being held in the Lyme Green area to demonstrate the Council’s commitment to dealing with the matter in an open and transparent way and to enable local people to attend and address the meeting. All of the papers for consideration by Members had been made available as public documents. Before inviting members of the public to speak, the Chairman emphasised that it was not the role of the Committee to consider the planning merits of the Lyme Green site, nor to consider any disciplinary issues. These matters would be dealt with by other bodies as appropriate. The Committee’s role was to consider whether the Council’s controls, procedures or policies had been compromised and, if so, what action was required to prevent a recurrence.
Mr Peter Yates addressed the Committee on behalf of the Lyme Green Residents’ Group. He commented that the report to be considered by the Committee relating to a waste transfer site at Lyme Green dealt with processes whereas it was the individual officers associated with the scheme who were at fault. He quoted from the report instances where he said that officers took decisions and actions without having regard to the relevant procedures or required authorisations, stating that such actions were taken deliberately in full knowledge that relevant procedural requirements were not being met. On behalf of the Residents’ Group. Mr Yates sought assurances that the site at Lyme Green would not be developed as a waste transfer site. He went on to express surprise that no one had raised the matter under the Council’s whistle-blowing policy and concluded that officers had been afraid to act.
Mrs Christine Eyre, parish councillor for the Lyme Green ward of Sutton Parish Council and speaking on behalf of the Parish Council, welcomed the content of the Audit Report which she said supported and justified the representations made against perceived inappropriate, possibly illegal, practices associated with the provision of a Waste Transfer Station at Lyme Green Highway Depot. She went on to say that the serious failings by senior officers identified in the Internal Audit report were not system or procedure-orientated but appeared to represent a culture of blatant abuse of office and irresponsibility within Cheshire East Council executed in a deliberate calculated manner to fast track a project. She felt that strengthening administrative systems and procedures would not address the perceived cavalier approach demonstrated by officers. Mrs Eyre went on to say that there were two areas of concern which did not appear to have been addressed within the report, namely, the process by which identification and viability appraisal of alternative sites was undertaken; and the failure of the Planning Department to institute enforcement action when the initial representations were made by Sutton Parish Council. She urged the Committee to make recommendations in this regard. She also urged that any review of staff conduct be undertaken urgently.
The officers were asked to ... view the full minutes text for item 3.
A review has been undertaken of the Council’s proposal to build a waste transfer station at Lyme Green Depot, Macclesfield. The report details the review’s findings, recommendations and proposed management actions.
The Audit and Governance Committee on 31st January 2012 had resolved that:
“a thorough and robust investigation of all issues surrounding the expenditure incurred on the proposed waste transfer station at Lyme Green be added to the work plan; in particular to identify any governance issues and whether all financial and contractual regulations have been complied with.”
At its meeting on 27th March, 2012 the Committee had further resolved that a special meeting be held to consider the outcome of the investigation.
Lorraine Butcher, Strategic Director for Children, Families and Adults, had been appointed in March to complete a review, commissioned by the Chief Executive and Leader, of the Council’s proposal to build a waste transfer station at Lyme Green Depot, Macclesfield. The Committee had before it the report of the Strategic Director, together with a detailed Internal Audit report.
The Strategic Director’s report began by setting out what had happened, and was supported by detailed timelines and the analysis undertaken by Internal Audit. From the analysis it was evident that a project group had been tasked with providing a new waste transfer site at Lyme Green and that towards the end of 2011, while risks were being identified, and even though the timetable involved was compressed, the development commenced without planning permission. Work ceased following objections and complaints from local residents and the local ward Member. The approved capital budget for the scheme had been £650,000, although the value of the works based on feasibility costs was approximately £1,500,000. As at mid-May 2012, total anticipated spend for the Lyme Green Scheme stood at approximately £810,000.
The Internal Audit report considered management’s compliance with established policies, procedures, laws and regulations, particularly with regard to the use of assets and resources entrusted to it. The review had aimed to establish whether controls, procedures or policies had been compromised and to identify the steps that needed to be taken to prevent a recurrence.
The key findings of the review as set out in the report were that:
1. development work had commenced on the project in advance of the appropriate planning permissions;
2. on the face of the evidence, the Council had not complied with EU procurement Regulations;
3. despite the cost of the project rising significantly above the budget approved by Council, a revised Business Case had never been submitted to the Capital Asset Group and expenditure had been committed without a virement or supplementary capital estimate being approved by Cabinet; and
4. Management had breached Finance and Contract Procedure Rules relating to Managing Expenditure and Capital Monitoring and Amendments to the Capital Programme. Capital expenditure had been approved without fully understanding whether building a Waste Service Transfer Station was the most suitable option, or whether the proposed scheme was viable, affordable and achievable.
The detailed findings and recommended actions arising from the review were set out in Appendix 2 to the Internal Audit report. It was evident that a number of key processes would need to be strengthened ... view the full minutes text for item 4.