Irvine, 29 September 2004 - At a meeting of the Audit and Standards Committee of North Ayrshire Council at 2.00 p.m.
Drew Duncan, Ian Clarkson, Jean Highgate, Peter McNamara, Margaret Munn and Robert Rae.
I. Snodgrass, Chief Executive; A Herbert, Assistant Chief Executive and D. Nibloe, Chief Accountant (Finance); I. T. Mackay, Assistant Chief Executive (Legal and Protective); B. Burns, Manager (Resources) (Social Services); S. Good, Divisional Manager (Housing) (Property Services); and A. Osborne and M. McKeown, Corporate and Democratic Support Officers (Chief Executive's).
Also In Attendance
G. Jack and R. Brown, PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP.
Councillor Duncan in the Chair.
Apologies for Absence
Gordon Clarkson, Tom Barr and Richard Wilkinson.
The Minutes of the Meeting of the Committee held on 12 May 2004, copies of which had previously been circulated, were confirmed.
2. Annual Accounts 2003/04 - Auditors' Report
Submitted report by the Assistant Chief Executive (Finance) on the report by the Council's Auditors, PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP, on the outcome of the audit of the annual accounts for 2003/04.
In terms of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP are required at the conclusion of their annual audit of the Council's accounts, to certify the accounts in such form as the Accounts Commission may direct, and to report to Members on any significant matters arising from the audit.
The external auditors' report on the audit of the 2003/04 accounts has been issued to all Members of the Council. Representatives from PriceWaterhouseCoopers were in attendance at the meeting and presented the report to the Committee. Overall the auditors are satisfied that the accounts present fairly the financial position of the Council as at 31 March 2004, and its income and expenditure and cash flows for the year then ended. An action plan has been prepared which sets out the measures planned by the Council's management to address issues arising from the audit process. The certified finalised accounts for 2003/04 will be presented to the meeting of the Council on 5 October 2004.
3. Following the Public Pound: Monitoring Reports
3.1 North Ayrshire Citizens Advice Service
Councillors Clarkson and McNamara declared an interest in the following item of business.
Submitted report by Corporate Director (Social Services) on the utilisation of funds awarded by the Council to the North Ayrshire Citizens Advice Service (NACAS) during 2003/04, and on the arrangements in place within the Council to monitor the organisation's performance.
NACAS was established in April 1998 to provide consumer advice to citizens of North Ayrshire, principally in relation to debt advice and consumer support. The Service has established a network of trained staff, employees and volunteers, to provide and assist on these matters, and operates from offices in the Irvine, Saltcoats, Largs, Kilbirnie and Arran areas. The Service works in partnership with services within the Council, including Welfare Rights and Trading Standards, with Job Centres and Benefit Agencies, and with Citizens Advice Scotland.
North Ayrshire Council is the main funder of the Advice Service. The relationship between the Council and the Advice Service is set out in a Service Level Agreement (SLA), which requires the Service to report to the Council on activity in the following areas on a quarterly basis:
Development and Planning Activities
Volume of work and impact of service provided
Accessibility of Service
Training and Development
Collaboration and Referrals
Management and Staffing
A Service Level Agreement Monitoring Group, consisting of Officers from the Council and representatives from NACAS, meets quarterly to review progress against the SLA. In addition the Council has established a Review Board, chaired by an elected Member, which meets annually with NACAS representatives to discuss the overall performance of the Service during the year, prior to the Council deciding on the level of funding to be awarded to the Service in the following year.
During 2003/04, the Council awarded £167,000 to NACAS. The Review Board met with representatives from NACAS on 27 February 2004 to review the performance of the Service during the year. The following highlights were noted:-
the successful re-accreditation of NACAS by Investors in People;
the completion of the Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) Membership Review and the work being undertaken by the NACAS to address the funding of the Review;
the continuing high volume of enquiries dealt with by the Service during the year (around 12,000), impacting on 19% of households in North Ayrshire;
the installation of new I.T. equipment and broadband connections within NACAS offices, paid for by CAS;
the ongoing work to identify new office accommodation in Irvine and Saltcoats;
the satisfactory financial position of the Service; and
the appointment of Mrs Rosaleen Kavanagh as Chair of the Board of Directors of NACAS, together with the appointment of Ms Louise Dickson and Council Ian Clarkson as Vice Chairs.
A report on the outcome of this meeting was subsequently submitted to the Corporate Policy Committee in March 2004, when the Committee confirmed the level of financial support for the current year. Overall the Advice Service performed satisfactorily during 2003/04 and continues to meet the needs of its clients.
3.2 North Ayrshire Women's Aid: Monitoring Report
Submitted report by Corporate Director (Property Services) on the utilisation of funds awarded by the Council to North Ayrshire Women's Aid (NAWA).
NAWA is a registered charity and was established to offer safe accommodation to women and children fleeing violence, to provide support and counselling services, and to provide training and raise awareness of domestic abuse issues.
In the financial year 2003/04, NAWA was awarded grants by Housing Services of £136,000 from the non-Housing Revenue Account budget for children’s services, and £849,000 for housing support services from the Supporting People budget. The organisation also receives funding from other sources in respect of other aspects of service e.g. Housing Benefit.
Housing Services have appointed an Officer to monitor the organisation and there is direct liaison in respect of service delivery on an ongoing basis. Supporting People funds are paid for services prescribed under Section 91 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 and Housing Services are required to evidence service delivery against funding under this legislation. Supporting People funded services cover the following areas:-
· Supported refuge accommodation spaces
· Supported self-contained flats
· Support, information and counselling to women through public office services
NAWA provides the Council with individual detailed records of women using each element of these services and information about the level of support provided. This information forms the basis of monthly grant payments and management information returns to Scottish Executive. NAWA also submits an annual report to the Council with a full set of audited accounts.
For Supporting People funded services in 2003/04, support for women in refuge and other safe accommodation was delivered at an average cost of £147 per woman per week. The average level of support which women received in this year was approximately 9 hours per woman per week. As a result of this funding more women were helped with safe accommodation during crisis and more were helped into alternative permanent accommodation through advice and assistance and access to housing through allocation of public sector housing.
Services delivered by NAWA continue to expand as the result of the opportunities of additional funding afforded by Supporting People grants. Outreach Services to self-contained flats have been developed, out of hours support services to women in refuge accommodation are being developed, and awareness raising and training programmes on issues relating to domestic abuse have been undertaken. The role of children’s workers are being developed to provide a range of family support services.
Systems continue to be developed in the current year to monitor activities in relation to housing support services delivered. Between April and August 2004, a total of 560 women received a service relating to housing support, including 69 provided with accommodation. This accounted for over 9,500 hours of services over this period.
It is considered that the Council is receiving an appropriate return for the investment in NAWA. Nationally, continued Supporting People funding is subject to a spending review being carried out by Scottish Executive. Future levels of funding and service delivery will be determined following this decision. Housing Services will continue to monitor and develop services with NAWA on a contractual funding basis.