Agenda item

Draft Risk Management Strategy 2017-2019 and Strategic Risk Register

The report provides an update on the review of Risk Management and sets out the draft Risk Management Strategy for 2017-2019 an implementation plan to embed the new strategy and the updated Strategic Risk Register.

Minutes:

The Audit Advisory Committee formally welcomed Michael Bradley (the Council’s Head of Audit and Investigation) who introduced himself and spoke of his professional experience.

 

Carolyn Downs (the Council’s Chief Executive) delivered a presentation on Fire Safety in High Rise Tower Blocks and outlined her involvement in the cross-London response to the fire at Grenfell Tower tragedy. She said that Brent was supporting the Grenfell Tower Response Team set up by London Gold emergency planning and fire resilience colleagues in providing humanitarian response to the disaster. She compared the fire to the attacks on 7 July 2005 and pointed out that one of the main differences was that people had lost their homes and had been displaced completely. She highlighted that the situation was ongoing and pointed out that any council (both nationally and locally) would not have been able to cope with the situation on its own, especially as resilience had diminished. Ms Downs stated that Brent had to prepare for its response going forward which would require the Audit Advisory and the (Housing) Scrutiny Committees to work together.

 

Ms Downs informed the Committee that the response in Brent started on the first day after the fire by checking if any buildings with cladding in the Borough existed. She said that both the Council’s own housing stock and registered providers’ properties had been checked. 100% of the 37 high rise (over five storeys) blocks had been assessed and all of them were compliant with fire safety regulations. Ms Downs stressed that Brent had never used Rydon Limited or Harley Facades Limited (the companies involved in renovating Grenfell Tower) and that more than £10 million had been spent in the last four years on reducing the risk of fires in council-run properties in Brent. The Committee heard that there was only one block with cladding (Watling Gardens) where extra checks had been implemented and a meeting had been held with residents and the manufacturer of the cladding which was made of different material from the one used at Grenfell Tower. In relation to high rise blocks, managed by registered housing providers, Ms Downs said that Elizabeth House, managed by Octavia, had some cladding which was of the same type and she had contacted Octavia Housing, the Member of Parliament and central government. Assurance had been given to the residents that there had been no need to evacuate the building and that it was fire safety compliant, with sprinklers fitted in every room and special equipment designed to extract smoke from stairways being fitted. In addition, officers had checked building control documents and it had been confirmed that officers had authorised what they believed to be entirely compliant cladding.

 

One of the main developers in Brent, Quintain, had confirmed that all new build blocks met fire safety standards. However, Ms Downs pointed out that there was an issue associated with permitted developments as these did not need to go through the planning process in the same way as major developments. She emphasised that this was an area of concern due to the deregulation which had taken place and that government, not council legislation, was responsible for checking fire safety.

 

Ms Downs spoke of the support provided to the Grenfell Tower Response Team – 122 members of staff had been in contact with the local authority or had volunteered to support the response and recovery stages, with 30 core staff supporting the Grenfell Tower Response Team. Ms Downs praised the calm and professional approach demonstrated by all Brent employees and ensured the Committee that Brent had responded as well as it could have.

 

A member of the Committee noted that there had been a lot of information on the Council’s website about fire safety and pointed out that it could be useful to publish information when the webpage had been last updated.

 

Members of the Committee commented that the Brent Housing Partnership audit had achieved no assurance so this could be included in the Committee’s agenda. It was pointed out that lessons learned where important in terms of risks associated with building control and incident response. A Member of the Committee asked a question that related to fire safety in block of flats of five or less storeys. Ms Downs responded that the newly-established Housing Scrutiny Committee would look at the matter. She acknowledged that building control had become more complicated since the deregulation as it was difficult to define clear lines of responsibility as building control was not exercised only by the local authority. Therefore, the issue of recording and archiving building control decisions would be examined.

 

In response to a question that related to the factors affecting the decision to evacuate a building, Ms Downs explained that the Fire Brigade was key to making such a decision, with a number of factors taken into account alongside cladding, including overcrowding which existed in both social and private housing.

 

The Chair reminded the Committee that fire safety audit had resulted in a nil assurance report and requested an update to be provided at the next meeting.

 

RESOLVED:

(i)        The Audit Advisory Committee’s deepest sympathy for the people affected by the fire at Grenfell Tower be formally recorded; 

 

(ii)         The Audit Advisory Committee’s gratitude to Ms Downs and Brent Council’s staff for the work they had been doing be formally recorded; and

 

(iii)      An update on fire safety assurance be provided at the meeting of the Audit Advisory Committee in September 2017.

 

The Chair invited Michael Bradley (the Council’s Head of Audit and Investigation) to introduce the rest of the Draft Risk Management Strategy 2017-2019 and Strategic Risk Register report. Mr Bradley said that review of arrangements reported at the March Audit Committee, had given positive assurance regarding the management of risk. However, he noted that opportunities to strengthen arrangements had been identified - in particular ensuring that communication between interrelated risks at the operational level was enhanced and that risk was linked more closely to performance data ensuring that it was monitored and reported. The Committee heard that the Risk Management Strategy had been refreshed with some key principles in mind – the process had to be as simple and efficient as possible; guidance had be to reviewed as part of the implementation plan; and risk management had to be visible to other Members, including the Cabinet. Mr Bradley said that an implementation plan had been drafted (included in Appendix B to the report) to support the new strategy. In relation to the Strategic Risk Register, Mr Bradley said that it had been developed with risks linked to the objectives outlined within the Council’s 2020 Vision, with input from the Council’s Performance Team, Risk Management Group, Internal Audit and Corporate Management teams. Moreover, it would be possible to enter risk at both departmental and corporate level. Mr Bradley drew Members’ attention to paragraph 4.10 of the report on page 73 to the Agenda Pack and noted that the inherent risks would be incorporated into the Strategic Risk Register when net or mitigated risk ratings were deemed to be of a level that exceeded the appropriate tolerance (rated as over 20).

 

The Independent Member commented that the policy statement was in line with good practice. However, he said that the Strategic Risk Register felt like work in progress and pointed out that some risks had not been included as they had not been identified as high risk, which was contrary to his preference of having all risks included in the list. In addition, the Chair commented that the document was a good start, but additional actions had to be completed.

 

A Member of the Committee enquired if any changes had to be made to the Risk Management Strategy, having in mind the fire at Grenfell Tower and the aftermath of the disaster. Mr Bradley confirmed that changes may be needed, but emphasised that these would be known at a later stage. In response to a question that related to risks affecting decisions taken by the Local Authority, Mr Bradley said that risk awareness should be embedded and considered when projects were discussed. This led to a question to the external auditor, KPMG, about what is examined when external auditing was carried out. Andrew Sayers (Partner at KPMG) said that embedding risk management and using it effectively were essential as well as delivering value for money. Moreover, Conrad Hall (the Council’s Chief Finance Officer) said that risk management was related to the culture of the organisation, which should allow for sensible enquiries to be made; an open mind approach to risks; and consideration of additional risks beyond the ones presented. 

 

RESOLVED:

(i)        The Draft Risk Management Strategy 2017-2019 and Strategic Risk Register report be noted;

 

(ii)       The 2017/19 Risk Management Strategy be approved;

 

(iii)      The draft implementation plan to embed the new Risk Management Strategy be noted;

 

(iv)     The current Strategic Risk Register be noted;

 

(v)       An update on the Draft Risk Management Strategy 2017-2019 and Strategic Risk Register be presented at a future meeting of the Audit Advisory Committee.

 

 

Councillor Davidson entered the meeting at 6:46 pm.

 

Supporting documents: