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LGSS adopts audit services for five councils from the Welland Partnership - LGSS

LGSS adopts audit services for five councils from the Welland Partnership

The Welland Partnership is a group of five councils including Rutland County Council, Melton Borough Council, Harborough District Council, Corby Borough Council and East Northamptonshire Council.

The Challenge

In 2011, the Welland Partnership established the Welland Internal Audit Consortium (WIAC) to deliver shared services for its councils, but in 2014, the head of internal audit retired and the consortium could not find a suitable replacement, even after repeated recruitment attempts.

At this time, there were also several performance issues for the consortium. Internal audit had failed to deliver audit plans for their councils for some time, causing frustration for the audit committees and senior management board. An external review of the service concluded that significant improvements were needed.

The consortium required new management to:

  • deliver audit plans for all five councils
  • manage and drive improvements in performance
  • improve resilience in the staff team

The Solution

LGSS offered one of their own audit specialists – Rachel Ashley-Caunt – to manage and transform the WIAC service.

In August 2014, Rachel became Head of Internal Audit on a tailored agreement until the end of the financial year. Rachel managed internal audit for all five councils, reporting to the Welland Partnership board and running the service according to their own procedures and templates.

After just nine months under LGSS management the internal audit team had delivered audit plans for all five councils, a feat which had not been achieved in recent years. In a report to their governance committee, Melton Borough Council commented:

In terms of performance the existing service managed by LGSS is very good with the percentage completion of the audit plan by the end of March 2016 being 100% against a target of 90%. Previously the service struggled to complete assignments on time with work being rolled into the next financial year causing on going difficulties in terms of meeting the annual audit plan… The service has moved on considerably under the management of LGSS.

– Committee Report, Melton Borough Council

All five councils renewed this management arrangement with LGSS for another 12 months, repeating the extension again the following year.

In April 2016, LGSS presented a business case for a permanent and more formal arrangement with the members of the WIAC. This would provide longer term certainty to all of the councils involved, as well as providing security, career development opportunities for WIAC staff, and the opportunity for service growth.

Without the additional support and resources of LGSS, staff resilience was still an issue. In isolation, the WIAC team was relatively small and there was no capacity within the in-house staff team to cover if an employee was sick or absent. With LGSS at hand, Rachel could easily draft in cover from the teams based at Cambridgeshire County Council or Northamptonshire County Council, retaining resilience, which was vital to the success of the service. Because of LGSS’ size and scale, the shared service also has the ability to bring in subject specific audit specialists when needed, which was another coveted bonus for the councils.

Results                                               

In a partnership agreement worth approximately £320,000, all five councils unanimously chose to delegate their internal audit function to LGSS from 1st April 2017.

All former WIAC staff have TUPE transferred to LGSS, but remain in the same location and team. LGSS now formally manages the internal audit team building on the previous trust of the relationship while creating additional resilience and flexibility.

The audit plan is now delivered on time each year – councils within the group saw the delivery of annual plans increase from 40-50% in April 2014 to 100% in April 2017. The quality of performance also continues to improve, with excellent results in customer surveys and extensive additional work requested from the trusted, reliable resources within the internal audit team.

In an audit and risk committee report, Rutland County Council commented:

In terms of performance, the Council acknowledges that the existing service managed by LGSS is very good and that the performance level is high (measured in terms of the % completion of the audit plan by the end of March and feedback from staff which has been very positive). The Audit and Risk Committee itself has also commented on the positive performance of the audit team and the quality of the work produced. Confidence in the team is high compared to a few years ago when the audit team was fully staffed in house.

– Committee Report, Rutland County Council

In the 2017 Annual Senior Management Survey, 100% of senior managers said they either ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ that they had received an effective internal audit service over the last 12 months.

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