The Treasurer introduced the report which sought to: secure Member appointments to the Audit Committee; determine the quorum of the Audit Committee; and obtain agreement about the arrangements for and recruitment of the independent audit member. He referred to the updated Position Statement: Audit Committees in Local Authorities and Police 2022 published by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accounting (CIPFA) attached as Appendix 1 to the report. This provided guidance on the establishment of Audit Committees and influenced the proposals/suggestions contained within the report.
Appointments to the Audit Committee
The Treasurer advised that in light of the guidance provided by CIPFA, four Members were required for the Audit Committee. It was recommended that the appointments for the Audit Committee be politically proportionate: 2 Labour, 1 Conservative; and 1 Independent, with the Chair being a Labour Member.
Members appointed Councillors Nick Mannion, Brian Gallagher, Rachel Bailey and James Nicholas to the Audit Committee. Cllr Nick Mannion was appointed as Chair. Members agreed that due to the level of training associated, it was not appropriate to appoint substitutes to the committee.
Members decided that attendance by 3 of the 4 elected Members would be fulfil the requirement to be quorate; the Independent Audit Member would not be counted as part of quorum initially.
Recruitment of Independent Audit Member
Members considered the requirements and eligibility criteria contained within the bullet points of paragraphs 13 and 14 within the report. It was agreed that the requirements were suitable and met the expectations of the Position Statement.
Remuneration of the Independent Audit Member
The Director of Governance and Commissioning explained that the Independent Audit Member would be required to meet a level of experience and knowledge as well as attend Audit Committee meetings and associated training. Therefore, remuneration commensurate with that of the independent (non-elected) member role was proposed, in order to make the role attractive to applicants. Members agreed with the proposal.
Term of the Independent Audit Member
A Member queried whether a total of 6 years’ service for an Independent Audit Member was adequate. The Director of Governance and Commissioning advised that the Position Statement recommended a maximum service of 6 years as this allowed enough time for the Independent Audit Member to familiarised themselves with the organisation yet retain a level of independence.
Advert for the Independent Audit Member
Members recalled agreeing to an open advert for the role at their last meeting of the committee. However, officers believed a more targeted approach might also be beneficial alongside the open advert. Members agreed that officers should notify the monitoring officers, of the various local public bodies that have audit committees with independent audit members, so that they could bring the advert to the attention of existing audit members.
The Director of Governance and Commissioning advised the interview panel for the Independent Audit Member would consist of two officers and ideally two members from the Audit Committee. Members agreed, subject to availability, that Councillors Nick Mannion and Rachel Bailey should be involved.
The Treasurer explained that the CIPFA guidance suggested that Audit Committees should have multiple Independent Audit Members appointed to the Audit Committee. Although this was not a requirement or originally agreed by the Fire Authority, it may be worth considering looking to appoint a further individual in the future whilst undergoing the recruitment process. Members agreed to consider this at a later stage dependent on the number of applications received.
 Councillors Rachel Bailey, Brian Gallagher, Nick Mannion and James Nicholas be appointed to the Audit Committee;
 Councillor Nick Mannion be appointed Chair of the Audit Committee;
 the quorum of the Audit Committee be 3 of the 4 elected Members and not include the Independent Audit Member;
 the bullet points contained in Paragraphs 13 and 14 of the report be approved for inclusion in the recruitment pack;
 the Independent Audit Member receive an annual allowance of £1,250;
 the Independent Audit Member serve a 3 year term with the option to ‘renew’ once;
 the recruitment of the Independent Audit Member be advertised through an open advert on the Service’s website with the monitoring officers of the local public bodies that have audit committees with Independent Audit Members being notified to encourage them to inform suitable individuals about the role;
 the interview panel for the Independent Audit Member consist of two Members appointed to the Audit Committee; and
 the recruitment paperwork shall state that the Authority may consider appointing a second Independent Audit Member in the future.