2.1 In February 2020, the Audit and Scrutiny Panel approved the council’s Strategic Governance Framework as the council’s local code of governance aligned to the national Delivering Good Governance in Local Government: Framework. This sets out the elements and mechanisms which form the council’s local code of governance and demonstrates North Lanarkshire Council’s commitment to the principles of good governance.
2.2 The Strategic Governance Framework is one of six inter-related corporate frameworks (Policy, Governance, Performance, Self-Evaluation, Project Management, and the Framework for Demonstrating Improved Outcomes for Communities) which are key to assessing the success of The Plan for North Lanarkshire and monitoring delivery of the Programme of Work, while ensuring each stage of delivery towards achieving the overall ambitions is appropriately planned, guided, implemented, and governed.
2.3 The council recognises that a crucial aspect in delivering good governance is the way that it is applied. The ethos of good governance cannot be achieved by structures, rules, and procedures alone. Effectively, good governance needs to be embedded within the council and its culture and the need for, and value of, good governance must be explicit. As such, any references that require to be made to any one of the frameworks supporting The Plan for North Lanarkshire references them all together at all times for completeness and to raise awareness of the role of good governance in delivering the strategic ambition through the Programme of Work.
2.4 The Strategic Governance Framework outlines the elements and mechanisms in place to ensure appropriate oversight and governance of The Plan for North Lanarkshire and supporting Programme of Work and enable the council to monitor the delivery of its ambitions while ensuring arrangements for corporate governance, risk management, and internal financial controls are sound. This is based on the following:
- Identifying and setting out the council’s long-term strategic ambition and priorities in The Plan for North Lanarkshire and ensuring the vision for inclusive growth and prosperity for all is embedded throughout all other policy statements agreed by the council as well as all strategic management, service delivery, and corporate governance approaches.
- Establishing the six inter-related corporate frameworks (Policy, Governance, Performance, Self-Evaluation, Project Management, and the Framework for Demonstrating Improved Outcomes for Communities) and ensuring these frameworks remain aligned to The Plan for North Lanarkshire and Programme of Work through a regular review and refresh programme.
- Standing Orders that allow the council to delegate decision making to committees, sub-committees, or officers and sets out the rules which apply to the running and operation of council and committee meetings.
- A Scheme of Administration which clearly sets out functions, terms of reference, and powers of the council and its committees and sub-committees and which is aligned to the organisational structure to facilitate decision making in line with the council’s strategy.
- A Scheme of Delegation to Officers which sets out the functions delegated to the Chief Officers of the council.
- Financial Regulations and a Scheme of Financial Delegation which, as an integral part of the council’s framework of internal financial controls, are designed to ensure effective stewardship of North Lanarkshire Council funds. Compliance with these regulations ensures that public money is safeguarded and properly accounted for, and all financial transactions are undertaken in a manner which demonstrates openness, transparency, and integrity. The Financial Regulations form a key part of the overarching Financial Strategy and the corporate governance arrangements of the council.
- The Financial Strategy which - as the overarching framework that establishes the financial strategies and policies to ensure effective financial governance, planning, and management - also sets out the responsibility for safeguarding public funds within the council and the role of the Section 95 Officer. The strategies and policies covered by the Financial Strategy include the Capital Strategy, Treasury Management Strategy, Revenue Budget Strategy, and the Medium-Term Financial Plan.
- A Risk Management Strategy with arrangements that reflect the council’s strategic ambition at a corporate, service, and project level. A key part of the system of internal control, the council’s risk management arrangements are designed to identify, assess, prioritise, and mitigate risks which impact on achievement of the council’s priorities. These arrangements are designed to enable the council to perform well, to manage risk effectively, and to minimise any potential impacts on service delivery and the achievement of planned outcomes.
- Codes of Conduct for Elected Members, Chief Officers, and Employees which provide frameworks within which individuals are expected to undertake their duties in a manner which meets the required standards for good governance. This includes ensuring declarations of interests and declarations for conflicts of interest and gifts and hospitality are appropriately (and regularly) made and published.
- Ensuring legislative obligations are fulfilled through the statutory officer roles, i.e. the posts of head of paid service, monitoring officer, chief financial officer (section 95 officer), and the chief social work officer.
- An Anti-Fraud Policy and Fraud Response Plan which sets out the council’s expectations (which extends to all individuals and organisations with whom it deals) in terms of acting honestly and with integrity and in safeguarding public resources.
- A Whistleblowing Procedure which provides a mechanism for employees of the council, and other workers within the council, to report a concern about serious wrongdoing within the council and to do so with security and in confidence.
- A Corporate Management Team with a supporting meetings structure comprising service Senior Management Team meetings, and Operational Management Team meetings to cascade the context, deliverables, and accountabilities and ensure consistency of message in the vision set out in The Plan for North Lanarkshire and the delivery required through the Programme of Work. All Heads of Service are members of the Corporate Management Team; this includes those Heads of Service who hold a statutory officer role.
- An Audit and Scrutiny Panel whose activities and functions comply with the standards set out in CIPFA’s Position Statement: Audit Committees in Local Authorities (2018), and whose purpose is to provide independent assurance to the council and those charged with governance on the adequacy of the council's risk management framework and internal control environment.
- A Strategic Performance Framework that aims to enable performance to be measured and assessed at three levels within the council and includes target setting and service and statutory reporting in line with an annual schedule.
- Comprehensive revenue budget and capital expenditure guidelines, with well-established processes and systems to ensure regular monitoring and reporting, as well as oversight and scrutiny by management and Elected Members.
- A range of programme Boards and working groups aligned to the delivery of specific Programme of Work items, e.g. Strategic Capital Delivery Group, DigitalNL, Hub Delivery Programme Board, and Data Governance.
- An Information Governance Policy Framework, comprising policies in terms of records and information management, data protection, information handling and classification, information risk, and information security to ensure proper recording of information, appropriate access to that information including by the public, and compliance with legislation.
- An Information Security Policy which aims to protect the council’s information systems and physical assets including supporting processes, networks, and equipment. This is essential to ensure the council can continue to operate and successfully deliver its functions, while finding the right balance between the benefits and risks to the processing of information.
- Publicly available complaints and freedom of information procedures with management, monitoring, and reporting arrangements.
- A range of employment and other policies and the associated guidance documents and forms which promote and support ethical behaviour and standards of conduct by employees, along with an employee Performance Review and Development (PRD) process, and access to a range of employee and Elected Members’ training and development programmes and opportunities through LearnNL.
- Independent and objective assurances provided by Internal Audit whose function is designed to add value and improve the council’s operations. The Internal Audit function operates within the Public Sector Internal Audit Standards (PSIAS) and the council’s Internal Audit Charter. The service undertakes an annual programme of work approved by the Audit and Scrutiny Panel which is based on the Internal Audit Annual Plan. This plan is risk based and is periodically updated to reflect evolving issues and changes.
- Independent and objective assurances provided by the external auditors through their Annual Audit Report (AAR) process and a range of other external audit and inspection bodies.