To consider Executive Member updates from Councillors Lee and Whittle and to identify areas for Overview and Scrutiny support in relation to new policy development and pre-decision scrutiny.
One hour is allocated for this item.
The Committee considered a report, set out at Agenda pages 37 to 39, which reminded Members of the earlier decision to hold discussions with Executive Members early in the municipal year. The aim of the discussions was to increase awareness of the key policy and service issues over the year ahead and to identify areas where Overview and Scrutiny could provide effective challenge and support. Members had agreed the principle that Overview and Scrutiny would add more value if it was proactive rather than reactive.
Two Executive Members were in attendance to give an outline of the challenges in the year ahead and to answer Member questions developed around the following key lines of enquiry:
· Development of new policies and amendments to existing policies;
· Structures to be used to support policy development, e.g. working parties;
· Planned consultations over the year ahead;
· Timescales for the completion of new policies and major service changes.
David Lee, Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Strategic Highways and Planning, addressed the Committee and provided an update based on the key lines of enquiry set out in the report. David referred to the discussion on the previous Agenda item which had covered a number of important areas of work for the year ahead.
David also updated Members on plans to review the Borough Design Guide. This would address issues such as road widths and the number of parking spaces required for new developments. The aim was to have an updated Design Guide in place by the end of the year. The process would be overseen by a small working group of Members.
Oliver Whittle, Executive Member for Finance, 21st Century Council, Internal Services and Human Resources addressed the Committee. Oliver stated that his portfolio was wide, including 21st Century Council, which was discussed earlier in the meeting. In relation to other areas Oliver was working to improving budget monitoring across the organisation. He was also reviewing the annual public budget engagement exercise with a move to an electronic consultation under consideration.
In relation to the Council’s funding settlement, Oliver had already written to the Chancellor about the projected move to a negative revenue support grant. Linked to this, discussions were ongoing with the other Berkshire unitaries about the possibility of a pilot scheme relating to the retention of business rates.
Oliver was reviewing the Council’s procurement process in order to strengthen Member oversight. He also had a watching brief in relation to Optalis, the Joint Waste Board and the Schools Forum.
In relation to budget monitoring, Members raised the issue of Capital projects. Some schemes were funded from the Capital budget whilst others were partly funded by income generation, such as leisure facilities. Oliver confirmed that he was looking at the development of better business cases and simplified financial information which would assist Executive Members and the Overview and Scrutiny Committees.
1) Councillors Lee and Whittle be thanked for attending the meeting and answering Member questions;
2) progress on the key issues identified during the discussions be reported at a future meeting of the Committee.