To consider the Government’s Statutory Guidance on Overview and Scrutiny at its implications for the Council.
The Committee considered a report, set out at Agenda pages 57 to 92, which gave details of the Government’s Statutory Guidance on Overview and Scrutiny.
The Statutory Guidance highlighted the key elements that contributed to effective Overview and Scrutiny including organisational culture, resourcing, effective communication, access to information, public engagement and support for Members.
The report reminded Members that the guidance, published in May 2019, had followed on from the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Select Committee’s inquiry into Overview and Scrutiny in 2017. As Statutory Guidance, Councils must have regard to it when exercising their functions. This meant that the Council had to follow the guidance unless there was a good reason not to.
The guidance recognised that every Council had a democratic mandate and was ultimately accountable to the electorate and, also, that each Council was best placed to develop the Scrutiny arrangements that were best suited to its individual circumstances.
In the ensuing discussion, Members made the following points:
Engagement with the Executive – the guidance suggested the development of an Executive-Scrutiny Protocol in order to deal with the practical expectations of Overview and Scrutiny Committee members and the Executive, as well as cultural dynamics. It was confirmed that a draft Protocol would be submitted to the next meeting of the Committee for discussion.
Communicating Scrutiny’s roll and purpose – it was confirmed that information about Overview and Scrutiny would be circulated to residents via Wokingham Borough News and local print and social media.
Support for Members – it was confirmed that Scrutiny training for Members was taking place on 26 June 2019. Further training on Budget Scrutiny would take place on 23 July. Information on further training opportunities for Members would be submitted to the next meeting of the Committee.
Election of Chairman – the guidance suggested that Councils consider electing Scrutiny Chairmen by secret ballot. It was confirmed that this issue was due to be considered by the Constitution Review Working Group at its meeting in July 2019.
Deputy Executive Members – the guidance stated that Members holding less formal Executive positions (e.g. Deputy Executive Members) should not sit on Scrutiny Committees looking at their portfolios.
In light of the Statutory Guidance, it was proposed by Pauline Helliar-Symons that Deputy Executive Members do not sit on the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee or any other Overview and Scrutiny Committee which related to their portfolio.
On being put to the vote the proposal was agreed.
Overview and Scrutiny Work Programmes – due to the current Overview and Scrutiny workload Members suggested that consideration be given to the creation of an additional Committee, for example by splitting the Community and Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee into its constituent parts. It was confirmed that further consideration be given to this proposal at the next meeting of the Committee in July 2019.
1) the Government Statutory Guidance on Overview and Scrutiny be noted;
2) the Committee consider a draft Executive-Scrutiny Protocol at its next meeting;
3) the Committee receive an update on Member training opportunities at its next meeting;
4) in light of the Statutory Guidance, Deputy Executive Members do not sit on the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee or any other Overview and Scrutiny Committee which relates to their portfolio, with effect from the next round of meetings;
5) the Committee consider options for an additional Overview and Scrutiny Committee at its next meeting.