To consider the work programmes for the Overview and Scrutiny Committees for 2021/22.
The Committee considered a report, set out at Agenda pages 13 to 28, which considered the development of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee Work Programmes for 2021/22.
The report reminded Members of the importance of effective work programming which allowed Overview and Scrutiny to focus on issues of importance for residents and community stakeholders. Effective work programming:
· reflected local needs and concerns;
· prioritised topics for Scrutiny which had the most impact or benefit;
· involved local residents and stakeholders;
· was flexible enough to respond to new or urgent issues.
The report set out the current work programmes for the four Overview and Scrutiny Committees together with a list of 45 Scrutiny topics submitted by residents, Town and Parish Councils and WBC Members. Members considered each of the suggested topics and decided which items should be included in the work programmes for 2021/22. Members noted that the work programmes were flexible documents which meant that additional items of importance could be added during the year.
The report also reminded Members of the 2020 Community Vision and Council Delivery Plan. These documents set out the key priorities for the Borough up to 2024 and, as such, provided an important source of potential Scrutiny review items.
Following Members’ deliberations, the 2021/22 work programme items would be timetabled into the programme of Overview and Scrutiny meetings during the year. Each Overview and Scrutiny Committee would determine its priorities within the programme and allocate items to specific meetings.
As agreed previously, the work programmes would include discussions with the relevant Executive Members to discuss items which were likely to be considered by the Executive during the year.
The report noted the effectiveness of recent Overview and Scrutiny Task and Finish Groups (Climate Emergency, Estate Infrastructure and Grounds Maintenance) and suggested that each Overview and Scrutiny Committee consider setting up one or more Task and Finish Groups during 2021/22.
In relation to the Scrutiny requests in Annex A, Philip Meadowcroft made a statement in support of his request, as follows:
“My request is triggered by the failure of Members and senior Officials to apply the Constitution since May 2019 in respect of the Standards Committee together with the Audit Committee’s realisation that budget numbers they approved last November were then altered before they went to the Executive.
I think it would be inappropriate for the review to be investigated by any panel of Members and Officials like the Constitution Review Working Group. Failure for 20 months to “stick to the rules” of the Constitution was made by the decision of the Full Council without any intervention by the Monitoring Officer. For such a panel to act as investigator, judge and jury under such circumstances is clearly not an impartial review.
This is a strategic opportunity for your Committee, Councillor Helliar-Symons, to put the safeguarding of the Constitution at the core of maintaining the integrity of WBC Members and Officers and the trust which residents place on them.
Under such circumstances, when you come to reviewing my request may I ask the Committee to be mindful of seeking the investigation to be undertaken by an external investigator like a retired QC or High Court judge rather than from the go-to panel of investigators which WBC normally use? In doing so, the investigation can be free of any political or administrative bias and thus be genuinely independent. This will be the best way to ensure public confidence that a thoroughly impartial and party-politics free investigation will occur”.
Members considered the Scrutiny requests set out in Annex A and made the following points:
· Request number 1 (compliance with the WBC Constitution) be not approved for inclusion in the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee Work Programme for 2021/22;
· Request numbers 2 to 16 be supported for inclusion in the Overview and Scrutiny Work Programme for 2021/22;
· Scrutiny items on waste and recycling be considered as two issues – strategy and service delivery;
· Scrutiny of the Public Protection Partnership (PPP) contract include consideration of a smooth transition and service impact.
· Scrutiny of the Local Nature Recovery Strategy take place later in 2021/22;
· Request number 17 (Renewable Energy Installations) be referred to the Climate Emergency Task and Finish Group for consideration;
· Request numbers 18 to 20 be supported for inclusion in the Overview and Scrutiny Work Programme for 2021/22 (with Air Quality to be a joint item with the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee);
· Scrutiny items 6 and 27 be linked to the existing item relating to development of the Council’s website and improvements to service delivery channels;
· Scrutiny of the proposed Tree Strategy be not included in the work programmes at this stage, but be reviewed later in 2021/22;
· Scrutiny of the Council’s role in protecting existing trees be considered by a Task and Finish Group – to include consideration of the issue raised by Paul Fishwick relating to the the destruction of 400-500 semi mature, mature and veteran trees at Bearwood Park, Sindlesham;
· Request numbers 21 to 23 be not approved for inclusion in the Community and Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee Work Programme for 2021/22 – these requests to be referred to the relevant service for investigation;
· Request number 24 (anti-social behaviour) be considered by the Community and Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee as part of its annual review of the Community Safety Partnership;
· Request numbers 25 to 31 be approved for inclusion in the Community and Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee Work Programme for 2021/22;
· Request number 32 (Covid-19 outcomes for residents) be approved for inclusion in the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee Work Programme for 2021/22;
· Request numbers 33 and 34 be approved for inclusion in the Community and Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee Work Programme for 2021/22;
· Request numbers 35 and 36 be approved for inclusion in the Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee Work Programme for 2021/22;
· Request number 37 be considered by the Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee as part of the wider Scrutiny of the Corporate Parenting Board;
· Request numbers 38 to 40 be approved for inclusion in the Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee Work Programme for 2021/22;
· Request numbers 41 to 45 be approved for inclusion in the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee Work Programme for 2021/22;
1) the Scrutiny requests received for 2021/22 (Annex A) be noted;
2) the Overview and Scrutiny Committee Work Programmes for 2021/22, as amended, be approved and be submitted to the first meeting of each Committee in the 2021/22 Municipal Year;
3) each Overview and Scrutiny Committee monitor and amend its work programme during the year, as necessary;
4) each Overview and Scrutiny Committee endeavour to undertake one or more detailed Scrutiny reviews during 2021/22.