Councillor Kam Kaur introduced the report and moved the recommendation.
Councillor Yousef Dahmash seconded the recommendation. In doing so Councillor Dahmash emphasised the importance of parity of esteem across the scrutiny process. He also commended the Democratic Services team for its hard work.
A vote was held. The recommendation was agreed unanimously.
That Council approves the proposals for scrutiny reform as set out in Appendix 2 of the published report.
The report and appendices are attached.
Sarah Duxbury (Assistant Director, Governance and Policy) introduced the report, stating that an independent review had been commissioned to examine the Authority’s approach to scrutiny and to consider opportunities to improve upon current arrangements.
Sarah Duxbury advised that an independent report had been produced by Dr Jane Martin, a former Local Government Ombudsman, following engagement with members and officers. The report and recommendations had been shared with the chairs of the four overview and scrutiny committees prior to formal consideration by each committee. Feedback from the scrutiny committees had been incorporated within a finalised report. In September 2021, Cabinet resolved to support the proposals. Following consideration by this Committee, approval would be sought from full Council.
The Chair observed that the initiative to review scrutiny arrangements had been prompted by publication of statutory guidance on overview and scrutiny and the Centre for Governance and Scrutiny (CfGS) issuing an updated ‘Good Scrutiny Guide’. He drew members’ attention to case studies included within the CfGS document which highlighted the advantages of scrutinising performance by looking outside of an organisation.
In response to the Chair, Sarah Duxbury advised that when supporting scrutiny committees and task and finish groups, Democratic Services officers would seek to gather information from external sources, including examples of good practice elsewhere. This approach had proved to be effective, notably during task and finish group work examining GP services, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and special educational needs. Scrutiny recommendations emerging from task and finish group work had supported the development of proposals progressed to Cabinet. She advised that training was provided to members to support continued development of scrutiny skills. Case studies, such as those outlined by CfGS, would be made available to members as part of the ongoing training programme.
Councillor Horner highlighted the valuable role scrutiny could play in the development of policy, as evidenced by task and finish group work. However, there were inherent political challenges to overcome. He underlined the importance of external training for members, including opportunities for liaison with members of other local authorities to compare approaches to scrutiny. He stated that an overtly inward-looking approach could act as a barrier to effective scrutiny.
The Chair drew attention to the principle of ‘transparency’ recommended by the report, which stated that “the scrutiny function should shine a light internally and externally [as] an important vehicle for public consultation which should engage external partners, local people, and service users, and represent their views.” This was a positive step.
Councillor Gifford stated that the introduction of the scrutiny function alongside executive arrangements had been a retrograde step for local authorities. He stated that a committee system enabling a focus on individual service areas provided a more effective means of monitoring performance. However, task and finish groups provided a means to examine good practices outside of Warwickshire.
Councillor Birdi highlighted the importance of timetabling meetings to best support pre-decision scrutiny. This had been recognised in the recommendations of the report. He emphasised the importance of maintaining adequate ... view the full minutes text for item 3