To receive and comment on the progress made following the implementation of the Scrutiny Review Action Plan and to note the plans for continued development.
The Committee received a report on the progress made on the implementation of the Scrutiny Review Action Plan and the plans for the continued development of the Council’s approach to scrutiny.
Paul Williams, Delivery Lead – Governance Services, introduced the report explaining that all Local Authorities had a statutory responsibility to operate an Overview and Scrutiny Committee. He explained that, having been involved in scrutiny for over 20 years, he was confident that the County Council managed a very successful scrutiny function but recognised that any system could be improved. The report provided background advising that, following a review of Overview and Scrutiny in 2020 by Dr Jane Martin CBE, she had produced a report, including recommendations, and the progress made on these were included in Appendix 1.
Paul Williams gave further detail and explanation as to how the draft principles outlined at paragraph 1.6 of the report, worked in practice and how these underpinned the values and culture of Warwickshire County Council. He advised that a workshop was planned after Annual Council in May, to help finesse the principles, with external trainer Beth Evans undertaking the training.
Following a question from Councillor Cooke, the acronym relating to SMART objectives was clarified as Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
The Chair opened up the discussion and queried how well Councillors felt the scrutiny process worked. Following a question from Councillor Kettle, the definition of scrutiny was expanded on. Councillor Hammersley felt that scrutiny should result in an elected member having the same knowledge as the administration with good transparency of decision making, enabling everyone to recognise problems and help to find solutions. He also noted that it was important for members of the public to see that the Council was being run properly and was not encountering problems similar to other authorities in the country.
Councillor Gifford raised a concern that scrutiny did not have sufficient time to scrutinise past decisions, with many authorities focusing on upcoming decisions rather than past ones. He highlighted the difference that at District level, scrutiny was chaired by opposition Members but he noted that the County Council had independently minded Chairs and recognised that this choice often depended on the party numbers involved.
Councillor Markham outlined her experience of scrutiny at Nuneaton & Bedworth Borough Council and felt this had helped her gain an understanding of the subjects being discussed. She highlighted that scrutiny members had to commit to reading and digesting a lot of information in order to be effective in their role.
Councillor Kettle highlighted the importance of the Overview and Scrutiny Committees’ scope and how this could alter the effectiveness of scrutiny. He also referred to paragraph 1.13 which related to measuring effectiveness and how this could be achieved. It was agreed that most Members were able to leave any political bias at the door and this did not appear to be an issue at the County Council.
In response to a question from the Chair, Paul Williams outlined who would be invited to the workshop training in May and extended the invitation to any member of the Committee. It was agreed that the Chair would like to be involved.
The Chair thanked Paul Williams for a very full account and assured him of the Committee’s support.
Resolved that the progress made on implementation of the Scrutiny Review Action Plan and the plans for the continued development of the Council’s approach to scrutiny, are noted.