Saturday 31 May 2014

Brent scrutiny proposals elaborated

I have received further details of the way Scrutiny is intended to operate under the new Brent Council arrangements from a reliable source. They seem to go beyond what is actually in the papers going to Full Council on Wednesday.

There will be 8 members of the Scrutiny Committee withs its work programme co-ordinated by a single Chair. The Chair will be empowered to form sub-committees and task groups to examine particular policy areas and developments.

The Chair will be able to invite any member of the Council, apart from the Mayor and Deputy Mayor, and who are not in the Cabinet,  and 'notable citizens' outside the Council to sit on the sub-committees and task groups.

The seven other members of the Scrutiny Committee will serve as chairs of the sub-committees and task groups as well as contributing to the main Scrutiny Committee.

The claim is that this will give more members of the Council and the public an opportunity to get involved in scrutiny.

The Scrutiny committees will take place on a monthly basis rather than the present quarterly  meetings and the full committee will meet the week after Cabinet meetings.

I also understand that there are proposals for the creation of deputy cabinet positions so as to involve more of the large Labour group in policy making.

On the face of it this clarification (or is it a revision?), seems to go some way to addressing concerns about the lack of scrutiny in an 'almost one party' Council but  the proposals still look rather vague and the method of choosing committee members unclear. It will be the detail, and the people on the committee/s, that will have to convince the sceptics.


Anonymous said...

"Notable citizens" to serve on the scrutiny committee? I nominate Martin Francis!

Anonymous said...

Or should it read, "Noble Citizens," ie those in line for a peerage get the nod to sit on sub committee ?

Sceptical until the day I see real democracy with those in charge listening and acting accordingly.

I might be dead before I see that day, but we can only but live in hope.

Anonymous said...

No joke about nominating Francis. If they seriously want informed, committed, experienced, respected people who will add integrity to the process then they will seek him out (I assume they know where to find him). Whether he would want to associate himself with such rapscallions is another matter.
Mike Hine

Anonymous said...

Ex Councillor James Powney exercises his voice over scrutiny issues.

Pity he fully supported his Council officers in respect to library closures and therefore has lost all credibility as he seemed a puppet for his officers.

Perhaps if he might speaking up and accept library closures were dumb idea, he might start to gain respect.

Anonymous said...

I'm not that comforted by these new details. The major problem still remains - that there is no provision for a Health OSC. There is only one other borough out of London's 32 boroughs that doesn't have a dedicated Health overview and scrutiny committee, focusing on health (and social care) issues- and that is Liberal Democrat-controlled Sutton. I can guarantee that the monthly meeting of the new OSC will be swamped by critical health issues unless the Leadership decide to set up a permanent health OSC - or if they are looking for a face-saving device, then an ongoing health Task and Finish Group. The existence of a Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee for NW London is no substitute here - it needs to focus on sub-regional issues, not Brent's local concerns. And if the Leadership say that the Health and Wellbeing Board (HWB) can deal with health issues, the answer is two-fold: 1) the HWB is an executive body whose work needs scrutinising; and 2) a health OSC does work that a HWB cannot do

I hope it is not too late for the Leadership to change their mind.

And by the way, that original officer survey should have carried out more professionally and been comprehensive. It would then have shown the following:

Number of councils with permanent scrutiny bodies
LBs with 1 scrutiny body: One
LBs with 2 scrutiny bodies: 3
LBs with 3 scrutiny bodies: 2
LBs with 4 scrutiny bodies: 7
LBs with 5 scrutiny bodies: 5
LBs with 6 scrutiny bodies: 6
LBs with 7 scrutiny bodies: 4
LBs with 8 scrutiny bodies: 1

Brent used to have 5, plus a call-in committee as required (other boroughs, apart from Lewisham, do not have a dedicated call-in committee).

So 16 boroughs – 50% - have the same number of thematic scrutiny bodies as Brent.

Toby Chambers said...

As part of this whole restructure what I would like to see is local engagement at grass roots level.

The recent appointment of strategic directors as proposed in Christine Gilbert's restructure are to be out in the field.

It is to be hoped that these new strategic directors will be out in the field and not sitting behind their desks. New ideas and new ways of engaging can only be cultivated, if those at the top of the decision making tree actively engage those on the frontline who are actually deliverying the services.

Perhaps this is a new beginning for Brent decision making ?