Friday, 5 June 2015

Chair invites topics for Brent Scrutiny Committee perusal

Will it roar?
 Cllr Dan Filson,  Chair of Brent Council's Scrutiny Committee , marking a different approach to scrutiny has written to all Brent Councillors asking for their ideas on subjects for scrutiny by his committee:
All councillors

The members of Scrutiny Committee and I are considering what subjects should be the subject of scrutiny over the forthcoming year and beyond. Needless to say the number is already large and growing.

Nonetheless, it is open to any member of the council, or the public, to suggest an item for scrutiny. Whether it gets picked will be a matter of human resources. Clearly the Scrutiny Committee, even with 10 meetings a year, won't be able to do justice to a very large number, so we will need to prioritise and use dedicated task groups for some issues. To this end, I want all members of the Council outside the Cabinet to consider whether they would be willing to serve on a Scrutiny Committee task group. If you have specific areas of interest or concern, please say as it may help fit horses to courses.

Issues for scrutiny might fall into:-
- pre-decision, where a decision will be needed or made in the future
- post-decision reviews, whether of a policy or its implementation,
- subjects where the Council should get a handle on the problem even if not yet identifying, at this stage, the solution.
Issues for scrutiny may cover the workings of the Council or those of partnership bodies like:-
- the NHS,
- Brent Housing Partnership and local Housing Associations,
- Transport for London
- the local Department of Work and Pension offices
- Voluntary and Community Sector bodies
I am anxious Scrutiny Committee should, whilst looking at issues pertinent to the general wellbeing of Brent residents, get the balance right between looking at issues outside the council and the workings of the council itself, not neglecting the one through excessive focus on the other.

Scrutiny Committee has the power to require lead members and council officers to attend and give evidence, and has some powers in respect of the NHS (there is a good deal of guidance on scrutiny in respect of NHS functions), and can invite, though not require, attendance by others.

The aim of scrutiny should be to investigate, find facts and express judgements. Our mission should be to create transparency on issues where transparency will aid public comprehension of the issues and why decisions have been made the way they were and whether those decisions, and how they were implemented were wrong or mishandled.
For this reason we will aim to give greater publicity to what Scrutiny Committee does and how it operates. To this end, I will be endeavouring to speak at each Brent Connects meeting to explain how we will operate, and conceivably other fora too.

I can assure councillors that I will consider all submissions.

I can also say that scrutiny, despite being in operation since the Local Government Act 2000, is still evolving and developing. We haven't yet got it right. It has been described as "the Lion that failed to roar" but my brief is to get scrutiny working, and I hope you will work with me on that.
Dan Filson's email:

The next meeting of Scrutiny Committee is at 7pm, June 16th Brent Civic Centre


Anonymous said...

Cllr Filson has realised that carrying the rest of the committee who lack in expertise will be somewhat of a challenge so has quite rightly requested help in the form of sub-groups. I wish him luck and godspeed in starting to look at some of the challenges that have been created through mismanagement.

Anonymous said...

Criteria for prioritising could be something like an issue's impact, perhaps. Has it made the local and national press? Has it resulted in legal proceedings? Has it cost the council/council tax payers large amounts of money? Is it contrary to all that the council claims to be? Has it affected Brent Council's reputation? Is it continuing to fester and blight the effective working of local institutions?
That kind of thing.

Mike Hine

Pete Firmin said...

Given we have been asking for over a year for South Kilburn regeneration issues to be considered by scrutiny, and even the proposed item listed for July does not even begin to address these, what is the point?

Martin Francis said...

Far be it for me to persuade a Labour Party member to have faith in a Labour Council but I would suggest you ask Kilburn councillors to refer South Kilburn Regeneration to Scrutiny with a list of the issues you want investigated. Councillor Conneely was in the public gallery at the last Cabinet meeting where South Kilburn was on the agenda.

Pete Firmin said...

We did that over a year ago..... Labour Party members aren't allowed to be sceptical about our Council?

Anonymous said...

One of the problems with having just one committee with such a long list of things to look at and an annual change of committee members is you have to start from scratch lobbying them again if your issue didn't make it last year.

So never mind what you did a year ago, you need to do it again, as do your ward councillors, and hope your issue is one of the privileged few to get lucky this year or you'll have to start all over again next year.

Almost like the system is designed to frustrate you, drain you of energy and hinder proper scrutiny isn't it?

Anonymous said...

If 'scrutiny' did any good, they wouldn't let you etc etc

Anonymous said...

The setting up of task groups so they can cover more issues than a single committee can is welcome, but it is surely an admission that a single scrutiny committee is inadequate. Which begs the question - why did they all vote for it? More cowardice in the face of the Chairman Mo and his whips.

Anonymous said...

What could you be thinking of?

Jaine Lunn said...


Late Middle English: from Latin scrutinium, from scrutari 'to search' (originally 'sort rubbish', from scruta 'rubbish'). Early use referred to the taking of individual votes in an election procedure.

If we doubt what our elected members are doing in our best interest, then we sure should put them under scrutiny, because those individuals and organisations that have nothing to hide shouldn't be worried. Audit us at every opportunity. If everyone is clear and transparent in whatever they seek to achieve. Is it really necessary?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Mike is thinking of the matter which I tried to raise as a Deputation at the last Scrutiny Committee meeting on 30 April, but was not allowed to.

I am still waiting for the minutes of that meeting to be posted on the Council's website (they were supposed to be available by last Friday), to see what, if anything, they record under "Item 2 - Deputations".

Philip Grant.

Anonymous said...

They didn't all vote for it

Anonymous said...

It was passed as a constitutional amendment at a council meeting last year. No Labour councillors either spoke or voted against it. Did anyone secretly abstain?

Dan Filson said...

Why Anonymous continues to denigrate the rest of Scrutiny Committee as inexperienced baffles me. Councilor Mary Daly has been on the committee for some years, but of the Labour others I think you underestimate their non-Council experience and their intellect. Since you cite mismanagement, but without details, I would be happy to receive an email detailing to what mismanagement you refer.

Anonymous said...

I'd be fascinated to hear what experience Sam Stopp has. Does "a leading role in My Fair Lady" count? (From the sadly now-deleted CV that he once posted on his blog.)

Anonymous said...

Think it's time to put in a FOI request and also request and CCTV recording of the meeting