Agenda item

Discussion Paper - Approach to Scrutiny during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Report of the Head of Strategic Support informing the Commission of the guidance produced by the Centre for Public Scrutiny (CfPS) supported by the Local Government Association (LGA) concerning the challenges associated with carrying out scrutiny during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Minutes:

A report of the Head of Strategic Support to inform the Commission of the guidance produced by the Centre for Public Scrutiny (CfPS) supported by the Local Government Association (LGA) concerning the challenges associated with carrying out scrutiny during the Covid-19 pandemic was considered (item 6 on the agenda filed with these minutes).

 

The Democratic Services Manager attended the meeting and assisted with the consideration of this item. The following summarises the discussion:

 

(i)        There was a consideration that a six-month suspension of scrutiny committees and panels could be too lengthy as progress in overcoming the pandemic appeared to be positive and the situation was likely to change drastically during the period of the next six months. It was suggested that the six-month suspension timescale until 30th November 2020 should apply, but that a review of this be undertaken at a meeting of the Commission in September or October 2020.

 

(ii)       The concept of one key scrutiny item to focus on at each Scrutiny Commission meeting would be beneficial. There was a suggestion that scrutiny reflect the recovery cells, concentrating on three key areas; organisational recover, economic recovery and community recovery. The Commission could rotate these themes and receive an update on each one, every three months.

 

(iii)      The ‘live’ questioning from members of the public would not be practical, but there was already provision for members of the public and councillors to submit questions under Scrutiny Committee procedure 11.16 as set out in the Constitution. These questions would be received in advance of the meeting, which could then be published with the agenda and answered at the meeting by the relevant officer.

 

(iv)      Members agreed that strengthening the relationship between Audit and Scrutiny would be beneficial during the period of recovery. This would allow the Commission to be informed on the financial implications in a timely manner.

 

(v)       With regards to Special Responsibility Allowances for the Chairs and Vice-Chairs of the directorate-based scrutiny Committees, Members felt that this required further consideration and discussion.

 

RESOLVED

 

1.      that the current cycle of directorate-based Scrutiny Committee meetings and Scrutiny Panel work be suspended for six months until 30th November 2020 with a review in September or October 2020;

 

2.      that option 1 as set out in the report of the Head of Strategic Support be applied, using the Scrutiny Commission with existing membership and monthly cycle of meetings as the temporary single Scrutiny function;

 

3.      that a single substantive agenda item for each meeting concentrate on one of the recovery cells; organisational recovery, economic recovery and community recovery;

 

4.      that the relationship between the Scrutiny Commission and the Audit Committee be strengthened as set out in the report;

 

5.      that the Council actively promote the use of ‘Questions under Scrutiny Committee Procedure 11.16’ as set out in the Constitution.

 

Reasons

 

1&2. In order for the Council to continue robust member-led scrutiny proportionate to the constrained resources that the Council has at its disposal.

 

3&4. To ensure that the scrutiny function at the Council is able to effectively scrutinise the Council’s approach to recovery.

 

5.      In order for the Council to satisfy the CfPS guidance.

Supporting documents: