Making Sure – An Introduction to Overview and Scrutiny in Warwickshire

We made the following two videos to highlight how Councillors in scrutiny have made a real difference across Warwickshire. The first video illustrates the work that Councillors have done with the Health service and how an investigation into the Rugby Western Relief Project has improved project management and saved taxpayers money.

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The second video shows how the Children & Young People’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee helped to improve the education of children who had been excluded from mainstream schools.

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We hope you enjoy them both.

Scrutiny Annual Report for 2012/13

We’ve just published our Scrutiny Annual Report for 2012-13.

The report brings together all the major pieces of scrutiny we’ve done over the past year, including in-depth reviews of Council and local health services, the performance of individual departments, and the ongoing improvement of services.

Read the report here: Scrutiny Annual Report 2012-13

Scrutiny Annual Report

Scrutiny primer

I’m a little conscious of banging on about what scrutiny is all the time on this blog so here’s a quick run-down for those who don’t know:

  • In summary, scrutiny is one of the building blocks of local democracy. It holds local leaders to account for the decisions they make, challenges performance, and makes suggestions to improve services.
  • The Centre for Public Scrutiny have a nice introduction here: www.cfps.org.uk/introduction-to-scrutiny
  • And we’ve done an introduction to our own work here: www.warwickshire.gov.uk/osexplained

Get Involved

Councillors are currently considering what they want to scrutinise over the next 12 months. If you want to get involved and send us your ideas, either leave us a comment below or email us at democraticservices@warwickshire.gov.uk

Review of 2012 – Communities

Before the first set of scrutiny meetings kick off this year we thought we would look back at the past twelve months and highlight some of the key areas that scrutiny members worked on last year.

Street Lighting

Streetlighting

Part-night street lighting was one of the Council’s most controversial policies of 2012 and it looks as though that will continue through 2013 as the programme is rolled out across the County.

Towards the end of last year a group of Councillors were tasked with looking at the proposals and consider a number of areas including; alternative technologies, the impact on crime and road safety, and the level of savings that would be achieved. The group made a series of recommendations that focused on keeping residents safe and improving communication with the public.

The full report can be read here: Street Lighting Task and Finish Group Report

The issue provoked a lot of negative press attention over the Christmas break and, in response, the Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee will be hosting a special Q&A session with the Cabinet member and street lighting engineers to give people a chance to have an input.

Subsidised Bus Services

Bus Stop

In 2011-12 the budget for subsidised bus services was hit with a major reduction of 45%. Good public transport links are vital for many people in the County and Councillors wanted to know what they could do to help the situation.

A small group of members, working closely with Transport Operations officers, put together proposals for an innovative, low cost set of evening bus services that would run on Friday and Saturday evenings. The services were designed to reduce transport inequality and support the night-time economy across Warwickshire. The Cabinet agreed to consider the proposals as part of the 2013 budget so we’ll soon find out if the proposals become a reality.

The full report can be read here: Bus Services Report

Libraries

Libraries

2012 changed the face of the library network in Warwickshire. We saw the introduction of 12 community libraries that are being run by local community groups, opening hours changed across the County, and the first stages of the mobile library service reconfiguration have been agreed. Scrutiny members have been working to ensure the best possible service is delivered to local people, despite big reductions in funding.

Fire & Rescue

Fire

Warwickshire’s Fire and Rescue Service has been through a period of major structural change and has faced some significant challenges over the past twelve months – but despite this the service has been an open and forthcoming scrutiny partner.

Scrutiny has been involved at every stage of the ongoing implementation of the Fire & Rescue Service Improvement Plan and the updated Integrated Risk Management Plan, and continues to work with the service on keeping Warwickshire residents safe.

Spreading The Word

YouTube

2012 also saw the debut of scrutiny updates on YouTube. We’ve been thinking a lot about how to better connect with people and this was one of our favourite ideas – it’s quick, free and has the potential to reach a lot of people who would never think of coming to one of our meetings in person. Giving more people the opportunity to find out what goes on at our scrutiny meetings will hopefully lead to more people getting involved in future scrutiny work.

Scrutiny videos are posted on our blog and you can find them on the WCC YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/user/Warwickshirenews

Scrutiny visit to Warwickshire Fire and Rescue HQ

Last week, members of the Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee were given a tour of the Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service Headquarters in Leamington Spa. Fire and Rescue is a major part of the Committee’s remit and visits like this give members an opportunity to learn about the service from the officers on the ground.

The video gives a quick look at what we saw on the tour and includes some thoughts from Gary Phillips, Deputy Chief Fire Officer; Councillor John Whitehouse, Chair of the Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee; and Councillor Richard Hobbs, Portfolio Holder for Community Safety.

Warwickshire Scrutiny on YouTube

Something a bit different from this week’s Communities Overview and Scrutiny meeting – Councillor John Whitehouse, the Chair of the Committee was filmed by one of our Communications team (just on an iPod touch – no expensive specialist equipment necessary these days!) talking about the issues that were looked at by Councillors in the meeting.

We’ll be posting these short video summaries following most of our Scrutiny Committees from now on to give people a bit of an idea of the kind of work that goes on in these meetings. As a team we’re very aware that a lot of this kind of stuff is somewhat of a mystery to a lot of people out there but we’re trying to change that.

If you like the idea or have some suggested improvements – just let us know by leaving a comment below.

How bus services cuts have affected local communities

Have you been left waiting?

Councillors have just begun a scrutiny review of the impact that bus service cuts have had on local communities. The review aims to find the places in the County that have been hardest hit and find ways to improve their services.

Councillors have highlighted this issue because it affects so many people and impacts on all kinds of other areas like jobs, education, health, and leisure. The Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee recently hosted a meeting for people to talk about transport problems; some of the major issues that we picked up were:

  • Working people not being able to get to shift jobs on time
  • Young people not being able to get home from night-time jobs at pubs or restaurants
  • Older people who couldn’t get to their local hospital or doctor’s surgery
The review will run from now through to September, with Councillors reporting their findings at the Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting on 19 September. For scrutiny that is quite a short review for a major topic but it means the review can feed into the Council’s budget setting process for next year.

If you’re a bus user then tell us about your experiences – are the services in your area regular enough? Are you able to access work, your doctor’s practice, the local hospital, shopping facilities etc.? The more responses we have the better.

You can get in touch by emailing me at daveabbott@warwickshire.gov.uk or leaving a comment below.

Street Lighting Scrutiny Review

Photo used under a creative commons licence from Flickr user Cmaj7

Last week we kicked off a scrutiny review looking at some major upcoming changes to street lighting in Warwickshire.

Warwickshire County Council has set itself a target to save £500k per year from the street lighting electricity bill. This will mean that around 39,000 (80%) lights will have to be switched off in the early hours of the morning. To operate the lights on this ‘part-night’ basis requires the purchase and installation of a central management system that will cost £1.64 million of capital investment.

The scrutiny review will be looking at the following areas:

Timing of the switch-off
Should it be a phased switch-off over a number of weeks? Or should all of the lights be switched off at the same time?

Which lights will stay on?
What criteria is being used to decide the 20% of lights that will be staying on? Is it fair?

Public consultation
How have the Council engaged with residents and have they listened to what they have to say?

What will be the impact on communities?
Will there be any impact on road safety, crime, anti-social behaviour etc.?

Benchmarking
Which other Councils have taken this approach to street lighting? Was it successful? What can Warwickshire learn from their experiences?

You can follow the progress of the review on this blog over the coming months.

If you want to give us your views, or if you want to get involved with the scrutiny review, just leave a comment on this post or email me at daveabbott@warwickshire.gov.uk

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