Review of 2012 – Overview and Scrutiny Board

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.

Review of Scrutiny Arrangements

14 March 3

The Board’s main focus in 2012 was the review of the Council’s scrutiny arrangements. A member workshop was held in March to gather views and suggestions. The Board agreed a set of changes, which have helped to improve scrutiny procedures throughout the year.  Some of the achievements include:

  • Task & Finish Groups are being used more often and more effectively.
  • Discussions between the Task and Finish Groups and Portfolio Holders are now undertaken before recommendations are considered by Cabinet.
  • Informal working arrangements have been agreed with the Districts/Boroughs to encourage joint working and external member input on county-wide issues.
  • Social Media is being used more frequently and consistently to increase the external focus of scrutiny and encourage more external input:
  • Annual Work Programme sessions now involve Portfolio Holders, Heads of Service and Strategic Directors to identify appropriate areas for scrutiny.
  • OSC agendas are becoming more focused, with less reports ‘for information’ and a more consistent and effective use of briefing notes and Portfolio Holder sessions.

Finance and Performance Working Group

finance-module

Another important development for the Board was the appointment of the Finance and Performance Working Group in May. Previously, each OSC looked at the performance and finance date for each service; however, there was very little time to do this effectively in a Committee-meeting setting and so a dedicated Working Group was appointed to:

  • undertake detailed scrutiny of the Council’s Organisational Health Report, which includes performance, finance and risk information; and
  • raise areas of concern to Cabinet, which may require further scrutiny.

Carrying out performance scrutiny in this way has allowed members greater opportunity to interrogate the data and identify key issues and areas of concern. This has led to greater questioning and accountability of the relevant Portfolio Holder and Heads of Service.

Property Rationalisation Programme

NG street

Members have monitored the Council’s plans to achieve a savings target of £4.3 million by 2014/15 through the modernisation of office accommodation and the sale of currently occupied and vacant buildings.

In October, the Board recommended that all local members should be advised at the earliest stage of any intention to close or sell property within their division, to ensure that they can keep their constituents up-to-date with any changes to the way that Council services will be delivered.

Transformation through Strategic Commissioning

The Council has an ambitious plan to become a Strategic Commissioning Organisation by 2014. Part of this invloves a full review of each Council service, to decide which is the most efficient way of delivering the service, while meeting customer needs.

Members have closely monitored the progress of the Programme and have made recommendations about improving communication and engagement with all members, as the Council progresses through the service reviews.

Before proposals around future service delivery are agreed by the Cabinet, the Board will have the opportunity to look at the proposals and make some recommendations.

Monitoring Recommendations

Members have been closely tracking the implementation of recommendations which they previously made to Cabinet following a Task and Finish Group review. Through this process, members are able to see where their recommendations have had a positive impact on Council services and how they may have helped the community. This process is now being adopted through all of the OSCs.

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.

Council set to agree budget and Council Tax for 2012/2013

The County Council will be meeting this Tuesday 7th February to debate the Council’s ‘strategic delivery framework’ and agree the budget and council tax for the coming financial year.

The whole meeting is open to the public, and will start at 10.00am at Shire Hall, Warwick.

The proposed budget and papers for the meeting can be found here: Council Agenda and Reports – 7th February 2012 (pdf)

The Council’s Cabinet has recommended that the County Council freeze council tax this year. If this is agreed, the Council will be eligible for a central government grant of up to £5.859million to help fund services, without increasing Council Tax.

All Councillors will be debating this proposal and will be able to suggest changes before the budget is agreed by the Council.

You can find out more about the process the Council goes through to set the budget and how the Council spends its money here: http://www.warwickshire.gov.uk/budget

For more information, or if you have any questions, contact martynharris@warwickshire.gov.uk

Cabinet agenda – now available

The first Cabinet meeting of 2012 will take place on Thursday 26 January – and you can access the papers here.

Warwickshire’s Cabinet is made up of 10 Conservative councillors, each with a particular area of responsibility (‘portfolio’) for policies and services. Among other things on the agenda, they will be considering:

  • The latest information from Central Government that the Council needs in order to fix its budget for 2012/13
  • A revised set of ambitions with the outcomes and targets that the Council should strive to achieve over the next two years
  • A formal agreement to continue and develop collaborative work with Coventry City Council and Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council (in order to improve quality and efficiency of services)
  • The implications of the Government’s Troubled Families Initiative

If you’d like to know more about the Cabinet, or about any of their meetings, please contact:

Janet Purcell, Democratic Services Manager

T: 01926 413716

E:  janetpurcell@warwickshire.gov.uk

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