Children and Young People OSC – 2 September

The Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee has a busy meeting ahead on Tuesday 2 September, when members will be focusing on a number of important topics.

New contractors for the delivery of Children’s Centres

Barnardo’s and The Parenting Group will presenting short presentation on their vision for children’s centres in Warwickshire, their key priorities, target groups and areas of focus.  Changes to the delivery of Children’s Centres has been a key focus of the Committee over the past 12 months, following its Select Committee review of the consultation proposals in August 2013. The Committee will be looking for reassurance that the new providers can effectively deliver the Early Years service in the new ‘group and collaboration’ model and achieve each of the five outcomes that aim to improve the health and well-being of parents and their children.

Super Priority Areas – School Admissions

The Committee will be considering the outcome of its review of the principle and feasibility of implementing SPAs across the urban areas of Warwickshire, with the initial focus on Warwick and Leamington. The Committee first considered the SPA proposal in January 2014 as a potential solution to address the issue of siblings not been granted places at the same school. A Task and Finish Group was set up to examine the proposal in more depth and its findings and recommendations will be presented to the Committee at the meeting.

Shaping draft strategies

At the meeting, the Committee will also be asked to give its views on two draft strategies: a) Vulnerable Learners Strategy; and b) Schools Places Sufficiency Strategy. Considering the draft documents at an earlier stage gives scrutiny members a valuable opportunity to share their views and make recommendations regarding the draft content, before the documents are signed-off by Cabinet.

Other areas for consideration at the meeting include a) the annual performance in respect of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET); b) an update on the Committee’s previous requirements in regarding Academies and Free Schools; and c) a verbal update on the planned consultation in respect of Home to School Transport.

Do you want to know more?

The meeting will commence at 10am at Northgate House, Warwick – a copy of the agenda and the reports can be found here. If you have a question that you wish to ask at the meeting, please contact Georgina Atkinson at least 3 working days before the meeting. Otherwise, please arrive at least 15 minutes before the start of the meeting and ensure that the Chair is aware of the matter on which you wish to speak.

Scrutiny – Get involved

Time to get involved…..

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.

In July Councillors are going to be 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

These are the issues we would like to hear your views on:

  • Our communities and individuals are safe and protected from harm and are able to remain independent for longer
  • The health and wellbeing of all in Warwickshire is protected.
  • Our economy is vibrant, residents have access to jobs, training and skills development.
  • Warwickshire’s communities are supported by excellent communications and transport infrastructure.
  • Resources and services are targeted effectively and efficiently whether delivered by the local authority, commissioned or in partnership.
  • The Joint Strategic Needs Assessment – are my needs covered?

It’s not necessary to respond to all of these. Feel free to concentrate on the issues you think are most important, or those you have most to say on.  If you are not sure which issues your suggestion fits within, send it along anyway and we will make sure that suggestions are put forward for consideration.

Deadline

It will help us to receive your suggestions on where you think improvements to services need to be made by our deadline of 30 June 2014.  We look forward to hearing what you have to say!

Review of 2012 – Children and Young People

In the latest of our scrutiny reviews of 2012,  here’s a recap on the work councillors have been doing to improve services for children and young people.

Academies

One of the biggest changes the coalition government has introduced since 2010 has been its education reforms. Any school can now choose to become an “academy”; giving it greater independence from the Local Authority (LA). And in Warwickshire, the majority of secondary schools have already gone down this route.

But where does that leave the LA? Does the Council still have a role to play within academies? What about our overall responsibility towards young people in Warwickshire? How will this be affected?

A group of councillors met regularly in 2012 to explore these questions. They talked to head teachers and lead officers to consider the impact of academies – and to develop ideas for better working relationships with them in the  future.

Their report contains a number of clear recommendations which will be considered by the Children and Young People Overview & Scrutiny Committee on 30 January.

Post-16 Education

One of the freedoms that academies now have is the ability to set up their own post-16 provision (aka, 6th forms). In the past, any school that wanted to set up a 6th form would require approval from the LA first… and a range of issues would be taken into account when making that decision.

But the concern is now that lots of new 6th forms will appear, and there will not be enough students to fill the places available. This will have a negative impact on the quality and diversity of the courses offered.

Councillors have already attended a dedicated seminar on the challenges this presents to Warwickshire, and the Overview & Scrutiny Committee has looked at how the LA is trying to ensure quality and diversity. But with legislation soon making it compulsory for all young people to participate in education or training up to the age of 17 (and to 18 by 2015), this is likely to be an ongoing area of scrutiny for councillors well into the future.

Transport

One of the concerns councillors had regarding post-16 education was the lack of transport funding to assist young people in travelling to schools or colleges. Although the government is raising the participation age for education or training, it is not providing any financial assistance for transport and travel to those affected. The Overview & Scrutiny Committee has asked the Portfolio Holder to raise this with local MPs and local government groups, as it could lead to significant problems for young people, especially those living in deprivation and/or in very rural locations.

Another transport issue that gained attention last year was the removal of Passenger Transport Assistants (PTAs) from certain school bus routes. The Council is removing PTAs as part of a number of changes to school transport, which it hopes will save around £700,000 per year.

However, various schools, parents and local councillors have called on the Overview & Scrutiny Committee to investigate this policy, worried about the risks to children travelling unaccompanied to and from school – and unconvinced about the level of savings likely to be achieved. The Committee has agreed to review progress of the new policy later in 2013 when more evidence on the impacts and savings are available.

Safeguarding

Back in 2011, Ofsted inspected Warwickshire’s services for Safeguarding and Looked After Children. The verdict was that these services were “good”, although there was “capacity to improve”. Following the inspection, officers drew up an Action Plan to address those areas where improvements could be made.

A small group of councillors set about monitoring the implementation of this Action Plan during 2012, and their findings will be reported to the Overview & Scrutiny Committee on 30 January.

That concludes this brief review of the work of the Children and Young People Overview & Scrutiny Committee in 2012.

The first meeting of 2013 will be on 30 January at 10am in Shire Hall, Warwick. Members of the public are welcome to attend, especially if you have questions to put to the Committee. The agenda will be published a week in advance and can be accessed here.

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

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.

Cabinet 24th May 2012

The Cabinet of the County Council will meet next on Thursday 24th May. There’s plenty on the agenda including:

  • The new ICT strategy
  • A review of the County Council’s new organisational structure
  • Transport on the A5
  • Development of a sexual assault referral unit
  • The growth of a number of schools across the county

Members of the public are invited to attend the meeting, which starts at 1.45pm in Committee Room 2, Shire Hall, Warwick.

The papers for the meeting are available here.

Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee – 9th February 2012

The next meeting of the Communities Overview & Scrutiny Committee will be held on the 9th of February in Committee Room 2, Shire Hall, Warwick.

The following items will be considered at the meeting:

  • Neighbourhood Policing Review – Following changes to the way the Police force operates in Warwickshire that began on 9 May 2011, this report discusses the changes and how they have been received so far.
  • Transport Infrastructure for Major Development – This report gives an overview of how the County Council supports major development.
  • Street Lighting Energy Saving project – Following a budget cut of £500k, Warwickshire will move to part-night street lighting. This report outlines the proposals and gives background for a member working group who will be looking at the issue in more detail.

The complete agenda and papers can be viewed here: Communities OSC Full Agenda and Papers – 9 Feb 2012.pdf (262Kb)

Members of the public are encouraged to attend. There is half an hour at the beginning of the meeting for members of the public to ask questions. If you’d like to ask a question, please send it through in advance to Dave Abbott – daveabbott@warwickshire.gov.uk

You can find out more about the work of the Committee on Warwickshire County Council’s website: www.warwickshire.gov.uk/communitiesosc

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