It’s Not Rocket Science – It’s Networking!

Just a quick post to feed back from a meeting of the Mid and West Wales Regional Scrutiny Network that we hosted this morning here in Swansea.

The purpose of this meeting is very straightforward –  once every few months it gives councillors involved in scrutiny an opportunity to share good practice, talk about common concerns and see if there are ways that their work overlaps. 

At today’s meeting councillors and officers from Pembrokeshire, Neath Port Talbot, Carmarthenshire and Swansea spent a productive couple of hours talking about:

  • Active Scrutiny Reviews – Each council is currently working on four or five issues in-depth and this was a good chance to hear about what everyone was doing.  There were also a couple of opportunities identified (such as recycling, for example) where Councils might benefit from similar work already done elsewhere. 
  • Hot Topics – This was chance to share other pressing issues and highlighted a number of common concerns around, for example, reviewing scrutiny structures and the scrutiny of other public bodies. 
  • National Update – Tim Buckle from the Welsh Local Government Association highlighted some of the things happening at the national level including the latest developments from the National Meeting of Welsh Scrutiny Champions.
  • Discussion Groups – As hosts we took advantage of the meeting to get some feedback on the work we have been doing on a checlist for effective questioning strategies.  Many good issues were raised and the session will certainly help us to develop this particular piece of work.

Overall the morning was a very productive one and we will be producing a short report of the meeting for those that couldn’t attend or those from further afield who might be interested.

These types of meeting are far from glamorous but, for scrutiny councillors, I think they provide a very useful mechanism.  They allow experiences to be shared face to face and allow people to take a step outside their usual roles.  Personally I think that it is these types of informal meeting that  generate the best ideas.  More than that these types of meeting do help people to realise just how much good work is going on at the ‘frontline’ of local scrutiny.

Given the importance of regional working and the emphasis placed by the Welsh Government on scrutiny as a key aspect of public service reform, these types of scrutiny meeting will surely become more important as time goes on – hopefully they can retain their informality.

We kept the agenda simple and I think that worked well.  After all it’s not rocket science – it’s just networking!

Cllr Will Evans (Swansea) and Cllr Peter Stock (Pembrokeshire)

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